It’s apparently never too soon for hurricane hoaxes – Irma hasn’t even hit Florida yet, but pranksters are already spreading their wares online.
Irma is now a killer storm, leaving at least eight people dead in the Caribbean as the storm continues on a destructive path on the way to Florida. Irma has so far battered Barbuda, St. Martin and the British Virgin Islands, according to reports.
Exactly where in Florida Irma will hit is still not known, according to the National Hurricane Center’s advisory at 5 a.m. Thursday.
Several videos purporting to show the hurricane hitting Barbuda or other islands are circulating online, but most appear to be from previous storms.
For example, this video posted to Facebook claims to show Hurricane Irma, but the same video was posted to YouTube in 2016, possibly showing a tornado that hit Dolores, Uruguay.
Reports that Irma could be a Category 6 hurricane by the time it strikes the U.S. also are fake. For one thing, there’s no such thing as a Category 6 hurricane – the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale stops at Category 5.
According to The Washington Post, this one seems to start with a blog post by Michel Snyder headlined “Category 6? If Hurricane Irma Becomes The Strongest Hurricane In History, It Could Wipe Entire Cities Off The Map,” though the article itself doesn’t class Irma as a Category 6 storm.
Of course, that doesn’t mean Irma’s not already an incredibly dangerous storm. Which brings us to Rush Limbaugh.
On Tuesday, Limbaugh called Irma “one of the fastest and best ways” to “advance this climate change agenda,” reports The New York Daily News. “You can accomplish a lot just by creating fear and panic. You don’t need a hurricane to hit anywhere,” he said.
NBC meteorologist Al Roker blasted Limbaugh for suggesting the hurricane had been overhyped.
Earlier in the week, some hoaxers posted fake forecasts and storm tracks suggesting Irma could head to Texas cities still digging out from Hurricane Harvey. That one spread so fast the National Weather Service had to issue a warning.
And if you see photos of a shark swimming along a flooded Miami highway, just keep in mind the same shark has shown up for every hurricane in recent memory, right up to Harvey in Houston last week. (It’s actually a photoshop job using an image from a photograph of a shark following a boat on the ocean).
The Miami Herald contributed to this report.