by Darren Squillace ’19
This hurricane season has been a consistent onslaught of one hurricane after another wreaking havoc in places across the Atlantic. The vivid images of the destruction and hardship these hurricanes have caused have sparked many different reactions, from enhanced discussions of global warming to unprecedented relief efforts.
Hurricane Harvey was the first major hurricane of the 2017 season to affect the United States. Harvey hit the Texas coast as a Category 4 storm on Aug. 26 after gaining strength in the Gulf of Mexico. It is believed that at least 80 people died due to Harvey’s impact, most of which was felt in the Houston area. As bleak as this news may sound on its face, many Texas officials and residents say they were prepared for much worse. Their precautionary measures are said to have made a positive impact and saved countless lives. Yet while human lives were certainly saved, the same cannot be said for much of the city of Houston, as it is clear it is going to take time before Houston fully recovers from the impact of Harvey’s wrath. Greg Abbott, the governor of Texas, estimates that the hurricane will have been responsible for around $180 billion of damage to the state. One of the most notable relief efforts was conducted by Houston Texans star defensive player J.J. Watt, who raised over $37 million in order to deliver much needed supplies to people across the city. This effort and many others like it have proven to be the most effective remedy in a time of so much tragedy.
Just days after Hurricane Harvey had made its mark on the people of Texas, Irma began its destruction across the state of Florida. It was the strongest hurricane on record in the Atlantic Ocean, with winds that sustained 180 mph for over 36 hours. After razing multiple island nations in the Caribbean, the hurricane reached the Florida coast on Sept. 10 as a Category 4 storm. Over six million people were forced to evacuate their homes to prevent as many deaths and injuries as possible. After Irma had left Florida, approximately 75 Floridian lives had been lost.
While considerably less powerful than Harvey and Irma, Hurricane Jose was until just recently seen as a potential knockout blow to many of the Caribbean islands that had been ravaged by Irma in the days prior. However, these fears were not substantiated, as Jose was downgraded to a tropical storm.
Yet another hurricane formed which has devastated parts of the Caribbean. Hurricane Maria has already claimed the lives of at least 10 people in Puerto Rico. Nearly all residents of the U.S. territory are without power after experiencing well over two feet of rainfall. Maria has also caused significant damage in places such as the Dominican Republic and other islands across the Caribbean. If Maria continues along its projected path, it will hit the east coast of the U.S. later this week, with states such as North Carolina taking the brunt of its force.
As Maria is the third hurricane to threaten the United States in just one month, many people are wondering if this intensity of this hurricane season is simply coincidental or a sign of something bigger. Not only has the U.S. never been hit by three consecutive hurricanes of this magnitude in modern history, but this is also the third warmest year for ocean waters on record. The president and many other prominent politicians have been ambiguous about relating these events to climate change by making statements about storms in the past that have been larger than the current hurricanes. Yet many others have taken these extreme weather patterns as an indicator of climate change and the potential damage it could cause.