As the Atlantic’s largest storm on record, Hurricane Irma, has finally relinquished her power in the continental USA. It is worth bearing mind she had travelled 3700+ miles across the entire width of the ocean, gathering strength day by day from the hot tropical water’s between the Cape Verde Islands, off West Africa to the Leeward Islands of the Caribbean, while continuing through the Bahamian archipelago and on into the Florida’s Gulf coast. An immense journey rivalled only by her immense destruction as she made landfall on September 5th on the tiny islands of Barbuda, St Martin and the BVI – horrifying and awesome in every sense, mother nature raw and uncut.
In truth Irma had signalled her intent and sent an ominous sign westward from the moment many days before when, still in her infancy, she doubled in size over night. Our waters around the Turks & Caicos Islands had also delivered less than subtle signs that this might well be an active hurricane season. After all diving without wetsuits mid winter was not usual by any means. Rising water temperatures early in our calendar year is always a sure sign that should a storm form, they would have lots of latent energy to feed on.
Category 5 Hurricane
As Irma bore down on the Caribbean, that heat would be pivotal in sustaining 185mph winds to categorise her as a monster category 5 hurricane with 20’+ storm surges. Frightening to say the least. With all eyes pinned to NASA’s and NOAA’s satellite imagery, the world and us could follow in real time, this beast as she unleashed untamed hurricane force winds across those Leeward islands, with all projections clearly indicating that we, the Turks and Caicos, were next in line.
Not everyone, can run from impending doom, the islands certainly are not able do so and neither could the majority of residents. With Hurricane warnings already in full effect, houses battened down, boats pulled out of the water, businesses closed, food and water stocks sold out, all that could be done was wait and see. With the 2008 hurricanes Ike and Hannah still fresh in the memory, very few here had experienced a cat 5 storm. The last really big hurricane of 1960, Donna, was almost from another time, pre social media, pre instant news, almost pre memory for most people. A myth. She though had the power to split islands in half and reshape them in her fashion.
Irma Hits Turks and Caicos
As Irma’s first winds began to be felt on Grand Turk, Collectively TCI began to fear the worst. Impending and inevitable power and communication cuts only added to rising tensions.
With Salt Cay, like Middle Caicos already evacuated, the eye wall passed close enough to sadly leave both Grand Turk and South Caicos devastated and cut off from the rest of the country. Very little news has been forthcoming save for no lives lost, although numerous local boats have made trips to bring much needed supplies and check on their loved ones.
Passing over Ambergris Cay to the West, Irma’s track had her spinning due south of Provo. Only sporadic texts here and there, kept those on the ground in the loop as to Irma’s whereabouts, until they too, ceased. With night falling and winds and rain increasing, all that was left was hope and prayer.
As dawn broke, and with Irma moving westwards over the horizon, her carnage was laid bare. Power poles, trees, houses, roofs and sand were strewn here, there and everywhere. It was clear that no one was left untouched. That said; many of us have gotten off lightly with what essentially amounts to minor damages, while others have been less fortunate in losing their houses, their roofs or their whole business. Irma’s southern track 25 miles south of the islands spared Provo from the destruction meted out on the Leeward Islands. All the sturdier buildings in Grace Bay, the airport and the commercial docks seem to have survived, which bodes well for next season. Digicel, Flow, Fortis and the Water Company are working tirelessly to bring back utilities and communication as communities are figuring out ways to clean up and rebuild.
Islands are Open
As for Big Blue, our team is safe and sound. Disconnected and disoriented, yes, but focused and determined to put this behind us and make next season epic. Our boats are safe. Our gear is safe. Our office, however, may look a little different next time you see it. We will fix her.
It will take some time but the message is that we, like the rest of the island, will be ready for next season. We have to be. We have time on our hands and thankfully no one was hurt. What will be interesting is to see what changes Irma has wrought on our seascape, above and below the waters. No doubt she has cleared out the deadwood and with that she has perhaps ushered in the new birth.
Bottom line – it could have been worse. All your kind and wonderful messages, thoughts and prayers obviously worked. Thank you.
See you all soon.