As noted by most of the previous articles on this blog in the recent past, they have mostly highlighted the problems that are facing the modern U.S. ranging from water and energy problems to now devastating storms. In the previous article, I highlighted the plight of the Texans and Louisiana residents after braving the sharp intensity of hurricane Harvey. The case today is not different, hurricane Irma has been around and I equally want to throw my eyes on it. Actually, just like Harvey, Irma has had a tremendous impact on the economic, environmental and social fabric upon which the daily lives of Floridians depended upon.
Until today, it is safe to say that the storm has caused unprecedented damage in Saint Martin, Anguilla, Virginia Islands, Saint Barthelme and Barbuda. This damage was occasioned by Irma under the category 5 status. By yesterday (September 12th) 55 deaths had occurred with most of these occurring in the contiguous United States. The economic value of the damage is yet to be established but predictions show that reconstruction in all hit areas might require way bigger budget than that required for hurricane Harvey aftermath. Yet still, the psychological and social wellbeing of those affected is definitely so huge with an immeasurable value.
Hurricane Irma started over Cape Verde just as a cluster of clouds. However, it has turned out to be the most powerful and intense hurricane observed in the Atlantic since Dean in 2007. Among all the hurricanes that reached category 3 or stronger in the last 50 years, Irma is the one with the highest strength; it was classified as a category 5 for three consecutive days and this is longer than any other Atlantic hurricane. In addition, Irma has broken the records of cyclone energy accumulation and such energy was evident when it finally hit the United States. Since Wilma in 2005, Irma becomes the first major hurricane to hit the state of Florida.
Irma developed on August 30, 2017 near Cape Verde Islands from a tropical wave which had moved off the west African coast three days prior. It further intensified under favorable conditions becoming firstly category 2 hurricane within 24 hours. Shortly afterward, it scaled up to category 3 status becoming a major storm as it were. It fluctuated between category 2 and 3 for the next few days due to a series of eyewall replacement cycles. On September 4th, the storm resumed intensification further becoming a category 5 hurricane reaching its peak on September 6th at 295km/h.
In Florida, Governor Scott declared a state of emergency for Florida on September 4th. Members of Florida National Guard were placed on duty to assist in preparations. All the 7,000 troops were to be on duty by September 8, which they did and all the residents were advised to set their hurricane kits all set and ready. Toll on roads was stopped and mandatory evacuations were done well in time. All other key institutions of the government including schools were closed. Tourist evacuations from the islands were also done.
On the other hand, FEMA funding was running dangerously low especially when they are still dealing with the aftermath of hurricane Harvey which hit Texas just the last week. The administration had to request for an immediate $8 billion in additional funding. The senate instead approved 15.3 billion given the rate that current funds are being utilized.
We can see that preparations were in top gear to ensure that there could be no causality and actually much of the damage and causalities were reduced. The overriding question however, and which I also posed in the previous article; does the frequency of these storms in addition to their intensity have any connection with global warming? The answer is still uncertain to this question as research into the phenomenon continues.