Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 storm, made landfall around 2 a.m. Eastern in Barbuda on Wednesday, according to recent reporting from The New York Times and other media outlets. The eye of the hurricane passed over Barbuda and was heading toward Puerto Rico and other Caribbean Islands as of the time of this update.
The hurricane reportedly tracked north over Antigua, which reported less damage than initially anticipated, but made a direct hit on Barbuda, a small island of about 2,000 people, knocking out phone lines and making it hard to fully assess the impact of the storm. The New York Times also wrote in its ongoing live updates that St. Barthélemy and St. Martin have reported major damage to buildings and other infrastructure.
Hurricane Irma’s next targets potentially include Puerto Rico, St. Kitts and Nevis, the Virgin Islands and Hispaniola—shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Cuba is also said to be threatened by Irma.
President Trump declared “a pre-landfall emergency” for Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands on Tuesday evening, a move that allows FEMA to coordinate all disaster relief efforts in the three areas.
Puerto Rico officials are worried that the island’s electric grid could be shut down for months in some areas and that winds from the hurricane could disable the island’s phone system and damage houses/infrastructure.
Meanwhile, cities in Florida are preparing for the worst, with USA Today reporting that the Key West International Airport plans to halt most flights on Wednesday evening. The Florida Keys & Key West CVB notified Meetings Today that "Delta still has three flights planned from Key West to Atlanta set for Thursday and American is flying two flights, one to Miami and one to Charlotte." The Miami Herald reported on Tuesday evening that the Miami-Dade area was planning its first major evacuation in 12 years ahead of Irma.
The Florida Keys' evacuation plans are detailed on the Florida Keys & Key West CVB website.
“Do not sit and wait to prepare,” Florida Gov. Rick Scott said on Tuesday. “Get prepared now.”
Visit Florida, Visit Orlando, The Florida Keys & Key West CVB, the Greater Miami CVB and Visit Fort Lauderdale have all posted website updates with Hurricane Irma developments and emergency contacts.
Stay tuned to the Meetings Today website for more updates as they become available. As many news outlets have reported, the path of Hurricane Irma is still unclear, but safety precautions should be taken.