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Hurricane Irma (2017): Minimal Damage in St. Kitts

Updated on March 1, 2020
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MsDora grew up, received early education and taught school in the Caribbean. Read her love and pride of the region—people and place.

In the midst of our physical and emotional damages from Hurricane Irma September 2017, residents on the islands of St. Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean are grateful. Still, we find it difficult to jump and shout in the face of the severe beating that Irma gave to our relatives and friends on the some of the other islands, as well as in Florida and Georgia. Here's how it happened.

The Forecast

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Andrew Freeman’s forecast on Mashable:

“Here's what is known with a high degree of confidence. Hurricane Irma is a strong storm, and may get stronger as it moves toward the Leeward Islands. Computer models nearly universally intensify it to a Category 4 or 5 beast. . . The storm is likely to batter the northern Leeward Islands beginning late Tuesday, and popular vacation spots such as St. Kitts, Nevis, Barbuda, Anguilla, and Saint Maarten, which lie in its path."

Tuesday, September 5

Bobb Henson on Weatherground:

“Later Wednesday morning, Irma will be approaching St. Kitts and Nevis . . . A hurricane with top winds of 185 mph has never been recorded in these islands.”

That night, a national curfew was announced with effect from nine o’clock. Kittitians and Nevisians (people of St. Kitts and Nevis) went to bed expecting the worst, but praying that it would not happen.

Irma was here. An avocado tree fell on the lower part of a neighbor's roof.
Irma was here. An avocado tree fell on the lower part of a neighbor's roof. | Source

The Winds

Morning, Wednesday September 6

The heavy winds rushed in about two o’clock in the morning, with a power that threatened to lift the houses. Curiosity drove me to look through my window. In one second, the rapid swaying of the sugar apple tree in my front yard made me dizzy and scared. The creaking sounds of zinc loosening caused me to pray that they were not zinc from the neighbors’ roofs; and that the wind would not fling them into glass windows and doors. My prayer was also for peace and protection.

By half past three, electricity was gone. The rains hummed in the background, while the winds led a loud, spooky melody. Sleep came eventually, but at the Thanksgiving Service a few days later, most residents confessed that they had stayed awake all night. As soon as daylight broke, people assembled in the streets, talking excitedly about surviving the storm. Cell phones were useless at first, so everyone was anxious to hear from others across the island.

The Surprise Ending

Afternoon, Wednesday September 6

By half past three in the afternoon, the Dominica News reported,

“The eye of Hurricane Irma has passed to the north of St. Kitts & Nevis. While still experiencing wind and rains, initial reports appear to indicate that the Federation has escaped the worst.”

Some structural damage occurred, but no lives were lost. Electric power lines and telephone poles including cell phone tower lines were damaged. Most residents had fallen trees on their property, and makeshift fences (built with the zinc that crackled during the night) had been blown down. None of these incidents merited complaints as phone lines opened up, and residents learned of the disastrous reports from other islands. It seemed that Irma had simply waved at St. Kitts and Nevis and kept going.

The Travel Industry News announced:

"St. Kitts’ Robert L. Bradshaw International Airport (SKB) reopens as of noon tomorrow. The hurricane warning has been discontinued as of 11:00AM EDT and the flash flood watch that was issued up to 3:00PM EDT today has also been discontinued with immediate effect."

Kittitians and Nevisians cannot explain why Irma spared them; they just thank God.

Disaster on Other Islands

Sunday and Monday, September 10 and 11

Reports were posted by Claire Phipps on MSN Weather Irma's Destruction: island by island (September 10) and by Hilary Clarke and Patrick Oppmann in CNN Regions (September 11).

Irma had visited Antigua and Barbuda, St, Maarten, Anguilla, St. Kitts and Nevis, British and Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico on September 6; The Dominican Republic, Turks and Caicos on September 7; The Bahamas and Cuba on September 8. Following are extracts from the reports mentioned above.

Antigua and Barbuda

“For the first time in 300 years, there’s not a single living person on the island of Barbuda. A civilization that has existed on that island for over 300 years has now been extinguished.”- Ronald Sanders, Barbuda's Ambassador to the US.

According to the Prime Minister, Gaston Browne, 90% of buildings had been destroyed and 50% of the population of about 1,000 people left homeless. Survivors were evacuated to Antigua.

St Martin and St Barts

The French side was 95% destroyed, and 11 people had died. On the Dutch side, 1 person had been confirmed dead and the Prime Minister reported “enormous material damage” to the territory.

Anguilla

One person was confirmed dead. Many homes had been damaged or destroyed and severe damage was reported concerning “police stations, hospitals, school facilities, three or four emergency shelters, a home for the infirm and the aged, as well as the fire station.”

Virgin Islands

In the British territory, 4 people were reported dead, and according to one resident, "There is sewage absolutely everywhere.”

In the United States territory, 4 people were confirmed dead and many buildings including homes suffered extensive damage.

Puerto Rico

Thousands had been placed in emergency shelters and 3 had been confirmed dead.

Dominican Republic

More than 5,000 people had been evacuated across the country and there many flattened buildings, downed trees and power lines in sight.

Cuba

There were 10 deaths confirmed and flooding in the northern coastal areas.

Others

Turks and Caicos Islands and the Bahamas also reported damages but no fatalities. Haiti reported one death afterwards.

Disaster in Florida and Georgia

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Guardian reported that Irma, having passed through Florida and Georgia on September 10 and 11, had been downgraded to a tropical depression with maximum winds of 35 mph. The death toll was 10 in the United States 37 in the Caribbean.

We were all saddened by the loss of those whom Irma claimed as victims. Even while residents on St. Kitts and Nevis thank God for our survival, we pray for those who mourn loved ones.

Finally

When our heads begin to clear, may we take some time to appreciate and express gratitude for:

  • the good times we shared with those who passed on;
  • the cooperation we usually experience when we need each other;
  • the things which remain despite the things we have lost;
  • the realization that some things are beyond our control;
  • the calm that comes after every storm.

Every day is another opportunity from the LifeGiver to express our love and gratitude to Him and to each other.

© 2017 Dora Weithers

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