How powerful are Irma’s winds? Imagine driving NASCAR without the windshield

Hurricane Irma’s record breaking winds – up to 185 mph at times – could cause significant damage, even if the storm weakened over the Carolinas.

Winds of 185 mph would feel like falling out of a plane, or driving a NASCAR without the windshield. Adults would fly. Cars would roll. Homes would disintegrate. Forests would be flattened.

Charlotte has need to worry. Hurricane winds can retain their strength well inland, as was proved by Hurricane Hugo in 1989, HurricaneSafety.org reports. It rolled inland and hit Charlotte with wind gusts of almost 100 mph.

Here’s what Carolinians could expect, from bad to worse, if Irma’s high winds came our way, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

25 to 31 mph: Wind starts to whistle through overhead wires.

32 to 38 mph: People may start to have trouble walking.

39 to 46 mph: Cars veer. Small limbs break off trees. Buildings could sustain minor damage. Winds could pick up a small person and move them.

58 to to 74 mph: Large limbs break, shallow rooted trees are pushed over, which could result in utility pole damage. Semi-trucks overturn. Old and weak structures could sustain significant damage. Mobile homes and carports could incur minor structural damage. Large billboard signs may topple.

75 to 89 mph: Widespread tree damage (trees either broken or uprooted). Mobile homes could be pushed off foundations or overturned. Roofs may be partially peeled off industrial, commercial and warehouse buildings. Homes could sustain minor damage. Farm buildings and airplane hangars may be severely damaged.

90 to 112 mph: Winds could flatten groves of trees and push moving automobiles off dry roads. Barns and sheds could be completely demolished.

146 mph: Construction cranes – which are plentiful in Charlotte – start to topple.

130-156 mph: Well-built framed homes could sustain severe damage. Trees could snap or be uprooted, possibly downing power poles. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages could last weeks.

157 mph or higher: A high percentage of framed homes could be destroyed, by possible roof failure and/or walls collapsing.