While right-wing propagandists like Rush Limbaugh continue to urge American citizens to turn a blind eye to the fact that natural disasters are coming at a far more frequent and severe rate than in seasons past, islands in the Caribbean are feeling the full force of exactly what the strongest hurricane in recorded history can do. Hurricane Irma is coming and she is going to be a beast.
The island nation of Barbuda felt the full brunt of Irma. Nearly 90% of all of its buildings have been destroyed, rendering a near 60% of its inhabitants homeless and without communication systems. And, to make matters worse, they are also smack in the middle of the path of the forthcoming hurricane Jose, which is estimated to be churning at a current CAT 4. The island is in the process of a mandatory evacuation, in which all of Barbuda’s inhabitants are being sent to the nearby sister island of Antigua, which will hopefully be able to outlast Jose, as it was fortunate enough to manage during Irma when she struck in the early morning three days ago.
Irma has served as the cause of death for thirty people and counting. Island nations in the Caribbean, though accustomed through many years of batterings from hurricanes, are now taking every precaution they can in the way of mandatory evacuations and preparations for Jose and Katia. The coastal United States on the other hand, are not taking this threat so seriously.
I have never been more frustrated in my life than when I learned that my Floridian family members, determined to outwit both God and science, decided to stay home regardless of the mandatory evacuation notice they were served with early this morning. They were meant to be out of their homes by 6am this morning, but decided to wait out the storm at home, stocking up on water and dried food in order to “wait it out”.
Now, here are the facts. Hurrican Irma is a Category 5 storm. She has been able to sustain winds of over 175 miles per hour for nearly two and a half days and shows no sign of letting up as she comes closer and closer to landfall in Florida. 175 MPH is about the speed of your average tornado. Tornadoes, aren’t that intimidating to us midwesterners, of course, but factor in the concept that this tornado is roughly 80 miles in diameter and you’ve got yourself a recipe for disaster. I understand that homes and things are important, but isn’t giving yourself the best chance at survival also important?
If I’ve got any Floridians reading this, I am begging of you to make good choices as you face this storm. If you won’t leave your community, at least leave your home. Pack a bag of memories, put together some food, and find the nearest concrete building to you can to wait this out. Stay away from windows. Don’t drive at night. Be smart.
The last time I heard news reporters and meteorologists this serious about a natural disaster was back in 2012 when my community was destroyed by one of the strongest tornadoes ever recorded. Nobody took the warnings seriously. People were injured and even killed in the wake of the storm because they didn’t see this one as being “worse than any of the others”.
Nobody can read the future. There’s no reason to put your life into the hands of a storm like this. If a mandatory evacuation is put into effect, please just go. It might be a huge waste of time and money, but it may also be the one thing that could save your family’s life. Be safe in the coming days. Be smart. I’ll be praying for my Floridian family and for those who will soon be victims of this historic storm.