Irma Leaves Devastation In Its Wake

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Many buildings and streets in the Florida Keys have been severely damaged by Hurricane Irma. Photo found on Elite Daily.

Hurricane Irma, the monster storm that wrecked havoc in Florida and the Caribbean in August and September, left behind mountains of damage. According to The Weather Channel, “This is the first time on record two Category 4 landfalls occured in the continental United States in the same hurricane season, much less within 16 days.”

Lives and homes were lost, and now many people come together to rebuild and find hope.

A former Black Hawk College student and 15 year resident of the Quad Cities, Imon Ahmed, experienced Hurricane Irma from Orlando, as well as a Port St Lucie resident, Farida Chowdhury. Ahmed is the sister of current Black Hawk College Professor Ferdaus Ahmad, and Chowdhury is Professor Ahmad’s cousin. You can read about their experiences here. 

 

Quick Facts About the Storm

 

Places Hurricane Irma hit

Hurricane Irma barreled down on Cuba, Florida, Caribbean, St. Martin (Island), St. Barts, U.S. Virgin Islands, Barbuda, Anguilla, Leeward Islands, and British Virgin Islands, according to The Telegraph.  The hurricane also impacted some parts of the southeastern United States, namely the states of Georgia and South Carolina.

In particular, the island of Barbuda has been demolished by Irma. In a chilling report by USA Today, Barbuda’s ambassador to the U.S., Ronald Sanders, said, “For the first time in 300 years, there’s not a single living person on the island of Barbuda.”

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Barbuda, after Hurricane Irma. Image found on Independent.
Death toll

A report by ABC News says that at least 31 people have died in circumstances related to Hurricane Irma in the United States. At least 24 people have lost their lives in Florida, four in South Carolina, and three in Georgia.

Al Jazeera says the death toll in the Caribbean has now been reported to be at 38.  

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A man in Havana, Cuba, wades through the streets after Irma. Image found on The Telegraph.
Wind and water levels during Irma

Winds from Hurricane Irma reached an astounding 185 mph in the Caribbean, according to The Weather Channel . And that wasn’t just a gust. The Weather Channel says, “it maintained those winds for 37 hours, the longest on record.”

The Weather Channel reports that in Ft. Pierce, Florida, there was more than 10 inches of rain, causing severe flooding in the area.

Additionally, Pine Hills, a suburb of Orlando, was hit hard on Monday, leaving residents with waist-deep water in their homes, prompting rescue missions.

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Miami streets flooded. Image found on The Telegraph.
Response to the storm

Responses to Hurricane Irma in the United States have been immediate and, for the most part, effective. Thanks to advanced warning and heavy evacuation orders, most were able to successfully prepare for this storm.

U.S. President Donald Trump issued emergency declarations for Florida, Seminole Tribe of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, according to the White House website.

Additionally, Florida governor Rick Scott activated all 7,000 members of the Florida national guard for deployment. 

 

Recovery Efforts and Aftermath

 

Crews respond after Hurricane Irma

Millions of Floridians lost their power due to Hurricane Irma. With high temperatures in Florida, this could lead to a potentially dangerous situation. Fortunately, due to the persistent efforts of many workers, millions of homes and businesses have already had their power fully restored, according to the Florida government website.

Law enforcement individuals have been working tirelessly to ensure public safety after the storm. “The entire Florida Highway Patrol (FHP), approximately 1,700 troopers, is on 12-hour shifts,” says the government website.  

Additionally, over 9,000 members of the military went to Florida to conduct missions.

Also, countless devoted volunteers from across the country have assembled in Florida and other areas affected by Irma to offer support in any way possible.

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Doctors fly to Orlando, Florida to provide medical care after the hurricane. Image found on The Telegraph.
Search and Rescue efforts

The Florida Keys have been devastated by Hurricane Irma, homes and lives ripped to shreds by the massive storm. Search and rescue teams work continuously throughout Florida to make sure everyone is safe, but especially in the Keys, which took the hardest hit.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott told the New York Post that the USS Abraham Lincoln, the USS Iwo Jima and the USS New York, were sent to the Keys by the U.S. Navy to provide support for search-and-rescue efforts.

The military also conducted missions by air to rescue Floridians, and emergency crews are working on land to search through the ruins of homes and buildings for people in harm’s way.

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The U.S. Coast Guard conducts rescues in Jacksonville, Florida. Image found on ArmyTimes.
Dangerous flooding in other parts of Florida

The Santa Fe River in northern Florida has flooded over in some areas due to Hurricane Irma. The now fast-moving river spilled over several major roads, closing many businesses because workers couldn’t access them. In High Springs, citizens were told to evacuate due to the Santa Fe’s flooding.

Fortunately, the river did not spill onto Interstate 75, which The Washington Post says is “one of only two interstate highways leading north out of Florida,” although it was extremely close to doing so.

Additionally, officials drove boats around the flooded areas, to keep an eye out for looters, according to the Post article.  

The city of Jacksonville is also experiencing massive flooding due to the overflow of the St. Johns River. Many other areas throughout the state are covered in water as well.

Despite the obvious risks of flooding, such as drowning, flooding also may lead to serious illness as a result of sewage contamination and/or chemical leakages, serious injury from floating debris, and severe damage to property, all of which those affected need to be aware of.  

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The Santa Fe River floods. Image found on The Washington Post.
Beware of carbon monoxide

Also dangerous and deadly is the use of generators in any enclosed spaces, such as in homes, where lethal carbon monoxide released will kill any breathing it in. Carbon monoxide has resulted in the deaths of at least six people in Florida so far after power loss from Hurricane Irma, according to an article at the Metro website.

Generators should be placed far away from the structure you intend to use them for. Always read the guidelines that come with the generator or call local authorities for suggestions on how far you should place the generator. The Metro article says, “The official advice is to place them outside at least 20 yards from the building.” Doing these things can save lives.

How You Can Help People Affected by Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Harvey:

Donate for Irma relief: https://www.redcross.org/donate/hurricane-irma-donations?campname=irma&campmedium=aspot

Donate for Harvey relief: https://www.redcross.org/donate/hurricane-harvey

Donate to provide clean water for those affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma: https://www.gofundme.com/augustanawalkforwater  

Author: Elodie R. Bouwens

I am currently in my second year at Black Hawk College. I'm a 2016 graduate of Geneseo High School. Besides writing, I love to walk long distance (goal is 20+ miles), bake, watch The Walking Dead, and read. I absolutely love to write, and I'm excited to write for the Chieftain. If you have any ideas for a topic or story, feel free to contact me at ebouwens@mymail.bhc.edu.