South Texas is still in recovery mode after suffering unprecedented damage from Hurricane Harvey, and another storm is already hot on its heels—Hurricane Irma. The two natural disasters are hitting nearly back-to-back, leaving those in Irma's path on high alert.
Those who have been and will be affected, and the curious among us, might be wondering about what's next in what feels like a historical moment in weather history. Here's what's happened so far with Irma and what's on the horizon.
Is Irma stronger than Hurricane Harvey?
As of Thursday, Hurricane Irma is one of the most powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricanes ever recorded. As a Category 5 storm, its wind speeds are hovering near 180 mph, with even stronger gusts.
Harvey made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane with winds of 130 mph near Rockport, Texas. The storm lingered in south Texas for days as a weakening hurricane, then eventually as a tropical storm. As a tropical storm, Harvey dropped up to 52 inches of rainfall across lower Texas and southwest Louisiana.
In contrast, Irma is a powerful whirlwind whose damage will likely come primarily from its storm surge and violent winds. Wind speeds have decreased slightly—but only by 5 mph. The National Hurricane Center said this deviation wasn't indicative of the storm weakening any time soon.
"Some fluctuations in intensity are likely during the next day or two, but Irma is forecast to remain a powerful Category 4 or 5 hurricane during the next couple of days," the service said in its advisory.
Where has Hurricane Irma hit so far?
Irma ripped through the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico Wednesday night, where nearly 1 million people were reported to have lost electricity. Prime Minister Gaston Browne of Antigua and Barbuda told the Associated Press that some 60 percent of Barbuda's residents were left homeless, and 90 percent of its buildings have been destroyed. Browne has vowed to evacuate and relocate those remaining to Antigua ahead of subsequent storm Jose's arrival (more on that later).
In the French territories of St. Martin and St. Barthelemy, at least eight people have died. Ten deaths have been reported thus far as a result of Irma's damage. France, the Netherlands, and Britain sent water, emergency rations, and rescue teams to their stricken territories early Thursday.
Where is Irma headed next?
Irma is now churning toward the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and the Turks and Caicos Islands. As of early afternoon Thursday, the storm skirted north of the Dominican Republic and set its sights on south Florida. The Bahamas remain in danger, with mass evacuations underway.
The National Weather Service projects Irma will threaten the central Bahamas by Friday, then make landfall in south Florida on Sunday morning as a Category 4 hurricane. Irma is expected to bring high winds, massive rainfall, and potentially dangerous storm surge.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a statewide emergency earlier this week and is now warning that the "massive storm" could be more destructive than Hurricane Andrew, which devastated Florida in 1992.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez told ABC News that some 150,000 people have been ordered to evacuate so far. Up to 400,000 people in the county could be ordered to evacuate by Thursday. There are currently eight shelters open in Miami-Dade County for residents who have evacuated; you can find them here.
Florida gas stations have run out of fuel and grocery stores have been emptied in anticipation of the storm. Residents have also purchased plywood in droves in the hopes of saving their homes from irrevocable damage. But by all accounts, Floridians and tourists who have been instructed to evacuate are actively following orders.
Is Hurricane Jose a thing?
Jose is expected to gain strength over the next few days and will likely attain major hurricane status (with winds of 111 mph or greater) by Friday. By the weekend, Jose is projected to slow down and turn northwest. For now, all residents in the Caribbean, including areas hard hit by Irma, should be on alert for the latest on Jose's forecast. The storm is not expected to directly affect the U.S.