Hurricane Irma in the United States


Hurricanes are one of the common natural disasters in the United States. Hurricanes are tropical cyclones that form over tropical or subtropical waters. Hurricanes are usually accompanied by maximum sustained surface winds, thunderstorms, and heavy rainfall that cause damages and losses to communities. Hurricanes majorly cause destruction to communities that are near water bodies such as Florida. Communities in Florida have continued to battle with hurricanes and its aftermaths that has continued to affect the state. Hurricane Irma is one of the major hurricanes to hit Florida in the United States in 2017 that led to the destruction of properties and death of people.

Geological Events Sequence

Hurricane Irma is one of the most long-lived hurricanes in the United States, Mexico, and Cuba recording category 4 and 5 intensity on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale in various regions (Willett, 2017). It occurred in 2017 affecting affected parts of Orlando to Florida. The outline below is an explanation of the geological events of Hurricane Irma in the sequence that they appeared.
• 31 August 2017: Hurricane Irma develops at the eastern Atlantic turning northwest later with its intensity estimated at 100 kilotons (kt) (Willett, 2017).
• 1 September 2017: Hurricane Irma registers an increase of intensity by 70 kt. The inner core of the cyclone is reported to be in a compact with hurricane-force winds extending to more than 15 nautical miles (n mi) from the center. At this point, Hurricane Irma is considered as a category 3 hurricane.
• 2 and 3 September 2017: Hurricane Irma exhibits a fluctuation of intensity between category 2 and 3 associated with eyewall replacement cycles and intrusion of dry air.
• 4 September 2013: Hurricane Irma turns west and south in response to a high-pressure system to its north a motion that causes a higher Sea Surface Temperatures (SST) in the cyclone. The hurricane also loses 2.5 degrees of its latitude. The hurricane further maintains an intensity of category 3, which makes it a deadly hurricane (Hoffman, 2018).
• 5 September 2017: The eye of Irma grows in size, becomes better defined, and the deep convection around the eye gains symmetry. The eye replacement cycle becomes complete and the hurricane heads towards the Leeward Islands. The hurricane erodes the western side of the mid-level ridges in the Leeward Islands.
• 6 September 2017: Hurricane Irma reaches an intensity of 255 kt recording a category 5 hurricane. The hurricane further makes landfall on Barbuda with maximum winds of 155 kt and a minimum pressure of 914 mb recorded (Hoffman, 2018).
• 7 September 2017: Hurricane Irma makes further landfalls on St. Martin and Virgin Gorda with its intensity maintained at 255 kt but considered as category 5 hurricane. Additionally, the winds of the hurricane double and Irma later moved from the Virgin Islands to north causing other damages in Peurto Rico and the Dominic Republic with the strongest winds to the north of the center.
• 8 September 2017: Hurricane Irma passes south of the Turks and Caicos Islands and makes another landfall in Inagua Island in the Bahamas. However, the intensity of the Irma reduces to category 4, winds estimated at 135 kt, and its minimum pressure recorded at 924 mb. Due to the building subtropical ridge, hurricane Irma later in the day moves left towards the northwest coast of Cuba.
• 8 September 2017: The inner core of Hurricane Irma becomes better organized and it records an intensity of category 5 hurricane (Willett, 2017).
• 9 September 2017: Hurricane Irma causes other landfalls near Cayo Romano, Cuba with estimated maximum winds of 145 kt. The hurricane continues to be tracked in Cuba throughout the day and its interaction with the lands causes it to weaken. At 1800 UTC, the intensity of Irma is recorder at category 2 hurricane and then turns northwest towards Florida.
• 10 September 2017: Hurricane Irma reaches the warm waters of the Florida Straits and reintensifies again. The intensity of Irma in the Florida waters is recorded as category 4 hurricane causing storms and landfall in Cudjoe at 1300 UTC. The maximum winds of 115 kt and a minimum pressure of 931 mb are recorded. At 1800 UTC, the convective pattern of Irma becomes ragged due to increased southwest vertical shear, which weakens the hurricane to category 3. Irma further makes another landfall near Marco Island at 1930 UTC with estimated maximum winds of 100 kt and a minimum pressure of 937 mb (Hoffman, 2018).
• 11 September 2017: Hurricane Irma further weakens due to the influences of land and strong wind shear and its intensity drops to category 2 hurricane. The category 2 Irma hurricane passes between Tampa and Orlando by 0600 UTC and its intensity further drops to category 1 hurricane.
• 12 September 2017: Hurricane Irma continues to weaken and dissipates over southeastern Missouri.

