The storm-battered islands taking the brunt of the winds


Lindsey Smith and Leah Doubert, Contributing writers

With maximum sustained winds of over 185 miles per hour, Hurricane Irma was one of the strongest storms ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean.  The Category 5 hurricane was the fifth storm ever to reach this level, and the longest-lived hurricane of that strength. making it only the fifth ever storm to reach this level.

While most of the major news sources focused on the hurricane’s effects on Florida, the vast majority of victims remained undiscussed.  Irma hit Florida as a Category 3 storm, and the hurricane continued to lose power as it pushed up through Florida.  The Caribbean islands, however, were dealt a much harsher blow. Residents of Barbuda, St. Martin, Puerto Rico, and other areas lost much more than most residents in Florida, but their plight has been largely ignored. Entire islands were completely decimated by the hurricane, drastically changing the human geography of the region.

Before the hurricane, most people in the United States were only focused on evacuating Florida and keeping track of the storm that was about to hit.  Very few, however, were aware of the situation south of Florida.  The treacherous storm left death, destruction, and chaos in its wake throughout the Northern Caribbean region.  Streets were flooded. Hospitals and airports collapsed, rendering them useless. Power supplies and houses were all swept away, and entire cities were leveled. As a result, some islands were completely cut off from the rest of the world.

The majority of the citizens of Barbuda have been relocated to Antigua, and have not been able to return back home.  Barbuda is an island that was continuously inhabited for the last 350 years. For the first time since its colonization, no human life existed on the island’s shores following the storm.  Over 75% of buildings on Barbuda are no longer standing, meaning that a full reconstruction of the island’s entire society is required.   This is a process that can last years, if not decades.  St Martin, the joint French-Dutch Island, was also made practically uninhabitable by Hurricane Irma.  This does not even scratch the surface of the devastation, and other islands, including Turks and Caicos, St Kitts and Nevis, Guadalupe, and the Virgin Islands, were all affected.

“We should care about the damage done to the Caribbean by Irma because a lot of lives are affected and put at risk,” said sophomore Maddie Hiller.  “Also, their main source of income is tourism and if they can’t rebuild and recover they will have trouble surviving economically.”

Many tourists have had to cancel their vacation plans in the Caribbean due to the storm, impacting the economy of many countries.  Most islands heavily rely on the influx of foreign tourists to support their economies.  Additionally, any semblance of industry or agriculture has been devastated on all the affected islands.

This storm has made countless people realize that climate change is an issue that can no longer be brushed aside.  Earth’s ever-rising temperatures have been the cause of multiple major storms recently, namely Hurricane Harvey, which caused extensive damage and flooding in Texas earlier in September.

“Irma has shown people that climate change is a real issue.  If it is already causing such devastating storms, it’s hard to imagine how much worse the effects will be in the future,” said sophomore Daniel Hart.

The devastation of Irma is especially worrisome because, with rising ocean temperatures, these kinds of major storms will only become more and more common in the decades to come leading to more loss of life, destruction of infrastructure, and expensive reconstruction.

It is also important for us to focus on the harm that Irma has caused in the Caribbean so we can form a bond with the countries involved.  This could mean help from the Caribbean in the future, expanding the numbers of allies and partners for the United States.  International partnership is of the utmost importance in this day and age, even with countries that may seem peripheral.

All of the people affected by the hurricane are in need of help and support from other countries to fix the damage caused by Irma.

“It seems far away from us, but the people that were affected by Irma deserve the same things we do like clean water and electricity.  It’s hard to imagine being without those things for so long,” said senior Lauren Seltzer.

It is important to understand that while we were lucky enough to not be affected by Irma, it is possible that we could soon be hit with a major storm as well.

Even now, the devastation is not finished.  Following Irma, Hurricane Maria and Hurricane Jose battered several other Caribbean islands in quick succession.  Recovery efforts are ongoing, and the situation is dire.

Standing together to help those in need in the Caribbean who were affected by Hurricane Irma shows the strength of national character and shows that we, as a people, will always get up to help those who need our assistance.

“Although we aren’t all from the same background or countries, we’re all human, and when a tragedy like this happens it’s so important that we all give a little to help each other,” said senior Amanda Krantz.