These Photos of Hurricane Irma Showcase the Destruction of the Record-breaking Storm
The storm, which pummeled through the Caribbean as a category 5 hurricane before making its way into Florida and continuing on to several other U.S. cities, has been the strongest storm to exist in the Atlantic outside the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico (Hurricane Allen was the strongest in these regions), according to a recent study by Colorado State University.
The storm was also the first category 5 hurricane to hit the Atlantic since Matthew in 2016 and the first category 5 in the tropical Atlantic since 1989, the study found, sustaining winds of 185 miles per hour for as long as 37 hours.
The record-breaking storm left millions of panicked residents having to evacuate or seek shelter as it continued along its path, with those affected now starting to return to their homes.
Below, we take a look at the destruction the hurricane has left behind in the areas it hit, and the recovery that has begun taking place.
The First Hit
Barbuda, a small island in the eastern Caribbean, was the first to be hit by the storm. The category 5 hurricane destroyed 95 percent of buildings on the island.
Antigua and Barbuda
Antigua and Barbuda's prime minister, Gaston Browne, told BBC that about 50 percent of Barbuda's population was left homeless by the storm, and that it was "barely habitable." Meanwhile, Antigua was able to escape major damages.
Repairing the island of Barbuda could cost as much as $300 million, Brown said in an interview with TIME.
The hurricane continued on to St. Martin, which was also left devastated. With winds at 155 miles per hour, the storm toppled through some 70 percent of the buildings on the Dutch side of the island, according to The New Yorker, with officials reporting that at least 200 people were missing and at least four were killed.
An Exceptional Level of Destruction
French politician Jean Yves-Le Drain, minister of Europe and foreign affairs, called Irma's aftermath an “exceptional level of destruction” in a statement released September 10, pledging that French and Dutch authorities will be working in cooperation to coordinate emergency response teams from both countries to assist the island.
A Look at the Damage
The Road to Recovery
Residents are hoping to soon return to their normal lives in St. Martin, but items like food and water are scarce as they await assistance from Dutch and French emergency response teams.
The storm caused at least 1.2 billion euros (or $1.44 billion) in damages on the French side of St. Martin and in St. Bart's, according to Reuters.
Trauma in Irma's Path
After striking in St. Martin, Hurricane Irma made its way to the British Virgin Islands. Richard Branson rode out the hurricane on his private island in the area, Necker Island, and he shared devastating details about the destruction.
“It is a traumatic time here in the British Virgin Islands,” Branson wrote in a blog post published on Friday. “Hurricane Irma is continuing a path of destruction that brought the eye of the storm to Necker Island, Moskito Island, and the whole surrounding area.”
Branson further noted that he has “never seen anything like this hurricane,” saying that the entire area had been “completely and utterly devastated,” with entire homes and trees having disappeared.
Locations like St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands faced catastrophic damage from the storm, with officials designating the area an active disaster zone six days after the storm, according to the New York Post.
Kenneth Mapp, governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands, told the publication it could take months until power is restored.
The storm then made its way into Puerto Rico, leaving streets like the one pictured severely flooded. Local rescue teams inspected flooded areas and cars throughout the vicinity to make sure individuals were not trapped.
While some parts of the country were decimated, particularly in the northeast, Puerto Rico is still a viable option for tourists, the country’s governor, Ricardo Rossello, told CNBC.
The storm did leave about 70 percent of the island without power, killing at least three individuals as it passed through.
Irma continued on to the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Turks and Caicos before making its way into the Bahamas and eventually to Cuba.
The group of islands that make up the Bahamas are bouncing back quickly, with major hotels already planning to be running by the end of the week.
Destruction in Cuba
The storm toppled through central Cuba with winds of more than 157 miles per hour, uprooting trees and ripping through the roofs of homes.
Authorities said more than a million people were evacuated as a precaution, while Irma destroyed many of the four-and-five-star hotels located in the Cuban keys.
A Direct Hit
At least 10 people were killed in Cuba due to Irma, with parts of Havana’s historic district remaining underwater as of Monday, authorities told the Los Angeles Times.
Entering the U.S.
Irma entered Florida on September 10 as a category 4 storm, leaving streets across the state flooded and millions out of power.
By the time the storm hit Marco Island, Florida, it saw a decrease in wind speed from 185 to 130 miles per hour. After pummeling directly through Cuba, it caused less damage to the area than some expected, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Despite its relatively slower winds, Irma still caused damage throughout the state, splitting through palm trees and knocking down entire homes.
All flights arriving in and departing from Florida were canceled to deal with major flooding and power outages that took place over the weekend and on Monday. Power has since been restored to some 2 million customers in the state, ABC reported.
As of Tuesday evening, however, there were still about 4.7 million residents and businesses in Florida without any electricity or air conditioning. Drinking water supplies were cut off and fuel was running low in the Keys, according to the Tampa Patch.
Storm With Strength
Irma was the first category 4 storm Florida had seen since 2004, knocking down everything from construction cranes to the roof of a gas station (as pictured above).
Retuning to Florida
Florida residents who evacuated ahead of the storm have been returning to their homes as the state looks into recovery, with analysts estimating that the losses to the state could be as high as $300 billion.
Other U.S. States Affected
The storm’s descent into Florida and other parts of the southeastern United States led to one of the biggest blackouts in the nation’s history, according to The New York Times, with as many as 13 million people left without power.
As of Wednesday morning, about 560,000 people remained without power in Georgia, while around 68,000 had no power in South Carolina, and about 31,000 had no electricity in North Carolina. In Alabama, roughly 1,400 customers remained without power as of Tuesday night, according to CNN.
The storm has killed at least 13 people in Florida and four in Georgia as of Wednesday afternoon, the Tampa Patch reported.
If you're interested in helping those affected by Hurricane Irma, here's how you an make sure to help in a responsible way.