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Researchers Study Hurricane Irma's Water Quality Impacts on Florida

Researchers looked into the possible impact Irma had on Southwest Florida’s water quality.

This includes researcher Cynthia Heil with Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, according to Wink News.

In the three years since Hurricane Irma hit Southwest Florida, the region’s water quality has accumulated issues including algae blooms and red tide, according to NOAA.

With a five-year NOAA study, researchers will consider factors that cause the algae blooms and what can help mitigate them.

“We know when there was a bloom and when there was not a bloom,” said Heil. “And we are trying to link that up with our long-term record of hurricanes and storms and see if we can see relationships there.”

Mike Parsons, professor at FGCU’s Water School is also looking into Hurricane Irma’s impact on water quality in Southwest Florida. 

According to Parsons, there were red tides after previous large hurricane and large rainfall events, so there may be a connection. Parsons also is on the state’s Blue-Green Algae Task Force, which studies the link between Hurricane Irma and the blue-green algae.

“Hurricane Irma brought a lot of rain with it and so if you look at Lake Okeechobee, that raised the lake levels pretty high,” said Parsons to Wink News. “It caused some significant discharges.”

The Blue-Green Algae Task Force’s input will be used to support key funding, restoration initiatives and guide regulatory changes needed to improve water quality for Florida.

When the DEP identified Lake Okeechobee as not meeting water quality standards for nutrients, the Task Force created an Okeechobee Basin Management Action Plan to achieve nutrient load reduction.

Read related content about Florida's water quality here:


WINK News: Study shows Hurricane Irma associated with deaths at nursing homes

WINK News: Study shows Hurricane Irma associated with deaths at nursing homes

Hurricane season is not over yet, and researchers are calling for more preparations at nursing homes to protect seniors. A study shows hundreds of people in Florida nursing homes likely died indirectly from Hurricane Irma in 2017.

Researchers want to see some changes at nursing homes in Florida before the next big storm.

Searchers at USF and Brown University say care is more difficult after a hurricane. They say it comes down to availability of staff and how long people stay in the nursing home.

An expert we spoke to said seniors are the most vulnerable even when the threat of a hurricane or the coronavirus isn’t looming.

Hurricane Irma hit three years ago, but the memorials and the struggle to recover is still fresh for many in Southwest Florida.

The Naples Senior Center became even more of a necessity for people affected by the storm.

>> Click here to read entire article. <<

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Hurricane Irma

Category 5 Atlantic hurricane in 2017

This article is about the Atlantic hurricane of 2017. For other storms of the same name, see List of storms named Irma.

Irma 2017-09-05 1706Z.jpg

Hurricane Irma near peak intensity approaching the Leeward Islands on September 5

FormedAugust 30, 2017
DissipatedSeptember 14, 2017
(Remnant low after September 12)
Highest winds1-minute sustained: 180 mph (285 km/h)
Lowest pressure914 mbar (hPa); 26.99 inHg
Fatalities52 direct, 82 indirect
Damage$77.16 billion (2017 USD)
(Fourth-costliesttropical cyclone on record; costliest in Cuban and the Leeward Islands history)
Areas affectedCape Verde, Leeward Islands(especially Barbuda, Saint Barthélemy, Anguilla, Saint Martin and the Virgin Islands), Greater Antilles(Cuba and Puerto Rico), Turks and Caicos Islands, Jamaica, The Bahamas, Eastern United States(especially Florida)
Part of the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season


Other wikis

Hurricane Irma was an extremely powerful Cape Verde hurricane that caused widespread destruction across its path in September 2017. Irma was the first Category 5 hurricane to strike the Leeward Islands on record, followed by Maria two weeks later. At the time, it was considered as the most powerful hurricane on record in the open Atlantic region, outside of the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico until it was surpassed by Hurricane Doriantwo years later. It was also the third strongest Atlantic hurricane at landfall ever recorded, just behind the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane and Hurricane Dorian.[1]

The ninth named storm, fourth hurricane, second major hurricane,[nb 1] and first Category 5 hurricane of the 2017 season, Irma caused widespread and catastrophic damage throughout its long lifetime, particularly in the northeastern Caribbean and the Florida Keys. It was also the most intense hurricane to strike the continental United States since Katrina in 2005, the first major hurricane to make landfall in Florida since Wilma in the same year, and the first Category 4 hurricane to strike the state since Charley in 2004. The word Irmageddon was coined soon after the hurricane to describe the damage caused by the hurricane.[3]

Irma developed from a tropical wave near the Cape Verde Islands on August 30. Favorable conditions allowed Irma to rapidly intensify into a Category 3 hurricane on the Saffir–Simpson wind scale by late on August 31. The storm's intensity fluctuated between Categories 2 and 3 for the next several days, due to a series of eyewall replacement cycles. On September 4, Irma resumed intensifying, becoming a Category 5 hurricane by early on the next day. Early on September 6, Irma peaked with 1-minute sustained winds of 180 mph (285 km/h) and a minimum pressure of 914 hPa (27.0 inHg). Irma was the second-most intense tropical cyclone worldwide in 2017 in terms of barometric pressure, and the strongest worldwide in 2017 in terms of wind speed. Another eyewall replacement cycle caused Irma to weaken back to a Category 4 hurricane, but the storm re-attained Category 5 status before making landfall in Cuba. Although Irma briefly weakened to a Category 2 storm while making landfall on Cuba, the system re-intensified to Category 4 status as it crossed the warm waters of the Straits of Florida, before making landfall on Cudjoe Key on September 10. Irma then weakened to Category 3 status, prior to another landfall in Florida on Marco Island later that day. The system degraded into a remnant low over Alabama and ultimately dissipated on September 13 over Missouri.

