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Category 5 Hurricane Irma Slams Into Florida

By Sara Momin, Assistant Editor

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Usain Bolt accomplished the fastest human run ever recorded, at 45 miles per hour. Hurricane Irma, on the other hand, is almost four times that, clocking in at about 185 mph; enough to completely blow away a house. It is the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic, predicted to cause catastrophic damage, isolating residential areas for weeks, or possibly months. NOAA states that “Dangerous storm surges” are expected to directly hit the Gulf of Mexico and the entire state of Florida, putting more than 20 million people at risk.All of this is happening  only a week after Hurricane Harvey demolished Texas and Louisiana.

This Category 5 hurricane, measured to be about the size of France, started developing on Aug. 30th, right as Harvey was making landfall. The warm waters and air allowed the tropical storm to thrive, as it slowly crawled towards populated areas, building its strength. The last time a hurricane with this power hit the United States was in 1992 with Hurricane Andrew, It was one of the most destructive hurricanes ever recorded. It destroyed 28,000 homes and killed 25 people, causing over $25 billion dollars in damage. With the clock slowing ticking down, Texas residents are concerned for the safety of those on the path of the hurricane, dreading a repeat of Andrew.

“I know that there will be mass repercussions across the United States,” Eric Bonilla’ 18 said. “But, it’s not just Irma that we have to worry about, because Hurricane Jose has already been confirmed, and it’s big enough to cause a problem on the East Coast. I think we should cast a wider net, and try to figure out the places that Jose and Irma are going to strike, and affect the most, so that we can create a readiness program. “

While pre-planning relief efforts before a hurricane is a common occurrence, for Irma, federal officials are already bringing truckloads of supplies, fearing the worst. Gas and water bottles are running out across the state, police blockades on standby to keep the peace. State officials are also stating that the shelter won’t be able to last under 185 mph winds, because they don’t know if the structures can hold or not. The supplies that were available for evacuation are already decimated by Hurricane Harvey, because  companies have to switch between supplying the Gulf Coast, to Florida, and possibly back again. All in all, there is a general sense of panic.

“Right now, I feel like the only option is to help, by giving money or by going there to volunteer,” Payton Berry ‘21 said. “The people, and families, who are trying to rebuild their lives again after this tragic, tragic, thing need help. I know that the people there are going to have a hard time, and I’ll support them, of course. I mean, if I could drive over there and help out, I would. Harvey was horrible, and I couldn’t imagine anything worse than that, until it hits. I guess, we can’t do anything, like, we can’t stop it, but we can prepare for it, and make sure that we take significantly less damage.”

As the hurricane hits, officials worry that more will be on the way, due the amount of powerful hurricanes forming in the Atlantic. Due to Florida’s low ground structures near warm waters, they are at a high risk of storm surges flooding the area. Bridges connect land masses separated by mossy areas and rivers, and if one of those bridges get shut down, the residents who live in the county can’t escape. The evacuation routes before the storm hit were also very crowded, and people were still on the road for two hours before the storm directly hit. The shelters are completely packed, and the amount of people, and the lack of sanitation, is convincing people to leave when it is dangerous, because of the horrible conditions. Therefore, others are trying to plan new ways so that the preparation of a hurricane becomes an easier process.

“The only ways to protect Florida are to make it higher elevated, which isn’t possible, due to the short amount of time.” Rishi Ahuja ‘21 said. “They can also evacuate their people, but there are those who can’t leave, because they can’t afford to. It’s going take a lot of time and relief efforts, just like Harvey did. It’s just gonna put a lot of stress on everybody.”

Just like Usain Bolt, this hurricane is one for the record books. Powerful winds are slamming Florida at this moment, as residents cower in shelters. Over 200,000 are without power, and 25 people are confirmed dead as the climax of the storm blows through. Many people are comparing this hurricane to Andrew, but there are many things that have changed, to protect residents. There are better built structures, and relief efforts are already underway, but they can’t protect everyone. As the storm demolishes houses and lives, Austin students connect with the suffering residents because of the relief efforts of Harvey. While there were two dangerous storms in a week, the amount of support between Florida and Texas is stronger than any 185 mph hurricane.

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