UPDATED TO INCLUDE IRMA’S 11 A.M POSITION
NASSAU, The Bahamas, Friday September 8, 2017 – Irma, now downgraded slightly to a Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds now at 150 miles per hour, is moving through the southeastern Bahamas after pummeling the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) overnight when it was still a Category 5 system.
After slamming a line of Caribbean countries beginning in the northern Leeward Islands, Irma’s 175 mile-per-hour winds and 20-foot waves battered the British overseas territory. With communications down as the hurricane’s fury was unleashed, the extent of the devastation remains unclear.
— Hurricane Info (@HurricaneData) September 8, 2017
Before Irma reached the TCI, Irma’s lashing winds and rains left more than a million people without power and tens of thousands without water in Puerto Rico. There are reports of flooding and three confirmed fatalities, which push the death toll from Irma to at least 13.
Governor Ricardo Rosselló declared a disaster in the tiny islands of Culebra and Vieques, to Puerto Rico’s east, which were hard-hit by the storm.
— THE LONE PREACHER ™ (@JeanMinistries) September 8, 2017
— CTV News (@CTVNews) September 7, 2017
Haiti and the Dominican Republic, which share the island of Hispaniola, avoided direct hits but still suffered major damage. A key bridge between the two countries was taken out, heavy rains thrashed Haiti’s north coast and several areas lost power; and in the Dominican Republic, there were flattened buildings, downed trees and power lines.
— Debbie Lucien (@MadameCaleb) September 7, 2017
And there are now fears about what will happen in southeastern Bahamas. Despite Irma’s winds having now decreased to 155 miles per hour, it is still a dangerous hurricane.
The majority of residents in the islands expected to be worst hit by Irma – Great Inagua, Mayaguana, Acklins, Crooked Islands and Ragged Island – had complied with an evacuation order and were flown to the capital, Nassau. But Captain Stephen Russell of the Bahamas national emergency management agency told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that others were stubborn and simply refused to go.
“Those who have stayed include troops, police officers and persons who just made up their mind that they are not going to leave their island. That is their choice. The government of the Bahamas made a strong appeal for all of them to leave the island but they made up their minds that they are going to ride out the storm in the islands,” he said.
“I fear for those person who chose not to evacuate from the islands…There is very little we can do to assistant until Monday or Tuesday….[The fear is that] when we go into those areas we are going to find persons in serious distress and even fatalities.”
At 11 am., Hurricane Irma was moving towards the west-northwest near 14 miles per hour. The eye is expected to move near the north coast of Cuba and the central Bahamas today and tomorrow, and be near Florida on Sunday.
On the forecast track, the core of Hurricane Irma will move between the north coast of Cuba and the Bahamas during the next day or two before heading to Florida.
“Some fluctuations in intensity are likely during the next day or two, but Irma is forecast to remain a
powerful Category 4 hurricane as it approaches Florida,” the National Hurricane Centre said.
Meantime, the Leeward Islands are keeping a close eye on Hurricane Jose which continues to follow Irma’s track.
And as Irma weakens, Jose strengthens. At 5 a.m. it was at category 3 strength, with maximum sustained winds near 125 miles per hour.
It was located about 535 miles east southeast of the northern Leeward Islands and moving towards the west northwest at 16 miles per hour.
A slower west- northwestward motion is expected during the next couple of days and on the forecast track, Jose is expected to be near the northern Leeward Islands tomorrow.
A hurricane watch is in effect for Antigua and Barbuda and Anguilla (which are also under tropical storm warning), St Maarten, St Martin, and Saint Barthélemy; and a tropical storm warning is in place for Montserrat, St Kitts and Nevis, Saba and St Eustatius.