Hurricane Irma has downgraded from a Category 4 to a tropical storm as of this morning (Sept. 11), but that doesn't mean that everything's all good yet. As CNN reports, the storm continues to strike Florida and Georgia with 70 mph winds, especially for northeastern cities in Florida that hadn't expected to feel the storm's impacts.
Southern Florida residents had evacuated to Orange County, but that area had to eventually be evacuated too. Roughly 125 evacuations happened in an hour. The southern portions of the state—particularly the Florida Keys—have been inaccessible. Today, authorities flew over to examine the damage, and the flooding is severe. The total cost of Harvey and Irma damages could amount to $290 billion, by some estimates.
Meanwhile, the islands off the U.S. coast continue to assess how officials handled the hurricane. In St. Martin, locals are saying that white islanders and tourists had evacuation priority over mixed-race people, reports The Associated Press. The French island now has France's Representative Council of Black Associations looking into the matter.
In Cuba, 10 have been reported dead. Barbuda was nearly completely destroyed with 95 percent of its buildings damaged. Fifty percent of its population is now homeless. Throughout the British and U.S. Virgin Islands, homes remained without roofs. Puerto Rico escaped major damage, but more than half of its residents were left without power.
The thing is, alert mode hasn't yet passed. Even as Hurricane Irma comes to a close, Hurricane Jose isn't far behind. The National Hurricane Center expects the storm to weaken and loop out back toward the Atlantic within the next 48 hours, but as The Orlando Sentinel points out, a similar forecast was expected with Hurricane Jeanne in 2004. The storm ended up returning to hit Florida. In total, that hurricane was responsible for 3,035 deaths throughout the Caribbean and Florida with Haiti seeing the worse of it.
With all the Irma hype and Jose looming on the horizon, Harvey might feel like a distant horror, but for Texans—particularly its poor and vulnerable—it's still very real. Some renters are facing threats from landlords who are demanding rent.
And when you look at Irma, Caribbean people have seen firsthand what happens when climate change supercharges a hurricane. They arguably saw the worst of it, and it remains unclear how much long-term support the U.S. and other European countries will provide to their territories. Islands like Puerto Rico are already facing economic crises, and this climate event will only exacerbate already dire situations.