Hurricane Irma at its strongest. NOAA photo
Hurricane Irma at its strongest. NOAA photo

Sanibel and Captiva islands woke up Friday morning with the knowledge that the 2017 Atlantic Basin Hurricane season is officially over.

While we realize that tropical storms can't read their own press clippings, it does appear that this historically bad hurricane season is finished. The warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico have cooled down, thereby robbing potential storms of fuel. The experts say the hurricane season that dealt America Harvey, Irma and Maria in a rapid and devastating procession is gone. As of Friday morning, Dec. 1, the National Hurricane Center in Miami is tracking nothing. The Atlantic is void of tropical storm activity.

Also gone from Sanibel and Captiva are the massive piles of debris generated by Irma on Sunday, Sept. 10. It took weeks of island occupation by massive claw trucks to gather it all up and turn it into mulch, and it cost a pretty penny.

Irma struck Marco Island and parts of Naples as a Category 4 hurricane. It moved inland and cut a damaging swath through much of Florida. The Irma story had three parts. First is the storm itself. Second is the massive evacuation that created snarling traffic jams spanning hundreds of miles. Third is the cleanup. Thankfully, Irma swerved inland after it left Naples and that caused it to drop to Category 2 by the time it reached Fort Myers, Sanibel and Captiva. Because Irma lost strength, Lee County didn't get the storm surge that a Cat 4 would have produced.

But we could all see what Irma, even as a Cat 2, dealt. All that considered, in this hurricane season, Irma checks in as No. 3. After seeing what Irma did here, it's hard to imagine what a Category 4 or 5 looks like. It's hard to imagine until imagination becomes reality. Harvey and Maria, like Hurricane Charley here in 2004, were reality.

Harvey came first in late August. Current estimates are that Harvey cost about $200 billion, eclipsing Hurricane Katrina as our nation's most costly natural disaster ever. Harvey killed 90 Americans.

Maria was already a big storm while Irma was coming through here. Maria got to Category 5 on Sept. 18 and goes down as one of the 10 most intense Atlantic hurricanes on record. There's no way to sugarcoat it – Maria flattened Puerto Rico. Food, water, power and any other essential are still needed in Puerto Rico, a territory of the United States populated by American citizens. The official death toll is something like 55 to 58, but news reports indicate it could really be 10 times that.

We're not asking for any help here. Irma hassled islanders with a nasty evacuation and it made a big mess. But we all lived and life is normal here. The same cannot be said for the Florida Keys (Irma), places on the Texas coast like Port Aransas (Harvey) and anywhere on the island of Puerto Rico (Maria).

We can think of no time when the news cycle is as busy as it is today. The probe over Russian meddling in our election plods along. North Korea is shooting off missiles that can reach the U.S. One at a time, members of Congress, an Alabama man who wants to be in Congress, film moguls and prominent news personalities have been exposed for varying degrees of sexual misconduct. A tax plan that will affect us all is moving through Congress. Lunatics have committed mass murder in New York, Texas and Nevada. If all that's not enough, President Trump stirs the pot daily with his tweets. Hurricanes were topics to be wedged in among all the other stories.

Harvey, Irma and Maria are still getting coverage – locally. The networks have necessarily moved on. The Weather Channel was still covering Harvey when Irma approached. It left Harvey for Irma. It was still covering Irma when Maria approached. It left Irma for Maria. And this is The Weather Channel. All it does is weather, but even The Weather Channel was stretched to the limit in covering these storms.

Our government learned from Katrina and it responded well to Harvey and Irma. But Puerto Rico is an island. Trucks can't be driven there. Our government's response to Maria was atrocious, despite President Trump claiming otherwise. Power to at least half the island, perhaps more, is still out.

This hurricane season was one for the books. Now it's over and we are in the holiday season. News coverage has moved on. We got spared by Irma, but many were not spared. Let's keep those people in our hearts this holiday season and perhaps help in any way we can.