If you have not been keeping up with the news over the past two weeks, one of the strongest hurricanes in history ripped through the Atlantic Ocean over the course of ten days. Her name is Irma, and she has already broken multiple records, including wind speed records and the number of days a storm has remained in the state of Category Five. However, the questions remain: What made this storm so powerful and how has it affected our country?
The massive hurricane started out as a Category Five in the middle of the Atlantic, but quickly picked up speed thanks to the unusually warm waters (1.8 degrees warmer than normal) and low wind shear (winds pushing the hurricane away from land), which scientists believe is an effect of greenhouse gases. This is also known as global warming.
According to howstuffworks.com, for a hurricane to be considered a Category Five storm, it must have wind speeds of at least 157 miles (252 kilometers) per hour. When Irma made landfall on the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean (Southeast to Puerto Rico) with wind speeds of over 185 miles (295 kilometers), the power was cut and the weather station went offline.
According to CNN, this is a record for the island, and Irma made sure to show no mercy, tearing through multiple islands, including St. Martin, Barbuda, and Turks and Caicos, and leaving at least 36 people dead.
After the Carribean was left in ruins, Irma proceeded to move towards Florida and it’s Keys. Although the massive hurricane was downgraded to a Category Four at this point, Irma had wind speeds of 130 miles per hour. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at least 25 percent of homes in the Florida Keys have been completely destroyed, as many as 65 percent of Florida Keys residents’ homes have major damage, and at least 90 percent have suffered from some sort of damage.
According to the LA Times, the Keys are currently open with FEMA clearing all 42 bridges as safe to cross, and millions of residents are heading back to the islands, seeing if their homes survived or what damage they have entailed. Millions of people are also without power still, but the state of Florida is doing everything they can in order to restore the electricity. However, “it may be days, or even weeks, before the power is fully up and running again,” according to the Washington Post.
The next stop on Irma’s road trip was the state of Florida and it’s heavily populated cities, including Miami and Naples. However, Miami breathed a sigh of relief as the storm traveled west. Despite this, Naples was holding it’s breath and prepared for the worst. Thousands of people waited outside of shelters, only to be told that there was no more room. Some people went to hotels to seek shelter, while others went home to wait it out, hoping for as little damage as possible. One of these people is a woman named Dotty, who waited out the storm in her house in Naples along with the rest of her family. “It sounded like a freight train,” she said. Dotty continued by sharing that “it was the scariest experience” of her life.
Over 200,000 homes have lost power in Naples due to 90 mile winds that knocked down trees and blew out transformers. Several cities, including Naples and Miami, were under curfew and seven counties were under a tornado watch. In Georgia, at least a million people have been left without power and officials are doing their best to get it back up as quickly as possible.
“At least 23 people have been killed in the United States alone, 16 in Florida, four in South Carolina, and three in Georgia. The causes of deaths were due to carbon monoxide poisoning from not using a generator correctly and car crashes.” says ABC News. Please send your love and prayers out to all the residents affected by this terrible storm, because if one of person is affected, we are all affected.