The storm caused catastrophic damage in Barbuda, Saint Barthélemy, Saint Martin, Anguilla, and the Virgin Islands as a Category 5 hurricane. The hurricane caused at least 134 deaths: one in Anguilla; one in Barbados; three in Barbuda; four in the British Virgin Islands; 10 in Cuba; 11 in the French West Indies; one in Haiti; three in Puerto Rico; four on the Dutch side of Sint Maarten; 92 in the contiguous United States, and four in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Hurricane Irma was the top Google searched term in the U.S. and globally in 2017.[4]

Meteorological history

Main article: Meteorological history of Hurricane Irma

Map plotting the track and intensity of the storm, according to the Saffir–Simpson scale

Map key

Saffir–Simpson scale
Tropical depression≤38 mph≤62 km/hCategory 3111–129 mph178–208 km/h
Tropical storm39–73 mph63–118 km/hCategory 4130–156 mph209–251 km/h
Category 174–95 mph119–153 km/hCategory 5≥157 mph≥252 km/h
Category 296–110 mph154–177 km/hUnknown

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) began monitoring a tropical wave over western Africa on August 26.[5] The tropical wave moved off the coast of the continent late on August 27. Throughout the next two days, showers and thunderstorms associated with the wave became better organized and gradually coalesced into a low-pressure area, as the system passed just south of and then through the Cape Verde Islands on August 29.[6] Around 00:00 UTC on the following day, the system developed into a tropical depression just west of the Cape Verde Islands. Six hours later, the depression intensified into Tropical Storm Irma, based on scatterometer data and satellite estimates. With warm sea surface temperatures and low wind shear, strengthening was anticipated, with the only hindrance being slightly cooler waters and drier air.[7]

Sea surface temperatures in Hurricane Irma's path from September 3–6.

The nascent storm began developing upper-level poleward outflow, as an anticyclone became established over the system, with banding features becoming increasingly evident in satellite images.[8] Early on August 31, shortly after the development of a central dense overcast (CDO) and an eye feature,[9] Irma underwent rapid intensification, becoming a Category 2 hurricane at 18:00 UTC and then a Category 3 hurricane, becoming a major hurricane – around 00:00 UTC on September 1. Within a 48-hour period, the hurricane's intensity had increased by 65 mph (105 km/h).[7] On September 2, a ship passed 60 mi (97 km) to the west of the center of Irma, recording maximum winds of 45 mph (72 km/h), which indicated that the eye of Irma remained compact.[10][11] A strong high pressure system to the north of Irma caused the storm to move west-southwestward between September 2 and September 4.[7] The first aircraft reconnaissance mission departed from Barbados on the afternoon of September 3, discovering an eye 29 mi (47 km) in diameter and surface winds of 115 mph (185 km/h).[12][13]

On September 4, after moving into more favorable conditions, Irma strengthened into a Category 4 hurricane. As it continued approaching the Leeward Islands, Irma underwent a second and more robust period of rapid intensification, becoming a Category 5 hurricane by 12:00 UTC on the following day, with winds of 175 mph (280 km/h). The extremely powerful hurricane continued to intensify, with maximum sustained winds peaking at 180 mph (285 km/h) near 18:00 UTC on September 5. Irma acquired annular characteristics around this time, with the storm exhibiting a large, symmetric CDO and an impressive satellite appearance.[14] Irma continued to intensify while approaching the northern Leeward Islands. Almost eight hours later, around 05:45 UTC on September 6, Irma made landfall along the northern coast of Barbuda at peak intensity, with the storm's central minimum pressure having bottomed out at 914 mbar (27.0 inHg) – this was the lowest in the Atlantic since Dean in 2007; the storm also made landfall with maximum sustained winds of 180 mph (285 km/h). Irma continued to maintain its peak intensity until 12:00 UTC on September 6 and made additional successive landfalls on that same day, at 11:15 UTC on Sint Maarten, and at 16:30 UTC on Virgin Gorda, in the British Virgin Islands, though the storm's central pressure had risen slightly prior to its third landfall.[7]

Three simultaneously active hurricanes on September 7. From left to right: Katia, Irma, and Jose, the first occurrence since 2010.

As the hurricane moved away from the Virgin Islands late on September 6, observations from reconnaissance flights, as well as Doppler radar in San Juan, Puerto Rico, indicated an elliptical eye and double eyewalls. Late on September 6, the cyclone passed about 60 mi (97 km) north of Puerto Rico. Moving west-northwestward, Irma closely paralleled the north coast of Hispaniola throughout the day on September 7. After beginning an eyewall replacement cycle, Irma weakened to a Category 4 hurricane as it passed south of the Turks and Caicos Islands early on September 8. This subsequently ended the 60-hour contiguous period of Irma maintaining Category 5 intensity, the second-longest any Atlantic storm had maintained winds above 156 mph (251 km/h) – behind only the 1932 Cuba hurricane. At 05:00 UTC on September 8, Irma made landfall on the island of Little Inagua in the Bahamas with sustained winds of 155 mph (250 km/h). The hurricane then began tracking more to the west due to the intensification of a subtropical ridge to its north. Once the eyewall replacement cycle was complete, Irma began to re-intensify, and it re-attained Category 5 intensity at 18:00 UTC that day east of Cuba as deep convection became more pronounced and organized. The hurricane then made landfall in Cayo Romano, Cuba, at 03:00 UTC on September 9, with winds of 165 mph (270 km/h). This made Irma only the second Category 5 hurricane to strike Cuba in recorded history, after the 1924 Cuba hurricane. As the eye of Irma moved along the northern coast of Cuba, gradual weakening ensued due to land interaction, with the eye becoming cloud-filled and the intensity falling to a high-end Category 2 storm later on September 9.[7]

Combined satellite image of Hurricanes Andrew(inset, at left) and Irma (right), showing the size comparison of the storms

