Hurricane Irma left a path of death and destruction in Southwest Florida.
“It was surreal for a lot of people and for a long time,” said Tony Sadiku, a meteorologist at Fox 4 in Cape Coral, Florida, who forecasted the hurricane as it moved across Southwest Florida.
Hurricane Irma was one of the most devastating natural disasters in Florida history. It caused at least $42 million in damages to homes, schools, farms, businesses and more. More than six million people were ordered to evacuate their homes.
Now a year later, we’re taking a look at Irma — step by step. How it formed, how it grew, and how it made its way into Southwest Florida.
Hurricane Irma was a challenge for the meteorologist forecast.
Like many storms in the latter part of summer, it was developing near the Cape Verde Islands. The storm did not show any hints of being the destructive force that would terrorize Florida residents.
Hurricane Irma started as a tropical storm on August 30, 2017. Tropical storms typically move counter-clockwise. They will bring a lot of precipitation and thunderstorms, with winds above 39 miles per hour.
Then it quickly intensified, turning into a hurricane within 24 hours.
“It had an environment with very warm waters, a lot of moisture but also very low wind shear,” Sadiku, 24, said. “And that primarily allowed it to intensify quickly.”
On September 6, NOAA reported Irma as a Category 5 hurricane, reaching wind speeds up to 155 mph.
That same day, the hurricane hit Barbuda, St. Martin and the British Virgin Islands.
“A lot of people think these storms don’t have a lot of impact outside of the eye wall,” Sadiku said. “But a lot of times the wind field for these systems extend 50 to 100 miles outside of the center so even if you’re not living in that bullseye of a system you could still see very strong impacts. That was the case for a lot of these islands here.”
Just four days later, the storm hit Florida.
Hurricane Irma hit the Florida Keys on September 10. It was a Category 4 hurricane, weakened and then made landfall in Marco Island. At that point, it was a Category 3 hurricane with max winds at 155 mph.
It took Hurricane Irma a few hours to completely destroy homes, livelihoods and memories.
Hurricane Irma blew over Marco Island and Naples, loosing strength quickly. When it reached Fort Myers, it was a Category 2 hurricane and proceeded to Tampa.
Irma continued up the coast and into Georgia, but without any water, it weakened to a tropical depression as it progressed to Tennessee.
HelloSWFL has covered the aftermath of Hurricane Irma as it approaches its one year anniversary. Through our reporting, we’ve found that the natural disaster still has impacts that are being felt today by residents.
“It’s just awesome to think about how Mother Nature at its best or worst can have such an impact on our daily lives,” Sadiku said. “We’re resilient and we’ll be that much stronger for the next one.”
Reporting by Jalyn Henderson