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The Facts —
- Hurricane Irma set records and claimed more than 60 lives, before dissipating into a tropical depression along the East Coast of the United States.
- Irma made landfall over the Florida Keys as a Category 4 storm on 10 September, after hitting Cuba and the Caribbean as a Category 5 hurricane. Before weakening into a tropical storm and later depression, Hurricane Irma consistently maintained wind speeds of more than 150 miles per hour for days.
- Hurricane Irma occurred at the same time as Hurricanes Jose and Katia, and just after Hurricane Harvey which hit Texas and Louisiana earlier this month.
“We believe the damage estimate from Irma to be about $100 billion, among the costliest hurricanes of all time. This amounts to 0.5 of a percentage point of the GDP of $19 trillion…
We estimated that Hurricane Harvey is to be the costliest weather disaster in US history at $190 billion or one full percentage point of the GDP. Together, AccuWeather predicts these two disasters amount to 1.5 of a percentage point of the GDP, which will about equal and therefore counter the natural growth of the economy for the period of mid-August through the end of the fourth quarter.”
- The National Hurricane Center’s final update on Irma, released at 11:00 PM Eastern time on 11 September, said:
“Irma continues to produce very heavy rain across the southeastern United States. Intense rainfall rates are leading to flash flooding and rapid rises on creeks, streams, and rivers. Significant river flooding will persist over the Florida peninsula in the wake of Irma and across Georgia, South Carolina and north-central Alabama where additional heavy rains are expected. Portions of these states within the southern Appalachians will be especially vulnerable to flash flooding. Irma is also expected to produce heavy rains in northern Mississippi and southern portions of Tennessee and North Carolina, where local flooding may occur.”
Deaths Caused by Hurricane Irma —
- The Weather Channel reported Irma’s death toll at 65, as of 13 September.
- ABC News reported the following fatalities in the continental US, as of 13 September:
- 24 dead in Florida;
- four in South Carolina;
- and three in Georgia.
- The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency reported following Irma’s impact:
- one fatality in Anguilla;
- four fatalities in the British Virigin Islands;
- French interior minister Gerard Collomb announced on 8 September there were nine dead and 23 injured in St Barthelemey and French St Martin, according to a French news source.
- The Guardian reported the following deaths in the Caribbean, as of 7 September:
- two dead in Dutch St Maarten;
- four people were killed on the US Virgin Islands;
- three dead on the US territory of Puerto Rico;
- one person killed on the nearly completed devastated island of Barbuda;
- and one person killed in Barbados.
Irma’s Path —
- Irma is expected to continue bringing heavy rains to Georgia, South Carolina, and western North Carolina this week, according to the National Hurricane Center.
- Accuweather reported on 11 September:
“[Irma] will weaken once it gets through the Florida Panhandle and Georgia, but the harmful, life-threatening effects of the storm could last into Wednesday or Thursday north of Florida…
The life-threatening impacts will include rain and flooding Tuesday through Wednesday, and possibly into Thursday, across Georgia, northeastern Alabama, the mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina, and perhaps as far north as Kentucky and the mountains of West Virginia.”
- Irma hit the Florida Keys as a Category 4 storm on 10 September, with wind gusts of 91 mph in Key West and 71 mph in Fort Lauderdale, according to the Guardian.
- Hurricane Irma hit Cuba shortly after returning to Category 5 status with wind speeds of 160 mph on 8 September, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Records Set —
- More than 7.3 million continental US customers lost power due to Irma, according to Weather Underground. 30,000 utility employees will be working across Florida to being repairs and restore power.
- US homeland security advisor Tom Bossert said in a press conference on 11 September:
“This will be the largest ever mobilization of [utility] line restoration workers in this country.”
- 3,275,258 Florida homes and businesses remain without power as of 5:57 PM Wednesday, according to the Florida Division of Emergency Management.
- No other hurricane has maintained wind speeds of 185 mph for as long as Hurricane Irma, according to the Guardian.
- Irma sustained the wind speeds for 33 hours, which is the longest record for such intensity since satellite monitoring of storms began in the 1970s.
