JACKSON, Miss. — Panic-stricken Facebookers posted about the mega hurricane that could, in (internet) “fact,” end life as we know it.
The headline Category 6? If Hurricane Irma Becomes The Strongest Hurricane In History, It Could Wipe Entire Cities Off The Map screams from atop any number of articles circulated by any number of sites. That particular headline is on a piece penned by someone named Michael Snyder, who in his work of fiction goes into the fact that the name “Irma” means “War Goddess.”
Another site claiming to be “CNN Business News” claims ”HURRICANE IRMA could be a category 6 by the time it hits east coast.” But upon closer inspection, the URL is http://cnn-business-news.ga, which is not affiliated with the Cable News Network unless it has recently gone into providing “the highest-quality financial and personal online calculators which will help you to get necessary data and you can use it for on most mobile devices and computers.”
It’s fake news, officials say.
“No, there’s no such thing as a Category 6 hurricane. Category 5 is as high as it goes,” said National Weather Service Meteorologist Thomas Winesett. “When you get 70,000 people sharing clickbait, that’s a problem.”
Local meteorologists had to answer questions about the Category 6 rumor on social media as well.
Just above a screenshot of one of the fake articles with a giant ‘X’ through it, WDAM Meteorologist Nick Lilja posted in his blog, “Like, to the guy who wrote that Irma was going to be a ‘Category 6’ storm: You suck.”
“There is no such thing as a typhoon in the Atlantic or a Category 6 or higher hurricane,” posted WAPT Meteorologist Nathan Scott atop a Facebook Live in which some viewers actually debated him in the comments based on the fake news posts.
“The scale we have right now really never envisioned storms that powerful. In fact, some have suggested that we need to add a ‘category 6’ to describe the kind of ‘super storms’ that are now developing in the Atlantic,” one viewer wrote.
“That article is pure hype and absolutely false. There are no ‘super storms’ trend,” Scott wrote in the thread. “We have not had a major hurricane since 2005 and now after Harvey hit there are a lot a fake articles spreading on social media.”
The National Weather Service posted a link to remind people to go to the official National Hurricane Center website if they have questions.
Just because it won’t make the imaginary Category 6 rating, that’s not to say Irma isn’t a dangerous storm. It is. With winds upwards of 180 miles per hour, Irma is formidable and deadly.
The storm made its first landfall in the Caribbean early Wednesday and will likely strike the south Florida coast this weekend.
By 11 a.m. ET Wednesday, Irma was about 140 miles east of San Juan, Puerto Rico, packing maximum sustained winds of 185 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. It was moving toward the west-northwest at 16 mph.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Irma will be stronger and larger than Hurricane Andrew, the Category 5 storm that in 1992 killed 65 people in Florida, destroyed more than 63,500 homes and caused $26.5 billion in damage.
The U.S. State Department warned Americans to reconsider travel to Cuba, Haiti or the Dominican Republic due to the expected impact of Irma.
Irma was setting off seismometers in the Caribbean on Tuesday. It could display some fluctuations in intensity, according to the National Weather Service. Irma will remain a powerful storm through this week, with hurricane-force winds extending up to 60 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extending 160 miles.
Meteorologists remind everyone in the broad potential impact range to keep an eye on information disseminated by the National Hurricane Center and other reputable sources.
Follow Therese Apel on Twitter: @TRex21
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