Hurricane Irma’s morphing path remains the source of apprehension for Floridians as they undertake mandatory evacuations, all while unavoidable myths surrounding such storms continue to circulate. The during-and-after devastation in St. Martin quickly surfaced in footage via the internet, but the Caribbean island first struck by the Category 5 storm (which is still packing sustained wind speeds of 185 mph) — Barbuda — was “so badly damaged” that it’s gone radio silent. And eerily so.
CNN reports that the heavily affected island’s neighbor, Antigua, has not been able to establish contact with anyone on Barbuda since very early Wednesday, according to Antigua’s deputy director of the National Office of Disaster Services, Sherrod James, who also stated, “We’re trying to get a team over there to see what the status is.” The tiny country — home to around 1,600 people and 100 square miles in size — was dwarfed by the sheer size of Irma’s eye (within a 400-mile-wide storm) after it made landfall.
Sky News reports word from Antigua and Barbuda High Commissioner Karen-Mae Hill, who confirms the unsettling news and says the silence first began following initial reports of Barbuda damage:
“The last report we had from our sister island was the police station was destroyed, the roof came off completely. Houses all around Codrington, the main settlement on Barbuda, have lost their roofs. We have no reports of fatalities or injuries but we do to know how things are on the island as we speak.”
Elsewhere and away from Barbuda, the storm has resulted in at least two confirmed deaths, both in the French Caribbean, and French President Emmanuel Macron has stated that his country will have “victims to lament.” Meaning, sadly, that the death toll will rise as waters recede.
Meanwhile, Puerto Rico is hunkering down while preparing for a late-night Wednesday landfall from Irma. Flooding damage is expected to be extensive in the U.S. territory, and officials are warning that the island could very well lose electricity for six months:
In Puerto Rico, the electric company warned the island could be without power for four to six months while the government prepared to open 456 shelters capable of housing more than 62,000 people. The Turks and Caicos has ordered Salt Cay, its southernmost inhabited island, evacuated beginning Wednesday. In Cuba, where Matthew razed some neighborhoods last year, officials urged caution, but took a more notable low-key approach.
Irma will continue to pummel the Caribbean islands for days before making an anticipated sharp turn to the north, after which a Florida landfall is virtually certain. We will, of course, bring updates as they arrive on the strongest hurricane on record to hit the Atlantic.