Hurricane Irma, one of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes in recorded history, slammed several Caribbean islands with Category 5 winds on Wednesday and Thursday, leaving a path of destruction that we’re just starting to see.
Barbuda, Anguilla, St. Martin, St. Barts, and parts of the Virgin Islands all took direct hits from the storm, and Puerto Rico suffered from storm surge and intense winds.
Irma first made landfall in Barbuda – an island with a population of about 1,800 – around 1:47 a.m. ET Wednesday. Local weather stations there captured wind gusts of 155 mph before going silent, indicating that the instruments had been blown away. Irma’s sustained winds had been reported at 185 mph, with gusts above 215 mph.
The destruction was so severe that the island was cut off from communication. After initially surveying the damage, Gaston Browne, prime minister of the dual-island nation of Antigua and Barbuda, said Barbuda was “totally demolished” and that 90% of its buildings were destroyed.
— Philip Klotzbach (@philklotzbach) September 6, 2017
Local news captured some images of the destruction.
- ABS News
By around 8 a.m. ET on Wednesday, the eye wall of the storm had reached Anguilla, St. Martin, and St. Barts, causing widespread, severe damage, as photos and videos from those islands and others nearby show.
— AFP Photo (@AFPphoto) September 7, 2017
— Philip Klotzbach (@philklotzbach) September 7, 2017
— RCI Guadeloupe (@RCI_GP) September 6, 2017
— Guadeloupe 1ère (@guadeloupe_1ere) September 6, 2017
— Mark Tarello (@mark_tarello) September 6, 2017
Irma a épargné la Guadeloupe mais ps ns compatriotes de St-barthelemy & de St-Martin durement éprouvés. Ns sommes à vs côtés#IrmaHurricane pic.twitter.com/vGmqQkl8Uy
— Olivier SERVA Député (@olivier_serva) September 6, 2017
— La1ere.fr (@la1ere) September 6, 2017
— Jon Ostrower (@jonostrower) September 7, 2017
The US Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands were hit by the storm on Wednesday afternoon as well.
— Mike Seidel (@mikeseidel) September 6, 2017
By the evening, Irma was passing just north of Puerto Rico. The island was lucky enough to avoid a direct hit from the storm, but nearly 1 million people lost power, and some may not get electricity back for four to six months.
- REUTERS/Alvin Baez
— Philippe Papin (@pppapin) September 6, 2017
The forecast shows the storm moving toward Turks and Caicos and the Bahamas still as a Category 5 hurricane. Over the weekend, Irma could hit South Florida and travel up the coast, though it is wide enough to affect the entire state even if it were to avoid landfall.