After slowing down late on September 9, the hurricane turned northwestward towards Florida around the southwestern edge of the subtropical high to its northeast and a low-pressure system that was located over the continental United States. Moving over the warm waters of the Straits of Florida, Irma quickly restrengthened to a Category 4 hurricane at 06:00 UTC on September 10, as deep convection improved and the eye became better defined.[7] In addition, Irma's wind field continued to increase in size, with hurricane-force winds spanning out a region of 80 mi (130 km) and gale-force winds spanning 220 mi (350 km) in diameter.[15] The cyclone made landfall in Cudjoe Key, Florida, at 13:00 UTC on September 10, at Category 4 intensity, with winds of 130 mph (215 km/h). Increasing wind shear and land interaction caused the satellite appearance of the storm to become ragged later that day, and Irma weakened to Category 3 intensity before making its seventh and final landfall at 19:30 UTC, in Marco Island, Florida, with sustained winds of 115 mph (185 km/h). Once Irma had moved inland, it began to accelerate to the north-northwest, while rapid weakening began to occur due to the increasing wind shear, land interaction, and dry air, with the storm falling below Category 3 intensity hours after landfall. Passing east of Tampa as a weakening Category 1 hurricane around 06:00 UTC on September 11, Irma continued to weaken as most of the deep convection became more spread out towards the northern semi-circle of the circulation – though it retained a large wind field, with most of Florida experiencing gale-force winds. The system finally weakened to a tropical storm around 12:00 UTC that day as it entered southern Georgia,[7] while acquiring some extratropical characteristics.[16] At 06:00 UTC on September 12, Irma degenerated to a remnant low just as it entered Alabama, as most of the deep convection had diminished. The remnants persisted for another day or so before dissipating over Missouri on September 13.[7]



Infrared satellite loop of Irma approaching the northern Leeward Islands on September 5, around the time of its upgrade to a Category 5 hurricane

Given that Irma's forecast track was along much of the Caribbean island chain, hurricane warnings were issued for the northern Leeward Islands, Puerto Rico, and parts of Hispaniola on September 5.[7]

In Antigua and Barbuda, residents safeguarded their homes and cleaned up their properties in anticipation of strong winds. Emergency crews were put on standby at public shelters and hospitals by September 5 to assist with any evacuations.[17] Expecting a direct hit, more than half of the residents on Barbuda took shelter,[18] and relief supplies were preemptively mobilized.[19] The National Emergency Management Organization on Saint Lucia urged small craft operators and swimmers to be mindful of forecasts for high surf.[20] Small Craft Warnings and High Surf Advisories were hoisted for Dominica, where residents were urged to remain vigilant of the potential for high waves, landslides, and flooding.[21]

In Guadeloupe, low-lying and cliff-edge homes were evacuated at the threat of flooding and erosion. Schools and public businesses closed on September 5 and 6. Hospitals stocked up on three days' worth of supplies and checked the functionality of their generators.[22][23] Of the island's 32 municipalities, 22 activated their emergency plans; 1,500 people were urged to take shelter.[24] The island sustained relatively minor damage and became the base for relief efforts on Saint Martin and Saint Barthélemy.[25] Though the core of the hurricane was expected to remain north of the island, a yellow alert was issued for Martinique due to the likelihood of rough seas.[26] The island dispatched relief supplies and military reinforcements to its neighboring islands of Guadeloupe, Saint Martin. and Saint Barthélemy, which faced a greater risk of a direct impact.[27]

On September 4, Puerto Rico declared a state of emergency.[28] By September 6, the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency had deployed response teams in Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands. Supplies, including food rations, medical supplies, and blankets, were pre-staged in strategic locations on the islands for distribution.[29]

On September 5, the Dominican Republic activated the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters, thus providing for humanitarian satellite coverage;[30] the United States and Haiti followed suit two days later.[31][32] According to officials, 11,200 people were evacuated from vulnerable areas prior to the storm's arrival.[33] Approximately 7,400 tourists were moved to Santo Domingo, away from beach resorts.[34] In Haiti, government officials and aid organizations struggled with early preparation and evacuation efforts. While some officials blamed reluctance and indifference on the part of the population, others "admitted they were not prepared for the onslaught and no mandatory evacuation orders were in place ahead of Irma's approach."[34][35] Local officials contended that they had not received promised funds, supplies, or equipment from the national government. The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti prepared its 1,000 peacekeepers and engineers to assist.[36]

In the Turks and Caicos, evacuation orders were issued for low-lying areas starting September 5. Schools were closed, government buildings were boarded up, and shelters were opened.[37] Officials spread warnings to residents in English, Creole, and Spanish via social media, radio, SMS text, and WhatsApp.[38] In The Bahamas, the government began preparations the week prior to the hurricane's arrival, including securing national sports facilities to use as shelters.[39] By September 7, the government had evacuated 1,609 people by air from the southern islands, including 365 from Bimini.[40] Controlled cutting of the power supply to southern and central Bahamian islands was conducted in advance of the storm.[41] Shelters were made available, though usage was low due to most evacuees staying with family on other islands.[42] Of the 2,679 foreign tourists still in The Bahamas on September 7, about 1,200 were being housed at Atlantis Paradise Island, one of the most hurricane-ready structures in the country.[43]

In Cuba, meteorologists did not initially predict a direct hit.[44] Fuel conservation was enacted in Camagüey Province to ensure that enough would be available during post-storm power outages.[45] The Civil Defense evacuated nearly one million people from low-lying areas, including thousands of Canadian and European tourists in the Jardines del Rey.[46][44] Dolphins at a Cayo Guillermo resort were evacuated by helicopter.[44]

Mainland United States

The NHC issued several watches and warnings for the Southeastern United States. The first watches and warnings were issued at 15:00 UTC on September 7, which was a hurricane watch from the Jupiter Inlet to Bonita Beach, including the Florida Keys and Lake Okeechobee. The watches and warnings were extended into Georgia and South Carolina on September 9. At 21:00 UTC on that day, the advisories reached their maximum extent, with a hurricane warning covering the entire east coast of the state, the west coast from Indian Pass southward, and the Florida Keys; a hurricane watch was in place from the Florida–Georgia state line to Edisto Beach, South Carolina; and there were two tropical storm warnings, one in Florida from Indian Pass to the Okaloosa–Walton county line and the other from the Florida–Georgia state line to the South Santee River in South Carolina. Watches and warnings were gradually discontinued as Irma moved inland and weakened, with all of them canceled by early on September 12.[7]


