Essay on Hurricane Irma

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On August 30th, 2017 just off the West African Coast, Hurricane Irma started off as a weak wave that was followed by showers and thunderstorms. At this time there were favorable conditions for a tropical cyclone to form, in the Atlantic. As it moved through the Atlantic, it became a tropical storm on August 30th, near the Cape Verde Islands. The hurricane continued to intensify, while it moved over warm water and moist air. On September 6th, Irma finally made its first landfall as a Category 5 Hurricane right on the Northern coast of Barbuda. It had wind speeds of 185 miles per hour, which made Hurricane Irma one of the strongest hurricanes ever recorded in the Atlantic. Although Category 5 hurricanes don’t usually happen for long periods of time, they lasted for about 3 days. On September 8th, Irma finally weakened down to a Category 4 hurricane, where it moved through the Bahamas with winds of 155 MPH. But it became a Category 5 Hurricane once again when it moved through the Northern coast of Cuba. The hurricane made landfall in Southwest Florida as a Category 3 storm on September 10th. The Florida keys received winds of up to 115 MPH, and averaged about 10 to 15 inches of rain, along with a 10-foot storm surge.

Hurricane Irma was one of the most powerful hurricanes, and its effects of it were severe. The worst places that got hit were the Northerneastern part of the Caribbean and Florida. Irma had a death toll of about 129 people and it caused over $50 billion worth of damage. A majority of those deaths occurred in Florida. There were about eleven deaths directly related to the hurricane, 3 deaths possibly related, while the remaining 115 were indirectly related. The indirect deaths were caused by existing medical conditions, heat-related, or due to lack of power. In Florida, many power lines were down due to wind damage, and storm surges caused flooding. Fort Pierce, Florida received 15.9 inches of rain, which was the most in the state. In the Florida Keys, it was “estimated that about 25% of homes were destroyed and 65% of others suffered extensive damage.” Much of the building codes had high wind standards because they improved after Hurricane Andrew. But many of the buildings stood no chance against the speed of the winds. They also revamped building codes for homes after Hurricane Charley, which helped 80% of the homes in Irma’s path be more resilient. The storm left about 60% of homes without power and threatened $1.2 billion worth of crops. Florida is America’s second-largest grower of many different types of vegetables, so prices for orange juice and sugar increased prior to the storm. The Caribbean Island of Barbuda was hit just as badly as Florida, “Irma damaged 90% of the buildings on Barbuda. It destroyed almost all communication and left 60% of the population homeless. The government evacuated 1,800 citizens to Antigua.” Many people who were forced to evacuate, left their homes and sought shelters to ride out the storm, or they went to visit family that was out of the path of the hurricane. “Barley habitable” was how the Prime Minister of Barbuda described it during the event of the storm.

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Many different agencies were brought into Florida for the federal response to Hurricane Irma. The following information is from a FEMA report when the Hurricane was occurring, “...in Florida, FEMA US&R saved 1,006 lives. The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) has rescued 326 people and saved 53 pets. The U.S. Coast Guard has also answered more than 1,750 emergency phone calls at their headquarters facility.” With FEMA and the USCG working together, even though they are two different agencies they are able to work toward the same goal. 10,000 federal workers are helping with the different mission areas including the response. Out of those workers, about 3,200 of them are FEMA staff, and about 13,000 of them are from the National Guard and are airmen. These workers originated from 22 different states, and are helping with operations like evacuation, rescue, support, and security. FEMA is also in charge of transferring food, water, and generators during this crisis. The Department of Energy also helped with communications, providing situational awareness, and restoring power. About 60,000 personnel, for this department, was activated from 250 different companies. They were able to restore about 70 percent of the area that was affected. I only highlighted a few federal agencies, but there are still a lot more that helped during Hurricane Irma.

For the Florida Keys’ state response, Monroe County Emergency Management led planning and preparation. Their responders helped with clearing debris off airport runways and repairing roads. They also inspected and maintained bridges, and cleared off roads in order to “make the Keys’ only main road safe for search and rescue crews, other emergency responders, and utility workers.” This aided many of the search and rescue efforts, they were able to search through 15,000 homes in only 6 days. Not only did Monroe county do this, but Fire Rescue and others also helped with this effort. Monroe County Fire Rescue also assisted with search and rescue, responded to calls, put the fires out, and cleared debris during the first few days. Monroe County Sheriff also got assistance from law enforcement from all around the country, which made them able to respond to calls and prevent looting. They were also able to coordinate aid from non-governmental agencies like the Red Cross, in order to set up food, water, and medical tents throughout the county. In order for the state agencies to coordinate this it took a lot of money. “State agencies spent $680.2 million after Hurricane Irma, with county government costs exceeding $1 billion, according to a draft of a report by the House Select Committee on Hurricane Response and Preparedness.” This shows how much devastating the Hurricane was not only physically, but financially as well. There are more agencies that were involved in the State response, but I wanted to focus on the ones that I felt were the most important

