This Size Comparison Between Irma and Andrew Is Terrifying

Hurricane Andrew (left) compared to the monster Hurricane Irma.
Hurricane Andrew (left) compared to the monster Hurricane Irma. Courtesy of Joel Nihlean
Miamians who've lived here for more than 25 years have likely spent the week telling war stories about surviving Hurricane Andrew in 1992, reminding themselves how they rode out the storm.

But there's ample evidence Irma is a hurricane unlike anything South Florida has seen before. For one, it's projected to ride straight up the peninsula, whereas Andrew cut a perpendicular route across South Dade.

And second, Irma is way, way bigger. Meteorologist Eric Holthaus and writer Joel Nihlean posted the size comparisons on Twitter last night to show just how incomprehensibly huge Irma really is: In terms of physical size, the storm makes Andrew look like an afternoon thunderstorm.

As Holthaus noted in a blog about the storm, Irma's hurricane-force wind field is roughly the size of Massachusetts and packs five times the overall destructive power of Andrew's thanks to its massive size.
When Andrew made landfall, it destroyed 63,000 homes, cost the area $26.5 billion, and killed 65 people. Most storm experts assume Irma will cost the state much more, since construction boomed in South Florida after 1992 and property across the state is worth much more.

Importantly, the physical size comparison doesn't include wind speed: Andrew hit Miami as a Category 5 storm and shredded Homestead. It's certainly possible that by the time Irma makes it to South Florida, it will have weakened a bit to a Category 4 (though Irma will pass over warm water before arriving, which could help it regain some strength).

But it seems almost certain that the storm will still be significantly larger than Andrew. That means a much greater portion of the state will experience hurricane-force winds.

In other words, every person in the entire state of Florida needs to remain on high alert throughout the storm. The latest forecast models suggest Irma is shifting westward and will likely pummel the Florida Keys before hitting the mainland either near Everglades National Park or the Naples area.

But those predictions are far from certain. Every single person still in South Florida has to be ready for this monster.
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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.