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Culture Before Event

Economic Conditions of Florida
Before Hurricane Irma hit Florida in 2017, the economic conditions of Florida were booming. From 2013 to 2016, Florida’s GDP recorded an average annual growth of 4 percent (BEBR, 2016). Reports further indicate that although the economy of Florida was faced with various challenges in the 2000s, the state significantly improved from 2012. According to statistics, Florida’s unemployment rate had fallen to 4.7 percent in 2016 indicating a healthy employment sector (BEBR, 2016). Due to the high employment rate in Florida, before Hurricane Irma, Florida had a high real personal consumption expenditure per capita estimated at $36,440 by 2016. Statistics further indicate that Florida recorded its highest real average annual wages in 2015, which was estimated at $ 47,000 with an increase of 3 percent from the previous year (BEBR, 2016).
Education Condition
By 2016, the education level of Florida had an increase of 2.8 percent of the high school graduation rate from 2015. It was estimated that a total of 87 percent of the adult population had attained a high school education (FLDOE, 2016). However, the population for those who had attained higher education from the age of 25 to 35 in 2016 was estimated at 40.7 percent. However, the literacy rate in the state before hurricane Irma was slightly high with reports indicating that 25 percent of the adult population lacking basic literacy skills (FLDOE, 2016).
Culture of Florida
Before Hurricane Irma hit Florida, the state was estimated to have a population of 20.7 million people. The median age in 2016 was reported to be 42. The majority of the population in Florida in 2016 was the white that made up 53.8 percent of the total population. The Hispanic ethnic group during the period made up 25.7 percent of the population whiles African America made up 15.4 percent. Additionally, by the end of 2016, 90 percent of the residents in Florida were US Citizens and could speak English with the most common non-America language spoken being Spanish (Data USA, 2019).
Culture After Event
Economic Condition
Hurricane Irma affected nearly all corners of Florida causing damages to buildings and other infrastructures. According to reports, Hurricane Irma destroyed 25 percent of the homes in Florida and negatively affected the economy of the state (Keating, 2018). However, based on the economic conditions of the state one year later after it was hit by Irma, it is evident that it was well-prepared to respond to the aftermaths of the disaster. By the end of 2018, Florida’s GDP had hit $1 trillion for the first time making it the fourth-best in the country revealing the quick extent that the economy had bounced back to its thriving condition (Keating, 2018). The unemployment of Florida also dropped to 3.5 percent by the end of 2018 with the annual wage estimated at $49,417 and annual consumption being $40,125 (Statista, 2019).
Education Conditions
Statistics indicate that Florida in 2018 after Irma had a narrow improvement in its education with 88 percent of the adult population being high school graduate. Based on reports, by the end of 2018, 50 percent of Florida’s adult population had a higher education marking a slight increase after Irma (Town Charts, 2019).
The population of Florida also increased by after Irma estimated at 21.3 million. However, the median age of Florida reduced after the hurricane to 41.5 with 51.1 percent of the population being female. However, the white population increased making up 75 percent of the population, African Americans being 16.13 percent, and the Latino being 7 percent marking a change in the culture of Florida (World Population Review, 2019). Additionally, the number of people who could speak English in 2018 was 93 percent with Spanish still being the non-local language spoken in the state (World Population Review, 2019).
Suggestion for City Planners
Wind Resistant Buildings and Safe Houses
High and strong winds are some of the hazard forms that are associated with hurricanes. When Florida was hit by Hurricane Irma, the strong winds associated with the natural disaster caused the destruction of many building and properties. City planners need to initiate building codes that emphasize on building infrastructures that are resilient to strong winds of up to 130mph. According to reports, concrete homes and safe rooms are some of the proven ways that can ensure the safety of people during high wind storms such as hurricanes (Sayyafi, Chowdhury, & Mirmiran, 2018). City planners need to ensure the structures of buildings are made up of reinforced concrete, concrete masonry walls, or reinforced with steel that can help them to resist pressures and flying debris during hurricanes. Additionally, city planners in areas prone to hurricane need to encourage the incorporation of safe rooms as part of structures, which would act as shelter within the buildings during hurricanes further facilitating the safety of people.
Overhauling City Drainage Systems
