All types of Americans have come together to support disaster relief efforts over the past month, but one good Samaritan has taken millions of people by surprise. A chainsaw-wielding nun is becoming a Hurricane Irma hero for helping southern Florida recover from the unprecedented storm. A video of her has gone viral on social media and flawlessly personifies how people are coming together and helping each other after the storm.
The chainsawing nun was first spotted doing her thing on Tuesday by an off-duty police officer, who immediately started videoing the scene (because really, could you have any other reaction if you just saw that out on the street?). The footage made it onto the official Miami-Dade Police Department Facebook page, where it went totally viral. It's had nearly a million views already, plus another 10,000 likes and retweets on Twitter.
Sister Margaret Ann is the principal of Archbishop Coleman F. Carroll High School, located just outside Miami, and she told reporters that she simply found the power tool in a supply closet at her school. "The road was blocked, we couldn't get through. There was a need, I had the means, so I wanted to help out," Sister Margaret Ann said to CNN anchor Erin Burnett. She also revealed that the school has several other downed trees on the campus, as well as a destroyed wall in the main building.
The video has prompted hundreds of social media posts from a wide variety of commentators, including traumatized former Catholic school students, faithful Catholics cracking jokes, and Floridians who frankly don't seem all that surprised. Sister Margaret Ann even inspired a country song Wednesday morning during a Nashville radio program's 10 Minute Tune segment that sets news highlights to music every day.
America's DIY attitude has shown through in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma — tens of thousands of citizens have deployed themselves to support various aspects of the recovery process, from ripping out drywall in flooded houses to performing high water rescues. The "Cajun Navy," a civilian group of boaters, drove from Louisiana to Houston to help rescue Harvey victims. In Florida, teams of civilians have performed hundreds of animal rescues to protect the state's expansive wildlife, including a mother and baby dolphin rescue that was broadcast on The Today Show.
Overall, the damage from Irma has been significantly less than pre-storm predictions indicates. According to Jeff Masters of forecasting website Weather Underground, just 20 miles made the difference between the catastrophic predictions and the relatively mild outcome. "We got very lucky," Masters told Bloomberg, citing a weather phenomenon called the Bermuda High as the reason why Irma wasn't as bad as people were saying it would be.
The Bermuda High is a semi-permanent zone of high pressure air that sits right above the island that shares its name, and it has a big role in determining where Atlantic hurricanes will land. Winds rotate clockwise around the center of the high pressure system, while the winds just below the Bermuda High blow pretty much straight west. Hurricanes that interact with the Bermuda High typically either get spun off toward the north and head for the Carolinas, or are far enough south that they get pushed into the Gulf of Mexico by the westerly winds. The High pushed Irma straight west enough that the eye of the hurricane shifted away from Miami, taking the state's prime target out of the storm's direct path and giving it more time to calm down a little before hitting the United States.
Regardless of Irma's ultimate path, Sister Margaret Ann was up for a challenge. She may come and go in your Twitter timeline, but she'll be remembered forever as the Hurricane Irma hero we all needed.