As Irma hits the Florida Keys, it makes U.S. history

This is the first time two Category 4 hurricanes have hit the country in a single year.

CREDIT: NOAA/National Hurricane Center
CREDIT: NOAA/National Hurricane Center

Hurricane Irma arrived in the Florida Keys early Sunday morning as a Category 4 storm. This is the first time in U.S. history that two Category 4 storms have hit the mainland in the same year.

Hurricane Harvey brought devastating flooding to Houston less than two weeks ago.

One U.S. man has already been killed by Irma’s 130-mile-an-hour winds, when he lost control of his truck Sunday morning and crashed into a tree. More than a million people in Florida have lost power.


The hurricane is predicted to continue up the west coast of Florida, where authorities worry the area around Tampa Bay could be particularly vulnerable. Because the storm was originally believed to be heading towards Miami, Tampa residents may not have evacuated or prepared sufficiently.

Twenty-five people in the Caribbean were killed when Irma passed through. Several islands experienced extensive damage from the winds, including Barbuda, which was 90 percent razed, authorities said.

In Houston, 70 people died in flooding after Harvey picked up an inordinate amount of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico — which was 5ºF warmer than average — and then hovered over the city for days.

For decades, scientists have been predicting that the warming climate will cause storms to be wetter and stronger. (Hurricane Irma already set a new global record for sustained wind speeds). While scientists debate how much of any one storm can be linked to global warming, Irma and Harvey are part of a broader trend, which will result in more record-setting extreme weather events and the risks that come with them.

The Trump administration, which has taken a number of steps to stop the country’s efforts to mitigate or prepare for climate change, has failed to acknowledge that climate change is real or caused by humans. The issue was not always so politicized.


During his 2008 presidential campaign, Sen. John McCain (R) proposed a carbon cap-and-trade mechanism to reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. On Sunday, in his first television interview since returning to the Senate after his brain cancer diagnosis, the senator lamented his party leaders’ continued denial of the climate problem.

“I don’t know [why they don’t believe in climate change] because I can’t divine their motives,” he told CNN. “There is [something] happening with the climate that is unprecedented…we have to understand that the climate is changing.”