Introducing Irma, a tropical storm picking up strength. - Grist


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Introducing Irma, a tropical storm picking up strength.

A system off the coast of Africa earned tropical storm status Wednesday morning, the National Hurricane Center reported.

The new storm is looking healthy, with a classic hurricane-like swirl and maximum sustained winds of 50 mph. Initial projections show Irma strengthening into a hurricane as early as Friday — and meteorologists say it might be an “intense” one.

And more ominously, as the weather channel’s senior meteorologist says, it has “that look.”

Though it’s way too soon to say where the storm might hit, Irma is currently drifting toward the Caribbean at 13 miles per hour, with possible paths toward Central America, Mexico, and the United States. It could make landfall as a hurricane late next week if the projections pan out.

All signs point to a busy hurricane season, which extends until late November. Irma follows Gert and Harvey to become the ninth named storm in the Atlantic this year — a milestone we don’t typically reach until Sept. 30.