Hurricane Irma | KERA News

Hurricane Irma

With the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season finally over, scientists are taking stock of what they say was a monumental year.

A total of 10 hurricanes swept the region. Six were major storms of Category 3 or higher, and three of those were Category 4 or higher when they made landfall, spreading havoc from the Caribbean to Texas.

The Atlantic Ocean is vast and has always made its own weather. But a typical year sees about six hurricanes, not 10. And three strong hurricanes hitting land — Harvey, Irma and Maria — is extraordinary.

So what's going on?

Updated at 6:55 p.m. ET

Eight people have died after a Florida nursing home and long-term-care facility apparently lost air conditioning in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, and police have launched a criminal investigation into the incident.

Hurricane Irma was the longest-lasting powerful hurricane or typhoon ever recorded, worldwide.

Irma sustained its 185-mph winds for 37 hours – "the longest any cyclone around the globe has maintained that intensity on record," according to Phil Klotzbach, a research scientist at Colorado State University. The previous record was held by Typhoon Haiyan, also called Super Typhoon Yolanda, which hit the Philippines in 2013.

Updated at 11:50 p.m. ET

Irma, once a powerful and longrunning hurricane, weakened to a tropical depression as it moved through Georgia on its way to Alabama. It continues to dump heavy rain but all surge warnings have been canceled.

Irma has left behind dangerous floodwaters, power outages for millions of people and the debris it has made of human possessions across Florida.

The huge storm remained a Category 1 hurricane through early Monday, before finally being downgraded to a tropical storm and then a tropical depression.

Updated at 5 a.m. ET Monday

Irma has weakened since beginning its push up central Florida, but is still a Category 1 hurricane with winds near 75 mph and higher gusts, according to the National Hurricane Center. Its center is about 60 miles north of Tampa and continues to move along the northwest coast of the Florida peninsula. The NHC says Irma is expected to weaken to a tropical storm this morning and tropical depression by Tuesday afternoon.

Updated at 2:23 a.m. ET on Sunday

After battering Cuba on Saturday morning, the eye of Hurricane Irma has its sights set on Florida as a Category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center early Sunday. The NHC's latest forecast shows the storm's center shifting west from Miami, and even Tampa, to target St. Petersburg.

Florida braces for direct hit

Where will it go? How strong will it be? When will it hit? Those are the answers everyone wants — not the least of which are the hurricane forecasters themselves.

To get those answers, hundreds of millions of data points — everything from wind speeds to sea temperatures — pouring in from satellites, aircraft, balloons, buoys and ground stations are fed into the world's fastest computers and programmed with a variety of models at different resolutions, some looking at the big picture, others zooming in much closer.

America seems to be a magnet for devastating hurricanes these days.

This year, Harvey came out strong with its horrific toll on parts of Texas and Louisiana. Now Irma, downgraded slightly Friday morning to a Category 4 storm from its most recent days as a Category 5, has left destruction in its wake as it plows through the Caribbean and Cuba — and is on path to hit Florida Sunday morning.