Hurricane Irma is already a category 5. For those of you that don’t know, that gives it some insanely high wind speeds. As of last night, the storm was closing in on Barbuda with wind speeds of 185 miles per hour. Miles, friends. I say that’s insane because I can’t even begin to fathom those kinds of speeds. The only hurricane in the Atlantic with faster wind speeds was Hurricane Allen back in 1980, measuring at 190 miles per hour. For those of you who use the metric system, that’s over 300 km/hour. Which, again is insane and hard to imagine.
The hurricane is now battering the northern Virgin Islands (or has if you’re reading this later) and heading towards Puerto Rico on Wednesday afternoon. This is after it has smashed a string of small northern Caribbean islands. Reports on those storms suggest heavy damage. Irma’s core slammed Barbuda early Wednesday before moving over St. Martin and Anguilla and parts of the British Virgin Islands.
Irma could pass just north of Puerto Rico on Wednesday afternoon and night. She threatens heavy rain and dangerous coastal storm surges, forecasters have said. Governor Ricardo Rosselló urged Puerto Ricans in flood prone areas to head to designated shelters. But can the shelters hold up to a Category 5 hurricane? They certainly haven’t been tested in this kind of storm, which means only time will tell.
On Tortola, the largest of the British Virgin Islands, the winds are so fierce, they are blowing out the windows on people’s homes. The hurricane battered a string of northern Caribbean island nations, situated east of the more populous Virgin Islands group and Puerto Rico. Early reports suggested damage on parts of the smaller islands. Which are a popular destination for tourists.
Barbuda, which is home to about 1,600 people was “so badly damaged that there is no communication” from the island, according to Keithley Mead, director of a meteorological office in Antigua and Barbuda. Nearby in St. Martin, Irma destroyed four of the most solid government buildings on the French-administered portion of the island.
Irma is expected to be near the northern coast of the Dominican Republic and Haiti. She is then expected to move towards the Turks and Caicos islands and then the southeastern Bahamas, where storm surges of up to 20 feet are possible. But where will she head after that? It’s too early to tell whether Irma will make landfall on the US mainland. Computer models show that she could land near Florida’s east coast by late Sunday. But other forecasters are warning that she could hit the Florida peninsula.
Authorities have issued a mandatory evacuation for Broward County starting Thursday at noon. This is specific to areas east of the Federal Highway. The evacuation zone includes low lying areas and mobile homes in the county.
Irma, like Harvey has been predicted to be catastrophic. And with two Category 4 or greater hurricanes within a matter of weeks, it can’t be anything else. There has been such devastation in Texas and along the gulf coast related to Harvey, I’m not sure America can handle another one. There is also the issue about whether or not FEMA will be able to handle it. While I don’t want to get into the financial side of things, some big decisions have to be made in relation to government relief provided for Harvey. Which makes me wonder if they will have the money to provide relief for Irma?
My thoughts and prayers are going out to everyone who is affected by Irma. She is intense, and unrelenting. Stay tuned for further updates on Irma. I am also hoping that she tightens her grip when it comes to some of the other islands in her path.