Nongovernmental agencies and volunteer organizations also helped in response to Florida during Hurricane Irma. One of these volunteer organizations included Habitat for Humanity. “In storm-battered Florida communities, the Red Cross and other nonprofit organizations are joining with the 26 Long Term Recovery Groups that have formed across the state to help Irma survivors connect with those resources” The Red Cross had a group of about 7,000 workers that were able to provide financial assistance to households that were damaged, which was about $37 million total. They were also able to provide 1.6 million meals and provide shelter for a total of 555,300 overnight stays. For long-term recovery, they were given around $15 million in grants, in order to help the most impacted parts of the community.

Hurricane Irma caused more than $50 billion dollars worth of total damage. The people who are responsible for paying for all this are the government, the state, the private sector, and insurance companies. “Nearly $3 billion in FEMA disaster assistance, low-interest U.S. Small Business Administration disaster loans, and National Flood Insurance Program payments have flowed to Florida for recovery and rebuilding” Flooding usually isn’t covered under standard home insurance unless the homeowners use the National Flood Insurance Program. Over $1.02 billion in grants were funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Public Assistance program. These grants were given to state and local governments and were also given to some non-profit organizations that were involved. These grants were used to help remove debris, repair roads and bridges, respond, and manage costs. For long-term recovery, Monroe County is doing the majority of the work. “The Monroe County Long Term Recovery Group has invited World Renew Disaster Response Services, also known as “The Green Shirts,” into the Keys to meet with people who still are recovering from Hurricane Irma and need financial, emotional, and/or household help.” The World Renew Green Shirts are volunteers, whose tasks are to go to individuals affected by the disaster, where they gather information and prioritize them. Monroe County is getting this money from federal, state, local, and non-profit, in order to repair and make Florida more resilient. 5,854 of a projected 7,959 total projects – nearly 74 percent – have been funded

In the research I conducted, I learned a lot of lessons that were created from Hurricane Irma. FEMA published an after-action report called, “2017 Hurricane Season FEMA After-Action Report.” Three main lessons learned would help the agency and the emergency management community. The first lesson was that they must build a national culture of preparedness. Doing this it would make sure that everyone at the individual, community, federal, state, and local levels is prepared for the worst types of disasters. They also want citizens to mitigate these possible disasters, and buy insurance to ensure that whatever happens there will still be hope. FEMA’s second lesson learned was that they must get the Nation ready for catastrophic disasters. “The response to the hurricanes demonstrated the need for emergency managers at all levels to improve collaboration with the critical infrastructure sectors.” Even though there are developed plans with good information, emergency managers must be ready to adapt. For revising this coordination across the different sectors, FEMA wants to revise the National Response Framework and the Response Federal Interagency Operational Plan. For the third lesson, FEMA’s agency needs to become more efficient, and not as complicated. FEMA wants to simplify its strategies and make them more simple with new technology and approaches. By being able to communicate better, they want to be able to serve the survivors better before, during, and after the event. FEMA states that there is “no easy or one-size-fits-all solution to housing tens of thousands of displaced survivors. FEMA needs to simplify the process of applying for assistance to make our programs easier.” If they work together, they will be able to execute better methods for housing displaced survivors. Most of these methods are able to be executed by the federal state, and local levels working together.

There are many resources that I found useful for research, but I will be focusing on the three main ones. The first one comes from the National Weather Service website, which it has a detailed summary of Hurricane Irma. I used this mainly in the first paragraph, where it talked about the path of the Hurricane, and when the hurricane was either a Category 3, 4, or 5 hurricane. It also talked about the speed of the winds in each area, along with the dates on which the events took place. For the second resource that I found most valuable, I used “Hurricane Irma: The Immediate Response” from the Monroe County, FL, Emergency management website. This helped me gain more knowledge on the state and local response, and how they were running most of the operations. It also gave me a good insight into how they were working with non-governmental agencies like the Red Cross. For the third resource, I used FEMA’s “2017 Hurricane Season After-Action Report,” which was made on July 12th, 2018. This source was able to provide me with a great in-depth overview of the entire disaster itself. I mainly used this source in the paragraphs where I talked about the response aspect. It also provided a lot of the logistics, like how much the damage and costs were, and who was going to pay for them. This source also touched on the different lessons that were learned from the event, where they also provided recommendations that could fix the problems that they faced.

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Essay on Hurricane Irma. (2023, April 21). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 23, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/essay-on-hurricane-irma/
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