Hurricane Irma was an extremely powerful and catastrophic Cape Verde hurricane, the strongest observed in the Atlantic in terms of maximum sustained winds since Wilma, and the strongest storm on record to exist in the open Atlantic region.
A Cape Verde hurricane, or Cabo Verde hurricane is an Atlantic hurricane that originates at low-latitude in the deep tropics from a tropical wave that has passed over or near the Cape Verde islands after exiting the coast of West Africa.
A tropical cyclone is a rapidly rotating storm system characterized by a low-pressure center, a closed low-level atmospheric circulation, strong winds, and a spiral arrangement of thunderstorms that produce heavy rain.
Cape Verde, officially the Republic of Cabo Verde, is an island country spanning an archipelago of 10 volcanic islands in the central Atlantic Ocean.
Hurricane Irma Live Tracking by ABC Action News
Irma was the first Category 5 hurricane to strike the Leeward Islands on record, followed by Hurricane Maria two weeks later, and is the second-costliest Caribbean hurricane on record, after Maria.
The Leeward Islands are a group of islands situated where the northeastern Caribbean Sea meets the western Atlantic Ocean.
The Caribbean is a region that consists of the Caribbean Sea, its islands, and the surrounding coasts.
Eye of Hurricane Irma captured from above by AFP news agency
The ninth named storm, fourth hurricane, second major hurricane, and first Category 5 hurricane of the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season, Irma caused widespread and catastrophic damage throughout its long lifetime, particularly in the northeastern Caribbean and the Florida Keys.
The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season was a hyperactive and catastrophic hurricane season that, with a damage total of at least $282.16 billion, was the costliest tropical cyclone season on record.
The Florida Keys are a coral cay archipelago located off the southern coast of Florida, forming the southernmost portion of the continental United States.
An Atlantic hurricane or tropical storm is a tropical cyclone that forms in the Atlantic Ocean, usually in the summer or fall.
It was also the most intense hurricane to strike the continental United States since Katrina in 2005, the first major hurricane to make landfall in Florida since Wilma in the same year, and the first Category 4 hurricane to strike the state since Charley in 2004.
The United States of America, commonly referred to as the United States or America, is a federal republic composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions.
Irma developed from a tropical wave near Cape Verde on August 30.
Tropical waves, easterly waves, or tropical easterly waves, also known as African easterly waves in the Atlantic region, are a type of atmospheric trough, an elongated area of relatively low air pressure, oriented north to south, which moves from east to west across the tropics causing areas of cloudiness and thunderstorms.
Favorable conditions allowed Irma to rapidly intensify into a Category 3 hurricane on the Saffir–Simpson wind scale by late on August 31.
The Saffir–Simpson hurricane wind scale, formerly the Saffir–Simpson hurricane scale, classifies hurricanes – Western Hemisphere tropical cyclones that exceed the intensities of tropical depressions and tropical storms – into five categories distinguished by the intensities of their sustained winds.
However, the storm's intensity fluctuated between Categories 2 and 3 for the next several days, due to a series of eyewall replacement cycles.
Eyewall replacement cycles, also called concentric eyewall cycles, naturally occur in intense tropical cyclones, generally with winds greater than 185 km/h, or major hurricanes.
On September 4, Irma resumed intensifying, becoming a Category 5 hurricane by early on the next day, and acquiring annular characteristics.
On September 6, Irma peaked with 180 mph winds and a minimum pressure of 914 hPa, making it the second most intense tropical cyclone worldwide in 2017, behind only Hurricane Maria, and the strongest worldwide in 2017, in terms of wind speed.
Another eyewall replacement cycle caused Irma to weaken back to a Category 4 hurricane, but the storm re-attained Category 5 status before making landfall in Cuba.
Cuba, officially the Republic of Cuba, is a unitary sovereign state comprising the island of Cuba as well as Isla de la Juventud and several minor archipelagos.
Although land interaction weakened Irma to a Category 2 storm, the system re-intensified to Category 4 status as it crossed the warm waters of the Straits of Florida, before making landfall on Cudjoe Key with winds at 130 mph, on September 10.
The Straits of Florida, Florida Straits, or Florida Strait is a strait located south-southeast of the North American mainland, generally accepted to be between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, and between the Florida Keys and Cuba.
Irma weakened to Category 3 status, prior to another landfall in Florida on Marco Island later that day.
The system degraded into a remnant low over Alabama and ultimately dissipated on September 13 over Missouri.
The storm caused catastrophic damage in Barbuda, Saint Barthélemy, Saint Martin, Anguilla, and the Virgin Islands as a Category 5 hurricane.
The Virgin Islands are the western island group of the Leeward Islands, which are the northern part of the Lesser Antilles, and form the border between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.
Saint Barthélemy, officially the Territorial collectivity of Saint-Barthélemy, called Ouanalao by the indigenous people, is an overseas collectivity of France in the West Indies.
Barbuda is a small island located in the eastern Caribbean forming part of the sovereign Commonwealth nation of Antigua and Barbuda.
The hurricane caused at least 134 deaths: one in Anguilla; one in Barbados; three in Barbuda; four in the British Virgin Islands; 10 in Cuba; 11 in the French West Indies; one in Haiti; three in Puerto Rico; four on the Dutch side of Sint Maarten; 92 in the contiguous United States, and four in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Puerto Rico, officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and formerly known as and sometimes called Porto Rico, is the largest insular territory of the United States, and it is located in the northeastern Caribbean Sea.
The term French West Indies or French Antilles refers to the seven territories currently under French sovereignty in the Antilles islands of the Caribbean:
The British Virgin Islands, officially simply "Virgin Islands", are a British Overseas Territory in the Caribbean, to the east of Puerto Rico.
Hurricane Irma was the top Google searched term in the US and globally in 2017.