Main article: Effects of Hurricane Irma in Florida § Preparations

On September 4, Florida Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency. Governor Scott placed 100 members of the Florida National Guard on duty to assist in preparations. All 7,000 troops were ordered to be on duty by September 8.[47] Officials advised residents to stock their hurricane kits.[48] The state coordinated with electrical companies in order for power outages to be restored as quickly as possible, extending resources such as equipment, fuel, and lodging for the approximately 24,000 restoration personnel who had been activated. Governor Scott suspended tolls on all toll roads in Florida, including the turnpike. All state offices in Florida were closed from September 8 to September 11, while public schools, state colleges, and state universities in all 67 counties were closed during the same period. The Florida Department of Education coordinated with school districts as the need for transportation by school buses and opening shelters arose. By September 9, more than 150 state parks were closed.[49] Throughout the state, almost 700 emergency shelters were opened. The shelters collectively housed about 191,764 people,[47] with more than 40% of them staying in a shelter in South Florida.[50] Additionally, more than 60 special needs shelters were opened, which housed more than 5,000 people by September 9.[49]

Many airports across the state, particularly in Central and South Florida, were closed.[49] Nearly 9,000 flights intending to arrive in or depart from Florida were canceled.[51] Along Florida's coasts, most seaports were closed or opened with restricted access.[49] For the fifth time in its 45-year history, the Walt Disney World Resort was completely closed due to the storm. Its theme parks, water parks, and Disney Springs were all closed by 9:00 p.m. on September 9 and remained closed until September 12. Other Orlando-area theme parks, including Universal Orlando Resort and SeaWorld Orlando, were also closed.[52] The Kennedy Space Center was closed from September 8 to September 15.[53]

An estimated 6.5 million Floridians were ordered to evacuate, mostly those living on barrier islands or in coastal areas; in mobile or sub-standard homes; and in low-lying or flood prone areas. Mandatory evacuations were ordered for portions of Brevard, Broward, Citrus, Collier, Dixie, Duval, Flagler, Glades, Hendry, Hernando, Indian River, Lee, Martin, Miami-Dade, Orange, Palm Beach, Pasco, Pinellas, Sarasota, Seminole, St. Lucie, Sumter, and Volusia counties. All of Monroe County, where the Florida Keys are located, was placed under a mandatory evacuation.[49] Residents in communities near the southern half of Lake Okeechobee were also ordered to leave. Additionally, voluntary evacuation notices were issued for all or parts of Alachua, Baker, Bay, Bradford, Charlotte, Columbia, Desoto, Hardee, Highlands, Hillsborough, Lake, Manatee, Okeechobee, Osceola, and Polk counties.[49]

Eastbound Interstate 4 lanes on the afternoon of September 9 are filled with evacuating traffic from the Gulf Coast (note the emergency shoulder useby moving traffic), while westbound lanes are almost empty at 5 PM on a Saturday afternoon

A record 6.5 million Floridians evacuated, making it the largest evacuation in the state's history. Evacuees caused significant traffic congestion on northbound Interstate 95, Interstate 75, and Florida's Turnpike, exacerbated by the fact that the entire Florida peninsula was within the cone of uncertainty in the NHC's forecast path in the days before the storm, so evacuees from both coasts headed north, as evacuees would not be safer by fleeing to the opposite coast.[47] Fuel was in short supply throughout peninsular Florida during the week before Irma's arrival, especially along evacuation routes, leading to hours-long lines at fuel stations and even escorts of fuel trucks by the Florida Highway Patrol.[54]

Use of the left shoulder as a lane for moving traffic was allowed on northbound Interstate 75 from Wildwood to the Georgia state line beginning September 8 and on eastbound Interstate 4 from Tampa to State Road 429 near Celebration for a few hours on September 9. It was the first time that the shoulder-use plan, which was introduced at the start of the 2017 hurricane season, was implemented by the state for hurricane evacuations.[47] The shoulder-use plan was implemented in place of labor- and resource-intensive contraflow lane reversal, in which both sides of an interstate highway are used for one direction of traffic.[55][56]

Officials from the Environmental Protection Agency, which had been criticized for its response to Hurricane Harvey, took special measures to inspect and secure hazardous materials, especially at Superfund sites.[57]Direct Relief, a disaster relief organization, coordinated with local health centers and provided resources to help facilities on the front lines of Floridian and Puerto Rican communities.[58]


Georgia GovernorNathan Deal declared a state of emergency initially for all six coastal counties on September 6, but eventually expanded the declaration to 94 counties south of Atlanta metropolitan area, and then the entire state on September 10. Atlanta was placed under its first-ever tropical storm warning.[59][60] Governor Deal ordered mandatory evacuations for all areas east of Interstate 95 on September 7, before extending the order to the entirety of Chatham County and low-lying areas west of I-95 on the following day.[61] In total, 540,000 people on the Georgia coast were ordered to leave.[62]Contraflow lane reversal for Interstate 16 took effect on the morning of September 9 from Savannah to Dublin, Georgia.[63] All Georgia state parks were open for free to evacuees, as was the 800-acre camping area at Atlanta Motor Speedway.[64] Reversible HOT lanes on Interstate 75 in Georgia through south metro Atlanta were open 24 hours northbound with no tolls.[65]

North Carolina GovernorRoy Cooper declared a state of emergency on September 6,[66] with South Carolina GovernorHenry McMaster following suit the same day.[67]Governor of VirginiaTerry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency on September 8 in order to protect Virginia residents and to mobilize resources in support of neighboring states.[68] Officials in New Orleans stated that there would not be much time for preparations if Irma failed to make the projected northward turn, but that South Texas or Florida would not be a good evacuation destination.[69] On September 10, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam issued an executive order allowing medical professionals in other states to practice in Tennessee to aid Hurricane Irma evacuees. This order also allowed pharmacies to give out 14-day supplies of medicine, and gave women and children from outside the state the ability to participate in the Tennessee Department of Health programs.[70]Bristol Motor Speedway,[71]Talladega Superspeedway,[64] and Charlotte Motor Speedway all opened their campgrounds to evacuees free of charge.[71]


In professional sports, the Miami Dolphins–Tampa Bay Buccaneers game scheduled for September 10 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami was postponed to November 19 due to the storm's threat. The Dolphins left early for their road game against the Los Angeles Chargers.[72] The Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees moved their September 11–13 series from Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg to Citi Field in Queens.[72]Minor League Baseball's Florida State League, Carolina League, and Southern League called off their championship finals and as a result, named their division series winners league co-champions.[73][74][75] The Miami FC versus San Francisco Deltas match on September 10 was cancelled so the players and staff could prepare for the storm with their families.[76] The Orlando Pride of the National Women's Soccer League rescheduled their September 9 match to September 7.[77]Orlando City SC of Major League Soccer did not have any scheduled home games in September, but was unable to return to training facilities in Orlando due to Hurricane Irma.[78]