- Hurricane Jose has joined Irma, and in doing so has resulted in the first time on record where two storms with winds exceeding 150 mph have occurred in the Atlantic Ocean at the same time, according to Philip Klotzbach, a meteorologist at Colorado State University.
- Weather Underground reported record flooding in Jacksonville, Florida:
“At 1:06 PM Eastern time, the gauge at downtown Jacksonville’s Main Street Bridge showed a water height of 5.57 feet, smashing the previous modern-day record of 4.12 feet observed during Hurricane Dora on 10 September 1964.”
- At 4:30 PM the same day, the City of Jacksonville, Florida tweeted the following on 11 September:
— City of Jacksonville (@CityofJax) September 11, 2017
Those who say climate change is playing a role the latest super storms —
- Dr. Dann Mitchell, Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) Research Fellow at the University of Bristol’s Cabot Institute, said, according to the United Nations department on climate change:
“Hurricane Irma, following so closely after Tropical Storm Harvey and other extreme weather emergencies, has prompted questions about the role of climate change. The question of whether climate change ’caused’ any particular weather event is the wrong one; instead, we must probe how climate change alters extreme weather. Aside from the warming atmosphere, rising sea level and surface ocean warming have likely contributed to the impact of both Irma and Harvey. The details of these contributions will be examined by scientists in the coming months and years.”
- Tropical storm expert at the University of Reading Dr. Chris Holloway, said, according to the United Nations department on climate change:
“For climate change, it’s important to note that climate change has already caused higher sea levels, so any storm surge is happening on top of a higher initial level, leading to more coastal flooding. Also, climate change leads to increased rainfall for a storm of a given strength, leading to increased freshwater flooding. Climate change also likely increases the probability of storms reaching an extremely high intensity…
Irma is moving faster than Harvey, and has even stronger maximum winds that will affect a potentially larger region, so storm surge and wind damage are the primary risks. Harvey moved very slowly and dumped rainfall over Texas for days, mostly as a much weaker tropical storm, so freshwater flooding caused most of the damage from Harvey.”
- Astrophysicist Dr. Katherine Mack tweeted:
Scientific evidence suggests human-caused climate change is making extreme weather events more common.
This is not a political statement.
— Katie Mack (@AstroKatie) September 8, 2017
Those who say climate change is not a factor in the latest super storms —
- Conservative commentator John Stossel said:
“The earth is warming, and man probably plays some part, but the earth was warming before factories and cars were even built. The Washington Post ran the headline, ‘Irma and Harvey should kill any doubt that climate change is real.’ But that’s absurd. Of course climate change is real. Climate CHANGES. Always has, always will. For the past 300 years, since what’s called the ‘little ice age,’ the globe has warmed about 3 degrees…
It does us no good to scream ‘man-made’ every time there’s a terrible hurricane. Let’s focus on helping the victims.”
- Alan Reynolds, senior fellow at the Cato Institute and former director of economic research at the Hudson Institute, wrote the following, with help from Cato climate scientist Patrick Michaels, in an opinion piece published by Newsweek on 8 September:
“I am an economist, not a climatologist. But blaming [Hurricane] Harvey on climate change apparently demands much lower standards of logic and evidence than economists would dare describe as serious arguments…
Harvey’s maximum rainfall of 51.88 inches barely exceeded that from Tropical Storm Amelia in 1978 (48”) and Hurricane Easy in 1950 (45”). And what about Tropical Storm Claudette in 1979, which put down 42 inches in 24 hours near Houston (Harvey took three days to do that)?
In such cases, attributing today’s extreme weather to ‘climate change’ regardless of what happens (maybe droughts, maybe floods ) is what the philosopher Karl Popper called ‘pseudoscience.’ If some theory explains everything, it can’t be tested and it is therefore not science.”
- Military veteran Greg West tweeted:
Liberals claiming climate change is responsible for stronger storms but Cat 4/5 have hit US since 1800s. More storms in previous decades. pic.twitter.com/YzXoWaUf3U
— Greg West (@GregWest_HALOJM) September 8, 2017
Stephanie Haney contributed to this report.