Hurricane Irma was the strongest Atlantic hurricane ever, peaking at Category 5 status. On September 6, 2017, it reached land on the island of Barbuda. There, it maintained 185 mile-per-hour winds for 37 hours. The strongest storm before Irma only kept up its high-speed gusts for 24 hours.
By the time the storm headed to Florida, it had lost a bit of steam but was still at strong Category 4 storm. The southwest corner of the Sunshine State particularly was in danger. The storm’s projected path headed straight in that direction.
In fact, Florida Governor Rick Scott implored locals to drop everything and leave as the storm rapidly approached. “If you have been ordered to evacuate, you need to leave now,” he said at a news conference on Saturday, September 9, a day before the storm made landfall in the Florida Keys. “Do not wait. Evacuate. Not tonight, not in an hour. You need to go right now.”