Powerful Hurricane Irma could be the next weather disaster

(CNN) While much of the United States' focus is still on Texas and the destruction left behind by Hurricane Harvey and its historic rainfall, powerful Hurricane Irma is rapidly intensifying in the open Atlantic and poses a major threat to the Caribbean and potentially the United States next week.

Irma was named as a tropical storm on Wednesday morning and by Thursday afternoon it had strengthened into a large Category 3 hurricane, with winds of 115 mph.

Such explosive strengthening is known as "rapid intensification," defined by the National Hurricane Center as having its wind speed increase at least 30 knots (35 mph) in 24 hours.

"Irma has become an impressive hurricane," the National Hurricane Center said on Thursday, noting the rapid intensification, and saying "this is a remarkable 50 knot [58 mph] increase from yesterday at this time."

Hurricane Harvey underwent rapid intensification last week, just before landfall, which brought it from a tropical storm to a Category 4 hurricane when it moved onshore near Corpus Christi.

Irma is a classic "Cape Verde hurricane," a type of hurricane that forms in the far eastern Atlantic, near the Cape Verde Islands (now known as the Cabo Verde Islands) and tracks all the way across the Atlantic. Cape Verde storms frequently are some of the largest and most intense hurricanes. Examples are Hurricane Hugo, Hurricane Floyd, and Hurricane Ivan.

Hurricane Irma is forecast to continue to strengthen as it moves westward over the next five days and the official forecast from the National Hurricane Center puts a dangerous Category 4 Hurricane Irma on the doorstep of the Caribbean by the end of the five-day forecast on Tuesday afternoon.


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