In college football, the UCF Knights-Memphis Tigers game scheduled for September 9 was moved to September 30, replacing UCF's game against Maine and Memphis game against Georgia State. UCF also cancelled their game against Georgia Tech on September 16, as UCF's stadium hosted the National Guard.[79] The USF Bulls-Connecticut Huskies football game was also cancelled. The Miami Hurricanes–Arkansas State Redwolves game scheduled for September 9 at Centennial Bank Stadium in Arkansas was canceled due to travel concerns for the University of Miami. The Florida Gators-Northern Colorado Bears match in Gainesville scheduled for September 9 was cancelled. The Florida State Seminoles contest against the Louisiana–Monroe Warhawks was canceled on September 8.[80] The Seminoles' rivalry game with the Hurricanes in Tallahassee, originally scheduled for September 16, was postponed tp October 7. The FIU Panthers game against the Alcorn State Braves was moved up a day and relocated to Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama.[81] The Georgia Southern Eagles game against the New Hampshire Wildcats on September 9 was also moved to Legion Field for that day.[82]

FEMA funding

As of September 5, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funding was running dangerously low, due to its response to Hurricane Harvey in Texas the previous week, prompting the Trump administration to request an immediate $8 billion in additional funding as Irma approached Florida.[83] Given the rate that current funds are being consumed and the catastrophic damage, the United States Senate almost doubled the requested amount to $15.3 billion, with the understanding that this would only be about 10% of what will be required for responding to Harvey.[84]


Hurricane Irma's path was such that its impact was both far-reaching and devastating, with landfalls in Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Martin, the Bahamas, Cuba, and the United States, all at major hurricane intensity. Furthermore, the size of the storm system meant that destruction was prevalent even in territories well removed from landfall occurrences. Irma is the second-costliest Caribbean hurricane on record, after Maria.[94]

Antigua and Barbuda

A house in Barbuda that was badly damaged by the hurricane

The eyewall of the hurricane moved over Barbuda near its record peak intensity early on September 6; a weather station observed a wind gust of 160 mph (257 km/h).[7] The exact state of the island remained unclear for hours after Irma's passage, as downed phone lines ceased all communication with nearby islands.[18] Later that afternoon, Prime Minister Gaston Browne surveyed the territory by helicopter, revealing an effectively uninhabitable island. Irma damaged or destroyed 95% of the structures on Barbuda, including its hospital, schools, and both of its hotels;[95] it completely flattened some residential blocks while submerging others.[96][97] The destruction rendered the island's sole airport and much of its infrastructure inoperative—including water and telecommunication services—which further hampered relief efforts. Property damage on Barbuda ranged from $150 million to $300 million. A total of three storm-related deaths were reported on the island.[7]

In addition to the catastrophic impact on Barbuda's human residents, concern turned to the storm's effects on the island's wildlife. The island's only endemic bird, the near-threatenedBarbuda warbler, numbered less than 2,000 individuals prior to the hurricane. It is unknown if the warbler survived the hurricane or its aftermath. Barbuda's Codrington Lagoon, home to the largest colony of magnificent frigatebirds in the Caribbean, with an estimated 2,500 nesting pairs, was also inundated by the storm surge.[98]

Remaining just outside of Irma's strongest windfield, Antigua sustained less severe damage, in the form of leveled roofs and fences, downed power poles and lines, and uprooted trees. Some street flooding also took place in low-lying areas.[99] Three people were treated for minor storm-related injuries.[100]Forensic disaster analysts from the Center for Disaster Management and Risk Reduction Technology (CEDIM), a Germany-based risk management agency, estimate that economic losses for Antigua and Barbuda will exceed $120 million.[85]

Saint Martin

Aerial video of the damage on Saint Martin, September 7, 2017

On the morning of September 6, Irma's center crossed the island of Saint Martin while the storm was at peak intensity, sweeping away entire structures, submerging roads and cars, and triggering an island-wide blackout.[101] Irma's extreme winds ripped trees out of the ground and sent vehicles and debris from damaged structures scattered across the territory. On the French side of Saint-Martin, entire marinas around Marigot were left in ruins, littered with the stranded remnants of boats that had smashed into each other.[102] A hotel caught on fire, but dangerous conditions and impassable roads prevented firefighters from putting out the blaze. Another hotel lost nearly all of its ground floor.[103] Media images depicted devastated room interiors with furniture hurled around after the winds had shattered their windows.[102] Irma killed four people on the French side of the island and injured 50 others, one of whom was in critical condition. As many as 95% of the buildings there were damaged to some degree; 60% of those were totally uninhabitable.[104] Estimates from CEDIM indicate a minimum of $950 million worth of economic losses.[85] Total losses exceeded €3.5 billion (US$4.17 billion).[90]

A similar situation unfolded in Sint Maarten, Saint Martin's Dutch half, as intense winds ripped through buildings and lifted vehicles aloft "as if they were matches".[105] The hurricane wreaked havoc on Princess Juliana International Airport, with "huge chunks of the building [strewn] across the runway and a jet bridge snapped in half."[106] It demolished or severely damaged about 70% of Sint Maarten's houses, forcing thousands of residents into public shelters.[107] There were 4 deaths and 23 injuries,[7] 11 of which were serious, in the Dutch territory.[108] Irma is considered the worst natural disaster to hit Sint Maarten; the extent of its damage far exceeded that of any previous hurricane.[105] Total damage were estimated at €2.5 billion (US$2.98 billion).[91]

Saint Barthélemy

Irma left widespread destruction and disastrous flooding along its path over the French island of Saint Barthélemy, southeast of Saint Martin. Describing the extent of the destruction, one local compared it to "a bomb that burned all vegetation," while another said that it were as if the hurricane had effectively "erased the island from the map".[113] Violent seas swept away entire coastal establishments, with one hotel being stripped of all but its foundation.[114] Streets in the capital of Gustavia were turned into rushing rivers, which carried away vehicles and pieces of furniture. The island's fire station was inundated with up to 6.4 ft (2.0 m) of flood waters.[114][115] With scores of homes and much of the infrastructure destroyed, the majority of the island's population was left stranded and without water, electricity or phone service.[113] The associated economic losses could exceed $480 million according to CEDIM's analysts.[85]

