Storm Churning Through Caribbean, Hits Turks and Caicos – The New York Times
Friday, September 8, 2017
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Hurricane Irma Pummels Caribbean and Churns Toward Florida
The Atlantic’s strongest storm has left destruction across the Caribbean. Witnesses warn others to brace themselves as Irma moves toward Florida.
By CAMILLA SCHICK, ROBIN LINDSAY and CHRIS CIRILLO on Publish Date September 6, 2017. Photo by Erika P. Rodriguez for The New York Times. Watch in Times Video »
This is Thursday’s storm coverage. Read the latest with Friday’s live updates on Hurricane Irma »
Hurricane Irma, an “extremely dangerous” Category 4 storm with sustained winds of up to 155 miles an hour, continued to tear through the Caribbean on Friday, moving through the Bahamas and along the northern coast of Cuba, the National Hurricane Center said.
The death toll from the storm was at least seven as of Thursday afternoon, but the authorities warned that the number could rise as emergency crews reached flooded areas and as communications improved. The hurricane is expected to hit the Florida Keys and South Florida starting Saturday evening, said Kevin Scharfenberg, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
A second storm, Jose, strengthened into a Category 3 hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean and could hit Antigua and Barbuda, which have suffered extensive flooding and wind damage from Irma, according to the National Hurricane Center.
In Florida and Georgia, officials issued mandatory evacuation orders for coastal and some inland areas, leading to gas shortages and heavy traffic on local highways. The National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane warning for South Florida, the Florida Keys, Lake Okeechobee and Florida Bay and a storm surge warning for South Florida and the Florida Keys.
• Half of the 100,000 residents of Antigua and Barbuda have had their homes destroyed or heavily damaged, the prime minister said.
• The governor of Puerto Rico said at a news conference that electrical service had been restored to 144,000 households — which still leaves nearly a million in the dark.
• Officials in Florida have issued evacuation orders, including mandatory ones for all of Monroe County and for parts of Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Pinellas and other counties.
• Irma’s 185-m.p.h. winds persisted for more than 24 hours, the longest period ever recorded. The French weather service described it as the most enduring superstorm on record.
• Sign up for the Morning Briefing for hurricane news and a daily look at what you need to know to begin your day.
Conditions are deteriorating in Turks and Caicos.
Hurricane Irma slammed into Grand Turk on Thursday evening, ripping off dozens of residential roofs, flooding streets, snapping utility poles and causing an island-wide blackout. It also damaged the roof of the hospital in Cockburn Town, the capital of Turks and Caicos, a British overseas territory.
Providenciales, the most populous of the Turks and Caicos’s 40 islands, was experiencing howling winds, rough seas and steady rain. Hurricane shelters across the island were full. A government spokesman, Zhavago Jolly, said he had not received any reports of fatalities or injuries.
Earlier in the day, Virginia Clerveaux, the director of the Disaster Management Department, warned that emergency workers would “not be able to provide relief services during this time until further notice.”
A child fills a bucket with water in Nagua, the Dominican Republic, on Thursday, as Hurricane Irma moved off the northern coast. Credit Ricardo Rojas/Reuters
— HAYDEN BOYCE
Haiti shuts down, but avoids the worst.
Moderate winds and rain were reported in northern Haiti, but the impact was not nearly as severe as officials had feared.
Although two people were reported injured near Cap-Haïtien after a tree fell on their house, “to this moment, we have had no major devastation,” Interior Minister Max Rudolph Saint-Albin said at a news conference Thursday evening. He cautioned that rain would continue and that flooding might still occur.
Despite public warnings broadcast across the country over the past two days, fewer than 160 people went to temporary shelters in the north, according to preliminary government figures. Many feared that their unattended houses would be looted, or did not believe the government’s dire predictions, said Tania Escamilla, Oxfam’s regional communications coordinator.
This time, luck seemed to be on their side.
Officials had been worried not just about possible drownings and injuries from the storm, but also that a surge of cholera could follow, as happened last year after Hurricane Matthew devastated the country’s southwest.
— CATHERINE PORTER
In Puerto Rico, ‘our prayers were answered.’
Residents picked up debris in Fajardo, P.R., on Wednesday. Nearly a million people in Puerto Rico were without power. Credit Alvin Baez/Reuters
In Puerto Rico, nearly 70 percent of households were without power immediately after the storm, but the island was otherwise largely unscathed, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said on Thursday. By the evening, power had been restored to about 144,000 households, though nearly a million were still in the dark.
Roughly 55 percent of hospitals were functioning, Mr. Rosselló said.
“We would like to start out thanking the Almighty,” he said of the relatively small impact, with fallen trees and electrical poles making up the bulk of the damage on the main island. “Our prayers were answered.”
Fallen trees in San Juan, P.R., on Thursday. Credit Erika P. Rodriguez for The New York Times
Many residents, though grateful the damage was not worse, were furious about the vast power failures. How is it possible, Puerto Ricans wondered aloud, that a hurricane that passed at a distance and hardly claimed a shingle could leave more than a million households in the dark?
“This is an abuse, a lack of respect,” said Isla Rosado, a 58-year-old secretary. “Irma had not even arrived yet when we were already without power.”
— FRANCES ROBLES and IVELISSE RIVERA
A devastated Barbuda braces for yet another hit.
Families took shelter in a church in Las Terrenas, the Dominican Republic, on Wednesday as the country braced for Hurricane Irma. Credit Tatiana Fernandez/Associated Press
Prime Minister Gaston Browne of Antigua and Barbuda said that half of Barbuda had been left homeless by the storm, which blew through on Wednesday. Officials declared a state of emergency. And with another storm, Hurricane Jose, expected soon, many of Barbuda’s 1,600 residents are trying to evacuate to their sister island, Antigua.
Michael Semple, a resident of Codrington, said his roof had been blown away and his kitchen destroyed. “The only thing I have left is my wife and my family,” he said.
Teline Charles, 33, a New Yorker who was visiting family in Barbuda when the hurricane hit, said she had “never experienced anything like that.”
“The roof came off during the storm,” she recalled, “and we actually had to leave the house and run into the car until the eye came, and then ran for better shelter.”
With a hurricane watch in effect as Jose approaches, the government is hoping to transport all of Barbuda’s residents to Antigua by the end of Friday, either by sea or by air.
Boarding up windows on Wednesday in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Credit Ezequiel Abiu Lopez/Associated Press
In the Dominican Republic, officials evacuated some areas near the beachfront town of Cabarete on the north coast, though some residents chose to stay boarded up in their homes and ride it out.
A satellite image of Hurricane Irma made Thursday afternoon, as the eye approaches the Turks and Caicos Islands, on a track that could lead to a strike on Florida. Credit National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
President Danilo Medina canceled work for public and private companies, and schools were closed until Monday as emergency workers spread out to manage the expected fallout. But residents in Cabarete said that so far, the effects of the storm had been relatively mild.
“It’s really not that bad,” said Lindsay Sauvage, who lives with her family in Cabarete and said the electricity had shut off around 3 a.m. “We expected much worse.”
— CARL JOSEPH and AZAM AHMED
‘It’s just unbelievable. It’s indescribable.’
Four people have been confirmed dead on the island of St. Martin, Mr. Philippe, the French prime minister, said on Thursday, lowering a previous toll of eight deaths given by local rescue officials.
Around 50 people were injured, including two seriously, he said, and 65 percent of homes on the island are uninhabitable. Rescue workers are still assessing the damage on St. Martin and St. Barthélemy.