On August 28, 20178 The National Hurricane Center spotted a significant tropical wave off the coast of Africa. In the following days, the wave combined with thunderstorms to create a low-pressure area. On August 30th the system was upgraded to Tropical Storm Irma. On August 31st, a storm eye developed and Tropical Storm Irma quickly intensified in strength. During this time wind speeds increased form 70mph to 115 mph. On September 4, Irma continued to strengthen and was classified as a Category 4 hurricane. By the next day, Irma had gained power and had turned into a Category 5 hurricane. The story continued to grow stronger and winds peaked at 185 mph.
Irma made landfall first in Barbuda and then Sint Maarten, Ginger Island, Tortola, and Little Inagua in the Bahamas while remaining a Category 5 storm. On September 8th, Irma weakened to a Category 4 storm but this only lasted for three hours before it regained strength and returned to a Category 5 storm. On September 10th, Irma made landfall in Cudjoe Key, Florida. Winds clocked in at 130 mph. When the storm passed through Marco Island, the winds were blowing at a sustained 115 mph. After Irma made landfall in Naples, FL it soon weakened and was classified as a Category 2 Hurricane. On September 12th, the storm continued to weaken over Georgia and Alabama. This weakening led to the storm being categorized as a Tropical depression.
Since the NHC had been tracking the storm for several days before reaching landfall, islands and mainland states had some time to prepare. Hurricane warnings were issued on some of the islands. Puerto Rico declared a state of emergency on September 4th. Residents were encouraged to prepare their homes and clean up the exterior of their property in preparation for the strong winds. Other Islands and Florida declared a state of emergency. In some places, mandatory evacuations were put into effect. By the end of the day on September 8th, hundreds of thousands of people had evacuated out of Florida making it the largest evacuation in Florida history.
The hurricane left many of the islands almost entirely destroyed. Houses were leveled, trees were down, and power was out. Some islands and the Keys struggled to keep up with the demand for food and clean drinking water. As of September 13, the hurricane is responsible for the death of 79 people.