The intensity and power of Hurricane Irma made it one of the most devastating natural disasters of this decade. It was the most vicious Atlantic hurricane to strike the United States since Katrina in 2005, and the first major hurricane to make landfall in Florida since Wilma in 2005.
Irma developed on August 30, 2017 near the Cape Verde Islands, from a tropical wave that had moved off the west African coast. The atmospheric conditions allowed the storm to intensify rapidly and grow tremendously.
The top strength of Irma’s wind speeds was an astounding 185 mph. Hurricane Irma’s path made its impact far-reaching and devastating, with confirmed landfalls in Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Martin, Anguilla, Turks and Caicos, The Bahamas, Cuba, and the United States.
By September 12, almost 4.4 million homes and businesses in Florida were without power, according to state officials. Over 130 people have died as a result of this storm. At least 88 occurred in the U.S. in the states of Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. Of those deaths, at least 10 fatalities at were at a Hollywood, Florida nursing home, which lost air conditioning due to power outages.
The Navy deployed the USS Iwo Jima, USS New York and the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln to help with search and rescue as damage that has been called a “humanitarian crisis” and continues to be assessed.
Preliminary estimates place the amount of damage what Hurricane Irma caused in the US at a minimum of $50 billion. FEMA’s initial findings indicated that 25% of buildings in the Keys were destroyed, 65% were significantly damaged, and 90% of houses sustained “some damage.”
Florida faces other economic damage. At least 48 county school districts in Florida will be serving free breakfast and lunch to all students through Oct. 20 as classes resume after the hurricane.
The storm has ruined what was expected to be the best season for citrus in years. Instead, fruit growers and farmers fear the damage Irma wrought on the state’s citrus, sugar cane and vegetable crops will be catastrophic.
by Brianna Dunn