We wanted to provide an update on what we know so far with respect to Hurricane IRMA and us. It’s important to note that specific details or absolute facts are somewhat hard to obtain at present. Communications are very poor currently from the islands, although getting better by the hour. We’ll only state what we know at this point and not speculate on anything we don’t.
First, and most importantly — and we should have noted this more clearly before — we are off-island and entirely safe. Thank you to everyone who reached out concerned for our well-being and apologies for the lack of clarity on that subject. Things got really hectic in the lead up and we did not do a great job of communicating that point. Furthermore, everyone we know and have heard from, made it through the storm alive! We are still awaiting word from a few folks that are likely in harder hit areas and having difficulty connecting to the outside world. We expect this to happen in the coming hours or days and are getting updates frequently.
Second, our hurricane plan for our yacht has paid off in a big way. The dry dock in SXM largely survived the storm with what appears to be minimal impact to most assets there. Now, this IS an entirely relative statement based on the power and destruction of a Cat5 storm, and we don’t want to paint the wrong picture. We have received word that our boat is still upright, still has a mast, and on first pass the external damage appears to be manageable. There are parts of the boat obviously missing or broken, but no other boat impacted ours, nor did ours move and impact anyone else, nor is there anything visually that our folks have considered disastrous. She may need a wash at some point however :). We absolutely give huge credit to the fine folks at Bobby’s Megayard for their diligence, expertise, communications, and support throughout this ordeal. Thank you all…it means the world to us! And to our community down there who take the time to ensure our assets are safe and sound, it means a lot especially given what you’re all facing.
Next, it gets a little more gloomy, unfortunately. While some of our friends boats and houses have survived, many others have not. St Maarten/St Martin as an island is devastated. As are the neighbouring islands of Anguilla and St Barths, as well as most of the BVI’s/USVI’s. Locally, there appears to be no middle ground with boat damage – they are either entirely destroyed and write-offs, or survived. Huge boats were torn off and flipped over docks like toys. Boats were buzz-sawed in half in unimaginable ways. Thick concrete docks were ripped apart and dragged away. Massive steel cleats were sheered in half by chains and ropes. Some boats were deposited deep on shore, and some cars deposited in the water. Concrete walls collapsed. Communications towers and satellite dishes imploded. The air traffic tower at the French airport collapsed on to the runway. And in some cases, things just don’t seem to exist anymore, likely blown out to sea forever. Utilities are deeply impacted, and communications are offline or spotty. The island is entirely and unequivocally destroyed.
We feel it’s important to understand how powerful this storm was and why is did so much damage. Without going into too much scientific detail, the forces that were at play with this storm were apocalyptic and unfathomable. The maximum wind speeds were estimated to be 225mph / 360kph, with sustained winds of 185mph / 300kph. In context, the next time you’re driving down the highway, stick your hand out the window at 60mph / 100kph and feel the force on your palm. Then imagine a staggering 12 times that force, sustained for several hours in one direction, then reversed for several hours and you begin to get a sense of what happened. This acted on boats, houses, cars, trees, infrastructure, whatever. Put another way, there is no commercial airliner in the world that has a take-off speed higher than these sustained winds, and the closest is the 747 weighing in at 800,000 lbs/ 362,870 kg.
Sadly, there is another Category 4 hurricane lining up behind this one named JOSE. It is expected to make its pass of SXM Saturday night with a current range of about 60Mi / 100km. It is currently packing central winds of 150mph / 240kph. As of now hurricane force winds extend outward up to 35 miles (55 km) from the centre and tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 115 miles (185 km) meaning SXM is in for another battle this weekend. There is an 84% chance SXM sees Tropical Storm force winds and a 27% they see hurricane forces. This will add considerable damage to an already hurt island and we hope for the best. We’re also hoping that people on the island are aware of this, as communications are so poor right now.
The next steps for us are as follows. We will continue to attempt to find our friends, this is top priority. We will continue to run air support and coordinate from afar for anyone that needs it. We will, when prudent, attempt to get south and help locally as possible. We will help coordinate any funding or support when we have a more clear idea of the best approach. And we will continue to update everyone on what we know. The Dutch Marines have arrived as of yesterday and are starting to provide their support. There was a C130 military plane that was able to land yesterday, which is encouraging. Boat and support are on the way and hopefully people stay safe and support each other.
Here are some links to dramatic pictures and videos available online:
Thank you all for your love, support, kind words, and concerns. We truly have the best community around us and it is showing every minute. SXM will get through this. Bend, don’t break.