Preliminary assessments from the French government indicate that Hurricane Irma caused a combined €1.2 billion (US$1.43 billion) in insured losses across the French territories of Saint-Martin and Saint Barts. This total covered private property such as homes, vehicles and businesses (including lost revenue); the extent of the damage to infrastructural and public facilities remains undetermined. Nonetheless, this made Irma one of the costliest natural disasters to hit the French Republic in 50 years.[116]

On January 30, 2018, roughly five months after Irma, an analysis was published indicating that an anemometer on the island recorded an unofficial gust to 199 mph (320 km/h) before failing.[117]


The British Overseas Territory of Anguilla saw the eyewall of the storm pass over it on September 6. Many homes and schools were destroyed, and the island's only hospital was badly damaged.[7] The devastation was particularly severe in East End, where the winds uprooted scores of trees and power poles and demolished a number of houses. In The Valley, the island's capital, the hurricane blew out the windows of government buildings. Rough seas inflicted heavy damage upon several bays and harbors, and a seaside restaurant was completely eradicated.[118] About 90% of roads were left impassable.[7] The island's air traffic control tower was damaged, exacerbating the already poor communication with the island.[119] One death was reported on the island. Estimates of losses on the island total at least $190 million.[7]

Rest of the Lesser Antilles

Large swells ahead of Irma washed ashore debris and sea life in Castries, Saint Lucia, blocking some roads. Seaside roads were inundated with water.[120] One surfer was killed amid rough surf in Barbados after hitting a reef and breaking his neck. Trees were also destroyed.[121] The hurricane's effects, such as violent seas and rattling trees, were intense enough to be detected by seismographs in Guadeloupe. Several houses were damaged.[122] Around 8,000 households and a water supply network on that island lost power during the storm, leaving several communes in the dark without running water. Overall damage was limited to external parts of houses and trees that were blown onto roads and three unmanned ships wrecked by rough seas.[24]

Saint Kitts and Nevis endured similar conditions to other islands. Blustery rainstorms triggered scattered power outages and disabled the island's water system, but per the International Red Cross, the islands were spared the level of destruction seen elsewhere.[123] Still, Prime Minister Timothy Harris stated that property and infrastructure had sustained "significant damage."[35] The Dutch territories of Saba and Sint Eustatius were also struck by the hurricane's winds, resulting in infrastructural damage, water shortages and telecommunication outages.[118][124] Several houses were left uninhabitable. On Saba, the hurricane also defoliated trees and injured a few people.[118][124] CEDIM's analysts expect economic losses of $20–65 million for the two islands.[85]

British Virgin Islands

Main article: Effects of Hurricane Irma in the British Virgin Islands

Damage in the British Virgin Islands was extensive. Numerous buildings and roads were destroyed on the island of Tortola, which bore the brunt of the hurricane's core. Four people were confirmed dead.[7] Along Cane Garden Bay, the storm surge submerged several seaside bars and a gas station. Satellite images revealed many of the island's residential zones had been left in ruins.[118] The hurricane passed over Necker Island, also causing severe damage and destroying the mansion of Richard Branson.[126]

Most homes and businesses were destroyed on the island of Jost Van Dyke, the smallest of the B.V.I.'s four main islands.[127] The Governor, Gus Jaspert, who had only been sworn into office 13 days previously, declared a state of emergency - the first time this has ever happened in the Territory.[128] After the storm, restoration of electricity took approximately 5 months.[129]

U.S. Virgin Islands

U.S. Navy video of damage in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Irma's effects in the U.S. Virgin Islands were most profound on Saint Thomas, where at least 12 inches (305 mm) of rain fell, and on Saint John. Saint Thomas island suffered widespread structural damage, including to its police station and airport. Patients from the fourth and third floors of Charlotte Amalie's hospital had to be relocated to lower floors due to flooding from roof leaks. Three deaths were attributed to Irma on the island. On nearby Saint Croix, there were communication issues and some damage to the infrastructure.[118] Saint John lost access to ferry and cargo services, along with access to the local airport. Due to its normal reliance on electricity from Saint Thomas, the island was left without power.[130][131][132][133] Total damage from the three islands was at least $1.1 billion.

Puerto Rico

The hurricane passed north of Puerto Rico, but still caused significant damage to the United States territory. Along the coast, a tide gauge observed waves up to 1.5 ft (0.46 m) mean higher high water. Much of the main island experienced sustained tropical storm force winds, with a peak sustained wind speed of 55 mph (89 km/h) at a weather station along San Juan Bay, while the same site observed a peak wind gust of 74 mph (119 km/h).[7] However, on the island of Culebra, a wind gust of 111 mph (179 km/h) was reported.[134] Mainly due to strong winds, approximately 1.1 million out of 1.5 million of Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority's customers lost electricity.[135] Portions of Puerto Rico received heavy rainfall, with a peak total of 13.04 in (331 mm) in Bayamón,[7] causing seven rivers to reach flood stage, widespread flash flooding, and at least six landslides.[135]

The most severely affected areas included the offshore islands of Culebra and Vieques, as well as the northeastern, northern, and mountainous portions of the main island. On Culebra, the island suffered an almost complete loss of electrical and water services. At least 30 homes on the island were destroyed, while about 30 other experienced substantial damage. High winds also toppled a number of trees. The only telecommunications tower on Culebra sustained damage, cutting off outside communications for several hours.[135] In rural Loíza, 79 homes were destroyed.[136] Throughout Puerto Rico, 781 out of 1,600 telecommunications towers went out of commission, primarily due to power outages. At least 362,000 customers lost water services. Debris, mostly fallen trees, blocked at least 72 roads. Approximately 25% to 30% of banana, coffee, papaya, and plantain crops were damaged by strong winds, with losses to farmers estimated at $30.6 million.[135] Approximately 1,530 homes experienced at least moderate damage, with 1,448 homes moderately damaged, 32 extensively damaged, and 50 completely destroyed.[137]

Hurricane Irma was attributed to around $1 billion in damage,[89] and the NHC attributed three fatalities to Irma in Puerto Rico, though four deaths were related to the storm.[7][138] Two people died due to rainstorms ahead of the hurricane: one man died in Orocovis after falling off his ladder while repairing his roof; another man on the coast in Capitanejo died after being struck by lightning. Three nearby fishermen were burned by the same lightning strike, but survived. Two other people died during the hurricane: a woman died while being evacuated from her house in a wheelchair and fell, hitting her head; another person died in a car accident in Canóvanas.[139] Governor Ricardo Rosselló declared the islands of Culebra and Vieques to be disaster areas.[35]


Hurricane Irma north of Hispaniola on September 7, 2017
People stand in a flooded street that usually serves as a farmers market, in Ouanaminthe, northeast Haiti, September 8, 2017.

