Where and how a hurricane gets its strength

Hurricane Irma is one of the strongest hurricanes of all time, but how does a storm get that strong?

FOX 2 Weather Authority Derek Kevra says a lot of it comes down to vertical development.

While those swirling storms we see on a map may look 2-D, they actually start at the ground and reach tens of thousands of feet into the atmosphere.

When you see the "eye" of the storm in the center, the air is there is cold and it's sinking. The rest of the hurricane is warm and the air is spinning and rising up into the atmosphere. So as the eye sinks, the surrounding storm is rising - and it's these actions that make the storm stronger and stronger.

How big the storm gets hinges on the warm ocean waters they have out in the Caribbean. Current temperatures are in the upper 80s all the way up the coast of Florida.

The warm water feeds the outer bands of the hurricane that rise up into the atmosphere and keeps the hurricane growing stronger and stronger.