It was already one for the history books.

The extent of Hurricane Irma's damage to many Caribbean islands remained unknown as of press time last week due to widespread lack of communications, but as images of its havoc played out on social media and news outlets, it became clear that its winds already packed a huge capacity for destruction. And Irma's rampage was far from complete.

The story continued to play out, with dangerous unknowns still ahead for the Turks and Caicos, the Bahamas, then Florida when the storm was expected to pivot north.

The hurricane's wrath had already been felt from the tiny coral-ringed island of Barbuda and the hills of St. Bart's to low-lying Anguilla, the archipelago of the British Virgin Islands, the Dutch/French isle of St. Maarten/Martin and to St. Thomas and St. John, two of the three U.S. Virgin Islands.

(St. Croix, the third U.S. Virgin Island, took it on the chin in Hurricane Hugo in 1989.)

The problems facing the ravaged islands were numerous and heartbreaking. With 95% of Barbuda described as "uninhabitable" by prime minister Gaston Browne; images of red-tile rooftops scattered along roadways in Marigot, St. Martin; and mangled check-in areas and boarding gates at Princess Juliana Airport in St. Maarten, the recovery efforts seemed next to impossible.

Close to 70% of Puerto Rico's 3 million-plus inhabitants were without power, a situation that realistically could last for months, according to Puerto Rico's Electric Power Authority.

With power out in St. Thomas and St. John, a curfew was imposed. The last message posted on Facebook by Richard Doumeng, owner of Bolongo Bay Beach Resort in St. Thomas as he hunkered with his family and staff before the storm hit, said it all: "It's bad here, folks, really bad."

There had been no direct communication from St. Martin or St. Barts as of late Thursday, although the Guardian newspaper reported that the French government was sending an emergency team and supplies to the islands and a supply ship was steaming from Curacao in the southern Caribbean to aid St. Maarten.

Compounding an already horrific catastrophe was Hurricane Jose, following Irma's track and threatening some of the very same islands already decimated.

Statistics painted as grim a picture as the images of upended boats and homes blown asunder.

According to the National Hurricane Center, Irma as of last Thursday was the strongest Atlantic basin storm ever recorded: Its hurricane-force winds covered 65,000 square miles, roughly the size of Florida, and reached sustained speeds of more than 180 mph for more than 24 hours, setting a record.

What all this means for tourism in the Caribbean region remains to be seen. The period between now and the start of the peak season in mid-December is usually a slow time for tourism, although hotels tout promotional offers as enticements.

Earlier this year, the Caribbean Tourism Organization forecasted that growth this year would surpass the 29 million arrivals recorded in 2016.

Sept. 1 marked the halfway point in the six-month hurricane season, at least according to the calendar. That is especially concerning given the rampage already played out by Irma.


From Our Partners

2021 Family Expo
Family Travel Expo
Register Now
Air Astana 1366
Air Astana
Read More
2021 Caesars Webinar
Watch Now

JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI