Irma, which flattened some Caribbean islands and enveloped nearly all of Florida in its fury, no longer exists. The open Atlantic’s most powerful hurricane on record finally sputtered out as an ordinary rainstorm over Ohio and Indiana.
Irma’s confirmed death toll is 61 and still rising, 38 in the Caribbean and 23 in the United States. In the U.S. alone, nearly 7 million people were told to evacuate, and 13 million Floridians were left without power in hot steamy weather.
This storm grew so immensely powerful over warmer-than-normal Atlantic water that it devastated the first islands in its path. Its gargantuan size — two Hurricane Andrews could fit inside it — spread so much fear that people all over the Florida peninsula upended their lives to flee.
“This was a large, extremely dangerous catastrophic hurricane,” National Hurricane Center spokesman and meteorologist Dennis Feltgen said Wednesday, when he declared the storm over.
Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach put it simpler: “Irma was a beast.”
Irma generated as much accumulated energy in a dozen days as an entire six-month hurricane season would in an average year, Klotzbach calculated.
Just 30 hours after it became a tropical storm on Aug. 30, Irma was a major Category 3 hurricane. By Sept. 4 it had intensified into a Category 4, with 130 mph (210 kph) winds, and it wasn’t near done.