On Monday, the weather system named Irma swirled over Florida and headed towards other states in the Deep South. Irma, once a Category 5 hurricane, had been downgraded to a tropical storm since making landfall on the continental United States on Sunday. With its strong winds and heavy rainfall, Irma has devastated parts of Florida, as well as some Caribbean islands, leaving them without electricity or running water. But the strength of Hurricane Irma's winds are especially stunning. The highest sustained wind speed recorded for Irma was 185 m.p.h., making it the hurricane with the second strongest winds ever recorded, according to The Telegraph.
Though Irma's winds have since decreased significantly, coming down to about 65 m.p.h., the force of the gusts was still strong on Monday, affecting regions like northeast Florida that meteorologists had predicted would be spared from Irma's wrath. "It wasn't supposed to be like this," CNN correspondent Sara Sidner said, reporting from Daytona Beach. "It's been strong enough to knock us over." And even Irma's reduced winds have been enough to knock over construction cranes in Florida. In Miami, where top wind speeds reached 99 m.p.h., a few cranes actually fell.
According to ABC News, Irma has caused the deaths of at least six people in Florida and at least 37 people in the Caribbean. The storm system is expected to continue into the Deep South, moving on to dump rain on Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, and the Carolinas. “Significant river flooding is possible beginning Monday and Tuesday in much of central Georgia and southern South Carolina where average rainfall of 3 to 6 inches and isolated 10 inch amounts are expected,” the National Hurricane Center said. “Portions of these states within the southern Appalachians will be especially vulnerable to flash flooding.”
And though Americans are just beginning to feel and assess the impact of the historic Hurricane Irma, those living on islands in the Caribbean have already begun recovery efforts. On St. Thomas, an island that partially comprises the U.S. Virgin Islands, supplies and aid workers had begun to fly into the island's airport on Monday. Food, water, and roof tarps were handed out to residents at a baseball park on the island. In addition to on-the-ground efforts by local governments, the cruise line Royal Caribbean said that it would be sending ships down to the islands affected by Irma to rescue the hurricane's victims.
Irma's winds in the Caribbean were particularly strong, media reports said. In Cuba, the hurricane's gusts were strong enough to dislodge an electric pole that then struck and killed a 77-year-old person as it crashed to the ground, according to the Miami Herald. Cuba's state media has reported that at least 10 people have died due to Irma. “These have been difficult days for our people who, in only a few hours, have seen what they constructed with so much effort struck down by a devastating hurricane,” said Cuban leader Raúl Castro wrote in the Cuban Communist Party’s newspaper. “The images of the last hours are eloquent, as is the spirit of resistance and victory of our people, who are reborn with every adversity.”
In Barbuda, which has been said to be the Caribbean island hit worst by Irma, winds were the cause of much of the damage, Prime Minister Gaston Browne said, according to ABC News. “When you have an unprecedented storm like this that comes with such significant wind force this is like having a bomb literally thrown on a city ... It is really the sheer magnitude of the winds that destroyed these properties," Browne said.