Storm surge and inland flooding are other hazard forms associated with hurricanes. Overhauling drainage systems and ensuring that there are enough stormwater pumps can help cities to minimize storm surge and flood threats that result due to hurricanes (Elsayed & Oumeraci, 2018). According to research, overhauling drainage systems can help to improve stormwater runoff, which is the major cause of inland flooding after hurricanes. City planners can help to reduce the risks of flooding after cities are hit by hurricanes by ensuring that drainage systems are overhauled and enough storm pumps are fitted.
Effective Response Approaches
Apart from the destruction of buildings, hurricanes also cause the death of people. Hurricane Irma, for example, caused the death of 72 people in Florida, which is slightly a large number. There is a need for city planners to ensure that there are effective response approaches to minimize the death of people during hurricanes. Effective response approach should involve effective communication of the disaster to the concerned communities, early evacuation, and having emergency teams ready in the place that can help victims after an event (Huang, Wu, Lindell, & Wei, 2017). Through such a strategy, city planners can ensure that losses of lives are minimized during and after hurricane events.
Social and Global Perspective
My current and future professionals as law enforcement plays a significant role in responding to natural disasters such as hurricanes. Law enforcement professionals have the power and mandated to use the power provided to them to provide safety and security to members of the community and also to be the first responders during such events. As a police officer, I would use my power and knowledge of my community to provide valuable situational awareness to various groups responsible for responding to disasters such as response and recovery groups. I would also use my power to engage and assist in various operations related to responding to natural disasters such as search and rescue, evacuations, and door-to-door checks.
There are different classes in communities and the power they hold largely influences how they prepare and respond to natural disasters. Florida, for example, is made up of both rural and urban areas although the state is considered as an urban. The state made up of both the low and upper classes, whose power largely influenced how they prepared and responded to Hurricane Irma. In most instances, the low-class populations are at a disadvantage when preparing and responding to natural disasters compared to the upper-class population. The low-class populations have a lower income level and have limited resources at their disposal and accessibility compared to the upper-class individuals. Due to the higher level of accessibility and resources that the upper-class population has, they have the ability to prepare and respond to natural disasters with little assistance from the government and disaster management teams.
Since the lower class are at an advantage in responding to natural disasters, I would use my power as law enforcement to ensure that both groups work together and the concerned bodies to deal with the aftermaths of an event. I would work with the upper-class individuals and encourage them to be active participants in helping the low-class people to deal with the aftermath of the event. I would encourage them to use the resources at their disposal to create awareness to the community, especially to the low-class population to increase their awareness on the coming of a natural disaster. Utilizing my power in such a way would ensure that the upper class, low class, government, and disaster management groups cooperate and collaborate with one another to prepare and respond to a certain natural disaster.


Natural disasters such as hurricanes can significantly cause adverse impacts on the affected communities especially if they are not well-prepared for the event. The geological sequence of events of Hurricane Irma caused a distraction to buildings, land, and loss of lives in Florida. However, based on the economic, education, and cultural analysis of Florida before and after Hurricane Irma, it was evident that the city was prepared but not adequately enough to minimize the negative impacts of hurricanes. Many people lost their lives and properties and a significant number of structures were also destroyed. City planners have a role to play in preparing and ensuring that communities effectively respond to hurricanes through strategies such as overhauling drainage systems, ensuring infrastructures are resilient to strong winds and having effective response approaches. Additionally, due to the power differences that exist, law enforcement, upper class, and low-class populations both have a role to play in preparing and responding to natural disasters. The three groups need to use their power in a collaborative manner to deal with the aftermath of a natural disaster. Only through such strategies can communities minimize the losses and damages caused by hurricanes.

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