Early Wednesday afternoon, category 5 Hurricane Irma hit the Caribbean. Starting with Antigua and Barbuda, the storm has since worked its way north through the Caribbean, Turks and Caicos Islands, Bahamas, and through Northern Cuba. Each island has endured damages and, as Irma works her way north to Florida, the US is currently preparing for more of the same. Extensive safety precautions have been taken and Florida is now in a state of emergency. Unfortunately, the death toll has risen to 23 people, and the circling storm is expected to hit the US on Sunday.
Currently, damages have been reported across the board in all countries involved. Barbuda, one of the first islands hit, has been evacuated into Antigua. The eye of the storm went directly over Barbuda at about 1:30 AM Wednesday Morning. Prime Minister of Barbuda and Antigua, Gaston Browne, has said that many of the buildings and structures in Barbuda are “barely habitable.” 95% of the buildings have been damaged, which has left 60% of the population homeless. At least one person has been reported dead in Barbuda. The country is currently preparing to brace further adversity in the form of a category 4 hurricane, José. Hurricane José is expected to hit land on Saturday at 150 miles per hour.
St. Martin, St. Barthélemy, and Anguilla have also incurred damages from hurricane Irma. According to the attorney General in Anguilla, the island has encountered “huge devastation.” 90% of the homes in Anguilla have been damaged, and functional electricity is scarce. Citizens are currently cleaning up debris in preparation for the next storm.
Three people have been reported dead in Puerto Rico, and more than 1 million people are without power. Govenor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rosselló has asked residents to beware of flash flooding and the hazards that have arisen from damages. Thankfully, Rosselló has reported that above 40 percent of the islands hospitals are still in operation due to the use of generators. President Trump has approved an emergency declaration for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Fortunately, this will permit the Federal Emergency Management Agency to offer aid to the two countries.
The Turks and Caicos Islands encountered Irma overnight as a category five storm. It has since been downgraded to a category 4, but is expected to rise again to a category 5 by the time it hits Florida. The Turks and Caicos have undergone rough seas, strong winds, and heavy rain. The eye of the storm is currently moving over northern Cuba and the southern Bahamas. Cuban officials have ordered a mandatory evacuation The southern Bahamas have already endured damaged roofs, intense winds and rain, and fallen trees.
As Florida prepares for a storm that is reportedly wider than the state itself, 16 counties have been under mandatory evacuation, and 13 are being encouraged to evacuate. Officials are also encouraging Florida citizens to not underestimate the intensity of Hurricane Irma. Brock Long, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has stated, “It’s not a question of if Florida’s going to be impacted… It’s a question of how bad Florida’s going to be impacted.” Governor of Florida, Rick Scott, has stated that Hurricane Irma will in fact be “way bigger than Andrew,” which was a category 5 hurricane that hit Florida in 1992. Hurricane Andrew went down in history as one of the most destructive hurricanes recorded.
In the meantime, the citizens of the United States can be put at ease knowing that Florida residents and officials are doing everything possible to be prepared for the potentially catastrophic events that will shadow Hurricane Irma as it passes over Florida. It is also important to focus our prayers on the people who will be effected and who have been effected by the storm, and to know that our heavenly Father takes care of his people even in the eye of the storm.