Hurricane Irma began as a tropical storm Aug. 30 off the western coast of Africa. The National Weather Service monitored the storm’s pathway towards the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and other parts of the Caribbean as well as the eastern U.S., most notably Florida. The storm intensified within 24 hours into a Category 2, Category 3 and subsequently a Category 4 hurricane Sept. 4. It reached its peak as a Category 5 hurricane the following day.
On Sept. 6, the hurricane reached its maximum wind speed of 185 miles per hour as it impacted the coast of Barbuda. It maintained intensity while causing damage to the islands of Saint Martin, Ginger Island and Tortola in the BVI that same day. It continued to strike the BVI before moving to the Florida coast Sept. 10, despite being weakened into a Category 4 hurricane Sept. 8. Irma decreased to a Category 2 hurricane once it hit Naples, Fla. Sept. 11. It regressed to tropical depression as it crossed the Alabama-Georgia border towards Mississippi. The depression moved northwest from Sept. 14 to Sept. 15. It collapsed on that day, leaving behind damage and intensity that has not been experienced since Hurricane Katrina.
The hurricane left damages that are estimated to be above $62.7 billion dollars in total. The U.S. reported damages that amounted to over $50 billion, while Cuba, Saint Martin and the BVI reported damage estimates of $2.2 billion, $2.28 billion and $1.4 billion dollars, respectively. In the U.S. six million homes were left without power and an estimated 39 people have died.
Nationwide, areas that were largely affected include the Straits of Florida, the Florida Keys, Key West, Naples and Tampa, Fla. Other major areas affected include Charleston, S.C., Savannah, Ga. and the Georgia Coast. The Straits of Florida suffered power outages and the Florida Keys suffered from major damage. The remaining areas of Florida faced a loss of power as a result of heavy flooding. South Carolina and Georgia mainly experienced power outages and destruction of homes as a result of flying debris.
The response to Irma brought French President Emmanuel Macron and U.K. Member of Parliament Boris Johnson to offer aid and support to their respective territories. U.S. President Donald Trump visited Florida to survey the damage but denied that it was a result of climate change. British Prime Minister Teresa May did not travel to U.K. territories and was criticized.
The overall international response to Irma proved the resilience of European nations while stressing the need to talk about the global dangers of climate change. The Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) mobilized relief workers and supplies to the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. As of Sept. 15, FEMA workers went to Florida to help repair the damage, prepare for future hurricanes and serve as searchers that have so far saved over one thousand lives.
FEMA went to the areas listed above to repair houses as well as hand out supplies. They also provided Florida residents with emergency money to rebuild houses and other property. They transported food, water and generators to the other affected states and areas outside the U.S., most notably Puerto Rico and the BVI.
Hurricane Irma further stressed the need for early preparation as well as information distribution to prepare for and respond to hurricanes.
Photo courtesy of ABC News.