Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 Hurricane, Heads for Puerto Rico


The New York Times reports that Hurricane Irma, packing winds of up to 185 miles an hour, threatens havoc and widespread destruction across Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Antigua, St. Kitts and Nevis, and the United States Virgin Islands, and possibly, Cuba. The article says that the storm is expected “to rake or sideswipe” Puerto Rico tomorrow, Wednesday, September 6.

As Hurricane Irma, one of the most powerful Atlantic storms ever recorded, aimed for Puerto Rico and other islands throughout the Caribbean, residents scrambled Tuesday to rush out of flood zones, stock up on the last available water, food and gas, shutter their homes and brace for what is now, and could remain, a mammoth Category 5 hurricane.

[. . .] President Trump declared a state of emergency in Puerto Rico, Florida and the United States Virgin Islands on Tuesday.

Hurricane Irma is one of the strongest storms ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean, according to the National Hurricane Center and Bryan Norcross, the hurricane specialist at The Weather Channel. The hurricane center said Irma had winds of up to 185 mph as it approached the Leeward Islands. There have been other storms with comparable winds in the Caribbean Sea or the Gulf of Mexico, where the warm waters fuel particularly dangerous hurricanes.

With Harvey’s destruction still fresh on people’s minds, Florida hustled into action. Gov. Rick Scott activated the state National Guard to help with hurricane preparations and suspended tolls. The governor declared a state of emergency on Monday and spoke with President Trump, who offered “the full resources of the federal government,” Mr. Scott wrote on Twitter.

Most of the latest projections have Irma slamming into the state by Sunday, although it’s unclear where it may make landfall. The Florida Keys, an especially vulnerable chain of islands, moved quickly to prepare for the crushing wind and its expected tidal inundation. On Wednesday, schools will be closed and mandatory evacuations will begin, county officials said. The Keys’ three hospitals started to evacuate patients on Tuesday. Miami-Dade, the state’s largest county, announced that schools would close Thursday as officials kicked emergency plans into gear.

But it is Puerto Rico and the nearby northern Leeward Islands that are expected to face Irma’s potentially catastrophic winds first. It has been nearly a century since Puerto Rico was hit by a Category 5 storm, Mr. Norcross said.

Puerto Rican officials have warned that the island’s fragile electrical grid could be shut down for days, weeks or even months in some areas. In his news conference, Mr. Rosselló and emergency officials warned that with such powerful winds expected to thrash the island, infrastructure, houses and the phone system will inevitably be damaged.

For Puerto Rico, the hurricane could not have come at a worse time. The island is deep in the throes of an economic crisis and does not have money for the long process of rebuilding. [. . .]

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