Miami, Florida. Sept 6th. Hurricane Irma, now a category 5 storm, has passed directly over the Caribbean island of Barbuda, and swiped its sister island of Antigua, lashing both with winds of up to 185mph (295kph) and heavy rain. The US National Hurricane Center (NHC) says Irma, which has become the most powerful ever recorded over the Atlantic Ocean, is “potentially catastrophic” and warns that “preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion” in the islands in its immediate path.
Irma continues to move in a west-north-westerly direction, with Anguilla and St Kitts & Nevis next in its path. The British and US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the Bahamas are also due to be hit. A mandatory evacuation of islands in the southern Bahamas will take place on Wednesday.
The French interior ministry has issued a high alert for those on the French overseas collectivities of St Martin and St Barthélemy.
The NHC has also warned of heavy rainfalls of around 8-12 inches (20-30cm), and up to 20 inches (50cm) in some areas. It cautions: These rains could cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides.
The Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale describes category 5 as:
Catastrophic damage will occur: A high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas.
Power outages will last for weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.
Photo: Hurricane Irma
The US National Hurricane Center says a hurricane warning remains in place for the following islands:
Antigua, Barbuda, Anguilla, Montserrat, St Kitts and Nevis
Saba, St Eustatius and St Maarten
Saint Martin and Saint Barthelemy
British Virgin Islands
US Virgin Islands
Puerto Rico, Vieques, and Culebra
Dominican Republic from Cabo Engano to the northern border with Haiti
People on those islands are warned that Irma is is “potentially catastrophic” and the NHC has urged that “preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion” in the islands in its immediate path.
Bahamas prime minister Hubert Minnis says his government has ordered a mandatory evacuation of islands in the southern part of the island chain because of Hurricane Irma. Minnis says the category 5 storm poses a dire threat to the islands of Mayaguana, Inagua, Crooked Island, Acklins, Long Cay and Ragged Island.
People who live on the islands will be flown on Wednesday to Nassau on the island of New Providence. Minnis says it will be the largest hurricane evacuation in the history of the Bahamas.People who don’t evacuate will be at “great danger” from storm surge caused by what he called a “monster” hurricane. Minnis says emergency personnel may not be available to rescue them when the storm is at its height between Thursday and Friday.
As Hurricane Irma gains strength and moves across the Atlantic Ocean, many residents in South Florida have begun preparing for the storm. Residents took advantage of the Labor Day holiday to fill hurricane survival kits. Many were seen stocking up on supplies like water, food, gas and sandbags. Others shopped for generators in case of power outages.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency Monday for the state’s 67 counties. He urged “all Floridians to remain vigilant and stay alert to local weather and news,” as well as visit FLGetAPlan.com to prepare.
“I have declared a state of emergency for every FL county to help state, federal and local governments work together as we prepare for Irma…In Florida, we always prepare for the worst and hope for the best and while the exact path of Irma is not absolutely known at this time, we cannot afford to not be prepared,” Scott said
In Miami-Dade County, officials can sign up for email or text alerts for public safety issues. Residents can use the county’s SAFE app to find open evacuation centers in their area.
In the Florida Keys, Monroe County officials have activated their emergency management team. Residents can sign up for emergency alerts and reach their emergency hotline at 1-800-955-5504.
Irma is forecast to then travel on through Haiti and the Dominican Republic, Turks and Caicos, the Bahamas, Cuba and potentially to hit Florida before the weekend.