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Is Hurricane Irma stronger than Harvey?

The “potentially catastrophic” Hurricane Irma has already caused significant damage in the Caribbean and is expected to reach Florida at the weekend.

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Is Hurricane Irma stronger than Harvey?

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Hurricane Irma has ravaged several French island territories in the Caribbean, destroying buildings and causing major flooding.

Irma has been classed as a category five hurricane, the highest possible level, with sustained wind speeds reaching 296 km/h.

The most powerful Atlantic storm in a decade has an “extremely dangerous core”, according to the US National Hurricane Centre.

But is it more powerful than Hurricane Harvey, which left a trail of destruction in Texas?

Diameter

With a diameter of 550km, Irma would cover the whole of mainland France.

However, the hurricane is not that much larger than Harvey which had a diameter of 500km.

Hurricane Sandy, which hit the US in 2012, had a diameter of 1320km, while Ivan was 1115km in diameter.

A hurricane with a wider diameter is not necessarily more powerful.

Wind speed

Irma’s wind speed is what makes it such a dangerous hurricane. With a wind speed of 296km/h and gusts at 350km/h, Irma has the most powerful wind speed ever recorded, surpassing Hurricanes Andrew and Katrina.

In comparison, Hurricane Harvey had a wind speed of 240km/h.

Travelling speed

Hurricane Harvey was so devastating due to its slow travelling speed, with its path of destruction across Texas lasting for a week.

Its unprecedented amount of rainfall combined with a travelling speed of 16km/h resulted in some of the worst structural damage the US has ever seen. Irma is currently travelling at 26km/h, while the fasted speed recorded was 64km/h during Hurricane Ike.

Early picture

With Hurricane Irma still ongoing, some of its data is yet to have been recorded by experts, such as rainfall and coastline erosion.

It is too early to tell whether the path of destruction and victims left behind by Irma will be more significant than that of Harvey.

Major hurricanes timeline

Name Date Place Category
Irma September 2017 Caribbean 5
Harvey August 2017 Texas 4
Sandy October 2012 New York, New Jersey 3
Ike September 2008 Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana 4
Katrina August 2005 Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama 5
Rita September 2005 Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi 5
Ivan September 2004 Florida, Alabama 5
Andrew August 1992 Louisiana, Florida 4