Although spared a direct hit, both the Dominican Republic and Haiti were affected by high winds and heavy rains. A bridge over the Dajabón River connecting the two countries was broken.[140]

In the Dominican Republic, the fishing community of Nagua sustained damage from waves that destroyed homes. 55,000 soldiers were deployed to affected areas to help with the clean-up efforts.[33] By the evening of September 7, the government had counted 2,721 damaged homes.[34]

In Haiti, flooding one meter deep sat in residential neighborhoods in places like Cap-Haïtien, Ouanaminthe, and Gonaives.[140] Mudslides, destroyed homes, flooded crops, and infrastructure damage were reported in the northern part of the country.[34] The total expanse of the flooding stretched from Môle-Saint-Nicolas in the west to the eastern border with the Dominican Republic.[141]

Turks and Caicos Islands

On the evening of September 7, at 7:30 pm AST (23:30 UTC), Hurricane Irma reached the Turks and Caicos Islands. While the eye passed just south of the main islands, crossing over South Caicos and the Ambergris Cays, the most powerful winds on the northern side of the eye swept all of the islands for more than two hours. Communications infrastructure was destroyed.[7]

On September 8, Minister of Infrastructure Goldray Ewing confirmed that damage to Providenciales was extensive, with the northwestern neighborhood of Blue Hill being "gone".[142] The hospital in the capital, Cockburn Town, was heavily damaged.[7] On South Caicos, 75% of roofs were lost.[143] Total damage was estimated at over $500 million.[7]

The Bahamas

In the Bahamas, the eye of the storm passed over Duncan Town, the major settlement of the Ragged Islands chain, on September 8. It also passed "almost directly over" Inagua and South Acklins, according to the Bahamas Department of Meteorology.[144]

Damages were largely confined to the southern islands starting the morning of September 8. On Mayaguana and Great Inagua, downed power lines knocked out communications.[145] On Great Inagua, 70% of homes sustained roof damage, and the island's school lost its roof entirely. The Morton Salt Company's signature production facility, one of the major employers in the country, experienced millions of dollars in damages.[146] The Acklins settlement of Salina Point was cut off from the rest of the island by flooding, while Crooked Island had widespread roof damage.[44] In the northern Bahamas, the worst property damage came on September 10 as the outer bands of the system produced tornadic activity on Grand Bahama and Bimini.[147][148] Damage and losses across The Bahamas amounted to $135 million.[86]

While Irma was making landfall in Florida, the ocean was drawn away from some western shorelines of the Bahamas due to strong easterly winds.[149]


Early on September 9, Irma made landfall on the Camagüey Archipelago off the northern coast of Cuba, with sustained winds of 165 mph (270 km/h). The strongest official sustained wind speed was 124 mph (200 km/h), while the highest wind gust reached 159 mph (256 km/h); both were observed near Camila in Ciego de Ávila Province.[7] The weather station at Esmeralda, Camagüey, was damaged, with the wind gauge destroyed.[62] The north coast of Cuba experienced significant coastal flooding due to storm surge and abnormally high tides generated by the storm. Wave heights at Cayo Romano exceeded 26 ft (7.9 m). Storm surge penetrated as far as 1.2 mi (1.9 km) inland in some areas of Villa Clara Province. Multiple locations on the island observed at least 10 in (250 mm) of rainfall, with a peak total of 23.9 in (610 mm) of precipitation at Topes de Collantes.[7]

A total of 158,554 homes experienced some degree of damage, of which 14,657 were destroyed; approximately 1.9 million people experienced the direct effects of Irma.[159] The storm partially deroofed 103,691 homes, while 23,560 were completely deroofed. Irma damaged or destroyed 980 health facilities and 2,264 schools. Approximately 3.1 million people experienced disruptions to the water supply, while 246,707 people lost telephone service. About 334 mi (538 km) of roads were damaged. Crops also suffered extensively, with nearly 235,000 acres (95,000 ha) affected by the storm.[159] Throughout the country, the hurricane inflicted $13.185 billion in damage and killed 10 people, making Irma the costliest tropical cyclone in Cuban history.[88][160]

The tourist areas of Cayo Coco, Cayo Guillermo and Cayo Santa María and the nearby town of Caibarién received the brunt of the storm, with waves rolling through town and the characteristic one-story homes completely flooded. The storm most severely Ciego de Ávila and Villa Clara provinces. Flooding worsened as the hurricane moved west, pushing the storm surge along to the regions around Havana.[7] By the afternoon, limited flooding was occurring in Havana, including around the Malecón.[44] Portions of province coastal flooding surpassing that which was experienced during the Storm of the Century in 1993 and Hurricane Wilma in 2005.[7] In the city of Santa Clara, 39 buildings collapsed.[161] Rainfall resulted in several rivers reaching major flood stage. The town of Cabaiguán in Sancti Spíritus Province in particular suffered extensive inland flooding after the Zaza River swelled.[7]

Hurricane Irma directly affected a major colony of American flamingos on Cuba's northern Cayo Coco.[98] Early reports from Diario de Cuba indicated that several hundred flamingos had been killed by the storm, though other estimates ranged as high as several thousand birds.[98][162]

Mainland United States

True-color images before and after the passage of Irma, in which light blue indicates sediment suspended in the water, kicked up by the intensity of the storm[165]

