- Hollis Johnson/Business Insider
- Hurricane Irma, which struck the Caribbean and the southeastern US in September 2017, was one of the largest and most powerful storms in history.
- Virgin Group founder Richard Branson rode out the storm at his compound on Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands.
- Branson likened the experience to “14 hours of a screaming train going by.”
- Irma directly affected 1.2 million people and caused more than $3 billion in damage.
Hurricane Irma was one of the largest and most powerful storms in history. Irma, which struck the Caribbean and the southeastern US in September 2017, was a Category Five hurricane that generated sustained winds of 187 mph. The storm was also massive – roughly the size of Texas.
This is why many were shocked when Virgin Group founder Richard Branson decided to ride out the storm at his compound on Necker Island, one of the British Virgin Islands.
Branson and a handful of Necker’s staff spent the night in the private island’s reinforced wine cellar.
Recently, Branson recounted what that evening was like for those in the cellar.
“It was 14 hours of a screaming train going by,” Branson said in an interview with Business Insider. “We were very lucky to be in a wine cellar, a good concrete wine cellar.”
- Necker Island
According to Branson, the group took full advantage of the wine cellar’s contents during the night to pass the time.
“It didn’t feel so bad when we came out, we were all in a good mood,” he said.
However, the devastation caused by the hurricane was sobering for Branson.
“It is a traumatic time here in the British Virgin Islands,” he said in a blog post published on Virgin Group’s website the day after the storm struck. “Hurricane Irma is continuing a path of destruction that brought the eye of the storm to Necker Island, Moskito Island, and the whole surrounding area.”
He continued: “I have never seen anything like this hurricane. Necker and the whole area have been completely and utterly devastated. We are still assessing the damage, but whole houses and trees have disappeared.”
The doors and windows outside of the wine cellar were blown 40 feet away, he said.
All local communications networks were knocked out by the storm. As a result, his blog post had to be dictated through a satellite phone.
In total, Irma directly affected 1.2 million people and caused more than $3 billion in damage as it carved a path of destruction through the islands and the American South. Tragically, the storm also caused 129 fatalities in the US alone.
For Branson, this story has a happier ending.
“We’ve had 500 wonderful people for 18 months rebuilding Necker Island and also helping rebuilding schools in the area and it’s now back and beautiful again,” he said. “So we have our home back which is great.”