Hurricane Irma is currently making its way through the Caribbean on its path towards Florida’s east coast. Following a report released by the New York Times and regularly updates by NPR, here’s a look at some of the known damage so far, as well as the increased threat to the U.S.’ southern states.
Miami-Dade County is under hurricane watch, w/ tropical storm winds forecast by Sat. Additional evacuations ordered. https://t.co/hZLbmLdwMz
— NPR (@NPR) September 7, 2017
Barbuda officials declared a state of emergency on Thursday. The prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne, declared half of the island’s residents would be left homeless as a result of the storm’s damage.
The small island was the first to take a direct hit, with the dangerous eye of the hurricane passing over its borders from Tuesday night into Wednesday morning. The last recorded wind gusts clocked in at 185 mph before the weather station also succumbed to the storm’s power. Communication with the island is poor after the storm knocked out power. Aerial videos captured by CNN on Wednesday afternoon showed widespread damage to buildings throughout the island.
Some islands are still under a hurricane watch as Category 1 Hurricane Jose trails in Irma’s wake. Barbuda and Antigua remain under siege.
— CNN Breaking News (@cnnbrk) September 7, 2017
St. Martin’s French territorial council president, Daniel Gibbs, declared almost the entire island destroyed. Talking to Radio Caraïbes International, Gibbs called the scene after the storm passed, “unbelievable…indescribable.”
“There are shipwrecks everywhere, destroyed houses everywhere, torn off roofs everywhere,” Gibbs said.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe of France reported four confirmed deaths on St. Martin as a result of the storm. This is down from the previous report of eight deaths by local rescue officials. Philippe added that around 50 people were injured, two seriously.
Sixty percent of homes on the island were reported to be in such bad shape that they were deemed “uninhabitable.” Gibbs has said that “95 percent of the territory has been destroyed.”
According to the Times, residents on the French Caribbean island were shocked by the strength of the storm. Two residents spoke with French television outlet BFMTV in regards to the powerful winds that ripped through the island’s buildings and streets.
A resident named only as Kevin said the storm was slow in attacking, most likely due to the enormous size of it. Once it hit, however, “gusts of wind” turned everything in its path into projectiles.
Emmanuel Renoult told BFMTV, “I feel like I’m on the moon, there’s not a single tree standing anymore. We were expecting something big, but we are all flabbergasted. The mood is depressing here. We expect very rough days ahead.”
As of 5 p.m. EST, at least one person was reported to have died in the storm in Anguilla. The British territory was hit directly by Irma on Wednesday.
As of Wednesday night, the Royal Anguilla Police Force headquarters only had one working phone, which was ringing constantly. A beleaguered officer handled all the emergency calls himself. The officer reported the island’s airport, ferry terminal, hospital, prison and police station had all suffered severe damage.
The British Virgin Islands
Pictures of boats in the British Virgin Island’s Paraquita Bay showed them crammed up along the shoreline after the eye of Hurricane Irma passed Tortola on Wednesday. Many of the boats appear to have been thrown on top of each other by the wind.
The power on the island went out by 9 a.m. on Wednesday.
U.S. Virgin Islands
Irma took out power lines and flooded two shelters in the U.S. Virgin Islands on Wednesday. According to NPR, at least three deaths have been confirmed on St. Thomas. The governor is conducting an over flight of St. Thomas and St. John to assess the damage. Governor Kenneth Mapp has also, according to NPR, “requested a major disaster declaration.”
Authorities released a statement Thursday reporting that Irma caused “catastrophic failures” at the Roy Lester Schneider Hospital on St. Thomas. Critically ill patients in greatest need of care have been sent to St. Croix on military planes. Others are in transit to Puerto Rico.
After other medical centers on St. Thomas also suffered damage and power outages, NPR reports two doctors set up a triage center at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.
Although the full extent of the damage is yet to be known, the islands of St. Thomas and St. John experienced the brunt of the storm’s impact, island authorities told the Times.
St. Thomas resident Kelsey Nowakowski is no stranger to hurricanes, but this one, she says, was different. She and friends bunkered down to wait out the storm together on Wednesday.
“We’ve all been in hurricanes before, but have never felt anything like this before,” Nowakowski tweeted. “It feels seismic, it feels catastrophic.”
According to the National Weather Service office in San Juan, Puerto Rico’s capital, seven rivers are “running above their flood levels.” Swelling flood waters are swallowing cars and houses alike.
More than 1 million people are without power—that’s roughly 70 percent of the “electricity utility’s customers,” local news agencies report.
Around 40 patients are being flown to Puerto Rico from St. Thomas. All of Puerto Rico’s hospitals are “operating normally,” although 30 currently depend on electric generators for power.
At least one death has been reported, but not yet confirmed by Puerto Rican authorities.
The United States
Although the Category 5 hurricane had weakened as it passes through the Caribbean, the National Hurricane Center warns Irma remains “extremely dangerous.” In an advisory statement, the center reported 175-mph maximum sustained winds at 2 p.m. EST Thursday.
— NWS Miami (@NWSMiami) September 7, 2017
Much of the south and east areas of Florida are now under a hurricane watch, stretching from Jupiter Inlet south to Bonita Beach. This means that hurricane conditions are possible within 48 hours. The NHC also issued a storm surge watch, with potentially life-threatening flooding conditions. At least 6 million people reside in the regions of Palm Beach to Miami-Dade counties.
The NHC also warned southern states to be on their guard.
“The chance of direct impacts is increasing in portions of Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, but it is too early to specify the magnitude and location of the impacts,” the NHC says.
Under the current forecast models, Irma will remain a major hurricane (Category 4+) through at least Monday morning. By Monday, Irma will begin to approach the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina.
— NWS (@NWS) September 7, 2017
Featured Image via Flickr/Cayobo