Friday Aug. 25 Hurricane Harvey, a category 4 storm, with winds reaching 130 miles per hour, made landfall. The storm produced 51.88 inches of rainfall according to the Weather Prediction Center’s storm summary and has caused around 33,000 people in Texas to seek refuge in more than 230 shelters. On sept. 6 the storm was reported to have taken seventy lives.
The storm was originally deemed a tropical depression on Aug. 23, over the Gulf of Mexico. However, within 56 hours the storm had regenerated into a category 4 storm causing 70 to 180 billion dollars of damage. The cities affected will need months if not longer to recover. But as devastating as Hurricane Harvey became, attention is now focused on Hurricane Irma which made landfall this past weekend.
The storm formed near Africa and turned into a major hurricane with winds reaching 185 miles per hour. No other storm in history has maintained wind speeds of that strength for 37 consecutive hours. The storm left the Caribbean islands in a state of emergency, the death toll continuing to rise. By the time Irma made landfall on Sept. 10, the storm had become a category 4 hurricane. It left at least 5.8 million people without power and storm surge flooding is still a potential threat to more than just the state of Florida. In addition to Harvey and Irma, two powerful storms, Hurricane Jose, becoming a major hurricane in the Atlantic and Katia, gaining strength near Mexico’s gulf coast, could also bring significant damage to coastal areas.
Senior Bethany Dillow is partaking in a mission trip to Haiti in the near future and worries about the changes the hurricane will have brought. Her group discussed on a conference call on sept. 7 if there would be any changes to the trip.
“Our compound we are staying in is on the southern half of Haiti,” Dillow said. “But we fly into port au prince which is right on the edge of where the hurricane is expected to hit.”
After the call, it was agreed upon that the group would still be making the trip but that their connecting flight to Miami may have to be changed due to the damage Miami may have sustained.
There is plenty of conflict over whether the Hurricanes of this season are normal or unprecedented. Mrs. Wafa Safi, who teaches the AP Environmental Science class at HSE gave an explanation to this issue.
We know that hurricanes are normal and we know that a lot of times by the time they reach landfall they will have fizzled out and normally do not cause as much damage as what we are currently seeing,” Safi said. “You have some scientists that say climate change has nothing to do with it because hurricanes are a normal occurring event but the problem with it is that we know for sure the climate is getting warmer and we know a lot of that is due to global greenhouse gasses. The ocean’s job is to soak up the extra [heat] from the atmosphere but now it is starting to warm up more than it should at this time of year.”
The warm water is one key ingredient for a strong hurricane and another is moist air. That being said, hurricanes generally form closer to the equator where the water is warmer and then move elsewhere from there.
It’s like if I had a cup of fuel and took a flame to it,” Safi said. “Thats what the warmer water temperatures are doing for this hurricane. Instead of fizzling out and turning into a tropical depression, it’s being fueled.”
There are many unknowns still about the projected paths of Katia and Jose as well as knowledge of all the damage Irma has caused Florida and surrounding states due to the fact that damage is still being anticipated. One thing is certain. These are some of the most powerful storms on record.