Hurricane Irma affected multiple states in the South, especially Florida. Except for the Florida Keys, the total damage Irma caused was not as great as government officials and forecasters had warned. Irma weakened after making landfall in Cuba, but strengthened back into a Category 4 prior to hitting the Keys. The Florida Keys suffered the worst of the damage in the United States. After surveying the aftermath of Irma, Florida governor Rick Scott said "I thought we would see more damage" [on the mainland] but said "he witnessed devastation in the Keys".[166]PresidentDonald Trump commented on Twitter that the devastation in some places was "far greater than anyone thought".[167]

Damage in the United States was estimated at a minimum of $50 billion. At the time, Irma was the fourth costliest tropical cyclone in the United States, behind hurricanes Sandy in 2012, Harvey earlier that year, and Katrina in 2005. However, later in September 2017, Hurricane Maria became the third costliest United States tropical cyclone, causing Irma to fall to the fifth costliest. At least 92 people, 10 directly and 82 indirectly, died throughout the United States in relation to Irma: 84 in Florida, 3 in Georgia, 3 in South Carolina, and 2 in North Carolina.[7]


Main article: Effects of Hurricane Irma in Florida

Remains of a neighborhood destroyed by Hurricane Irma in Big Pine Key

Irma struck the state less than two weeks after Potential Tropical Cyclone Ten had caused the worst flooding seen in western Florida in 20 years, which further worsened the impacts in the region.[168][170][171] The storm's large wind field resulted in strong winds across much of Florida, except for the western Panhandle. The highest reported sustained wind speed was 112 mph (180 km/h) on Marco Island, while the strongest observed wind gust was 142 mph (229 km/h), recorded near Naples,[172] though wind gusts of 150 to 160 mph (240 to 260 km/h) likely occurred in the Middle Florida Keys.[173] More than 7.7 million homes and businesses in Florida were left without electricity at some point – approximately 73% of state.[174][175] Generally heavy amounts of rainfall were recorded to the east of the Irma's path, including a peak total of 21.66 in (550 mm) in Fort Pierce.[176] Heavy precipitation – and storm surge, in some instances – overflowed at least 32 rivers and creeks, causing significant flooding, particularly along the St. Johns River and its tributaries.[47] Many homes and businesses suffered damage or destruction, with more than 65,000 structures damaged to some degree in West Central and Southwest Florida alone.[50] Agriculture experienced about $2.5 billion in damage.[47] It was estimated that the cyclone caused at least $50 billion in damage, making Irma the costliest hurricane in Florida history, surpassing Hurricane Andrew.[177]

Throughout Florida, at least 84 people died in storm-related incidents.[7] About half of the deaths occurred from drowning, trauma, and carbon monoxide poisoning.[178]Broward County had 21 fatalities, the most of any county in Florida. Among those deaths were 12 people at The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, a Hollywood nursing home. The patients died from sweltering heat worsened by the lack of air conditioning.[178] The hurricane also left at least 14 deaths in Monroe County;[179] 6 deaths in Orange County; 5 deaths each in Duval, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach counties; 4 deaths in both Highlands and Hillsborough counties; 3 deaths in both Marion and Polk counties;[178] 2 deaths each in Collier, Hardee, Leon, Pinellas, St. Lucie, and Taylor counties;[178][180][181] and 1 death in Hendry, Lake, Lee, Liberty, Manatee, Nassau, Okeechobee, Pasco, Seminole, St. Johns, and Volusia counties.[178]

With Irma making landfall in Monroe County as a Category 4 hurricane, the Florida Keys were hardest hit area in the state.[173] Strong winds and storm surge flooding caused major damage to buildings, trailer parks, boats, roads, the electricity supply, mobile phone coverage, internet access, sanitation, the water supply and the fuel supply throughout the island chain.[182][173] An estimated 10 ft (3 m) storm surge occurred at Cudjoe Key, where Irma made landfall.[183] Throughout the island, 625 homes sustained minor damage, 52 sustained major damage, and 81 were demolished. On Big Pine Key, one of the most devastated islands, 633 homes received minor impact, 299 homes received major impact, and 473 homes were completely destroyed. Overall in Monroe County, 27,649 homes experienced some degree of damage, including 1,179 homes being destroyed, 2,977 homes receiving major damage, and 5,361 suffering minor damage.[184]

Hurricane Irma on September 10, just before landfall on Florida. Hurricane Josecan be seen to the lower right.

After devastating the Keys, the storm then struck Collier County as a Category 3 hurricane. Several communities in the county suffered extensive damage, especially along the coast.[172] Throughout the unincorporated areas of the county, 65 homes, including 44 mobile homes, were demolished, while 1,008 homes received major damage. Property damages in unincorporated areas alone reach about $320 million.[185] Lee County was lashed by strong winds and heavy rainfall, which caused prolonged flooding in some areas.[186][187] More than 24,000 homes suffered some degree of damage, with almost 3,000 homes receiving major damage and 89 homes being destroyed.[188] Damage in the county totaled about $857 million.[189][50]

Impact in much of the Miami metropolitan area was generally limited to extensive tree and fence damage, as well as widespread power outages. However, in Miami-Dade County, about 1,000 homes received major damage and about 50% of crops were lost. Storm surge caused coastal flooding from Homestead to Downtown Miami, as well as in portions of Miami Beach.[172] Parts of the Florida Heartland were devastated by high winds and flooding, particularly Hendry and Highlands counties.[172][50] In the former, which has most citrus trees of any county in Florida, about 60% of orange crops were lost.[190] Throughout Hendry County, a total of 451 homes had minor damage, 131 homes suffered major damage, and 42 others were destroyed.[172] In Highlands County, 13,138 businesses and homes were damaged to some degree, with 144 being destroyed, 963 sustaining major damage, and 2,408 receiving minor damage. Strong winds and heavy rainfall in Central Florida left some wind damage and flooding, necessitating evacuations and rescues, including more than 200 people in Orlo Vista after hundreds of homes were flooded.[50] A total of 2,999 business or homes were damaged in Lake County,[191] 7,430 in Seminole County, and 3,457 in Volusia County. Additionally, eight tornadoes touched down in Brevard County, all of which caused damage.[192]

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