While many corporate media outlets have been focused on the potential impact of Hurricane Irma on Florida and other southern states in the continental U.S., the Caribbean Islands are also preparing for what meteorologists are calling the strongest hurricane to form in the Atlantic in the past decade, as Irma has been upgraded to Category 5.
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) doesn’t know exactly where the storm will make landfall, but author and environmentalist Bill McKibben urged that attention be paid to several small Caribbean islands that could sustain serious damage in the coming days.
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Puerto Rico has declared a state of emergency, with Governor Ricardo Rossello activating the National Guard and opening shelters to house up to 62,000 people. Public schools on the island were also closed on Tuesday.
Hurricane warnings have also been issued on 12 islands including Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis, and the British and U.S. Virgin Islands.
Irma is expected to bring 175 mile per hour winds, up to ten inches of rainfall, and water levels up to nine feet higher than average.
Hurricane damage on these small islands has been catastrophic in recent years, as many are without a strong central infrastructure. Hurricane Matthew, another Category 5 storm, killed 600 people in the Caribbean last year, including 500 in Haiti alone.
Puerto Rico has also suffered from a deep economic recession over the past decade, which could make its recovery from potential damage even longer and more arduous than Houston’s from Hurricane Harvey. The island’s power company has predicted that if Puerto Rico sustains damage, some areas could be without electricty for up to six months.
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