Hurricane Irma Leaves Scientists At An 'Utter Loss For Words' As it Hits Barbuda

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Hurricane Irma, a record Category 5 storm, is seen in this NOAA National Weather Service National Hurricane Center image from GOES-16 satellite taken on September 5, 2017. NOAA National Weather Service National Hurricane Center

Hurricane Irma made landfall on the small island of Barbuda as a Category 5 hurricane Wednesday as it heads toward the U.S. Virgin Islands and Florida.

The size of the storm left hurricane and weather scientists speechless. “I am at a complete and utter loss for words looking at Irma's appearance on satellite imagery,” wrote Taylor Trogdon, a scientist at the U.S. National Hurricane Center‏ on Twitter.

Irma strengthened to a Category 5 hurricane Tuesday with winds up to 185 mph. The storm is most powerful ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean. It’s so strong it is even showing up on scales for measuring earthquakes.

“No way to sugarcoat it. Irma is the type of tropical cyclone that wipes everything, including all vegetation, clean from small islands,” wrote Anthony Sagliani, the Meteorological Operations Manager at weather data firm Earth Networks.

The hurricane is expected to hit the U.S. Virgin Islands on Wednesday.

Florida Governor Rick Scott said Tuesday that Floridians should heed mandatory evacuation orders. Florida Keys officials said mandatory evacuations will begin for the small island chain's 80,000 population.

The U.S. Navy has ordered more than 5,000 military personnel, contractors and their families to be evacuated from Naval Air Station Key West.

The storm follows Hurricane Harvey which made landfall in Texas August 25. The damage from Harvey, a Category 4 hurricane, could cost between $150 billion and $180 billion in damage Texas Governor Greg Abbott said last weekend. Some 60 people lost their lives in the storm.

Read more: First Harvey, now Irma—is climate change to blame?

Congress is expected to debate a roughly $8 billion aid package to help in the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in its Harvey recovery efforts. The damage from Irma could add to the cost of emergency spending by the government.

President Donald Trump will be directly impacted by Irma as his 11-room $28 million Caribbean mansion on the island of St. Martin is directly in the hurricane’s path.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warns the storm “will bring life-threatening wind, storm surge, and rainfall hazards” to the Virgin Islands and the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico Wednesday.