This Terrifying Hurricane Irma Update Confirms It's Made Landfall In The Caribbean

by Joseph D. Lyons
Mark Wilson/Getty Images News/Getty Images

One of the strongest hurricanes in the Atlantic ever, Category 5 Irma has finally made landfall on Barbuda. The National Hurricane Center released a short update at 2 a.m. EST noting that the "eye of potentially catastrophic Category 5 Hurricane Irma passing over Barbuda."

Normally you could confirm this yourself by looking at the data from the local weather station. Conditions there appear calm — or no winds — starting at 1:24 a.m. ET. But that's deceiving. Just before that winds had reached 108 miles per hour with gusts of 155 miles per hour, causing the anemometer, the tool that measures wind, to fail. Therefore winds probably exceeded 185 miles per hour before the island entered the eye.

That update from the hurricane center may be short, but it's definitely not sweet for the small island with a population of less than 2,000. A Category 5 storm means that a "high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse." Already local reports from The Antigua Chronicle point to roofs being lost in two areas on the island. Another area of concern will be power outages.

That could explain the relative silence on Twitter from the island of Barbuda, although there are tweets coming out of Antigua, the other namesake island of the country. "Good news so far is that everything has calm down in my area at the moment," one user wrote there, potentially referencing the calm of the eye of the storm. Earlier he noted that a neighbor's fence blew away.

The New York Times reported that many in Antigua and Barbuda were spending the night at up to 40 shelters because homes on the islands would not be strong enough to withstand the Category 5 winds.

Other islands in the area will soon be just as affected. Anguilla and St Kitts & Nevis are next to find themselves in their path. After that comes the British and US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Bahamas. President Trump declared a state of emergency on Tuesday for the U.S. territories. The governor of Puerto Rico said that the electrical grid could be down for days, weeks, or even months in certain parts of the island.

Meanwhile in the Bahamas, the southern islands are being evacuated. Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis announced the mandatory evacuation. The Associated Press explained that residents of southern islands would be flown to Nassau. The storm surge could be of particular concern for many, given that many live just above sea level.

Exactly where on the U.S. mainland will be affected is still a mystery, although it is extremely likely that South Florida will be affected. The Florida Keys will begin mandatory evacuations on Wednesday. The question is more whether the hurricane then moves into the Gulf of Mexico, straight up Florida, or along the East Coast. All could prove a challenge for FEMA and other government agencies given the recent devastation seen with Hurricane Harvey.

Given the damage seen in Houston, any and all hurricane warnings that are issued need to be taken very seriously.