Hurricane Irma will weaken into a tropical storm as it crossed the Florida panhandle into Georgia today, but late last week the storm was a monster category 5 force of nature that annihilated the Caribbean and wrecked multiple islands, the damage will take years to recover from.
From Cuba to Antigua, Caribbean islanders began counting the cost of Hurricane Irma on Sunday after the brutal storm left a trail of death, destruction and chaos from which the tourist-dependent region could take years to recover.
The Category 5 storm, which killed at least 28 people across the region, devastated housing, power supplies and communications, leaving some small islands almost cut off from the world. European nations sent military reinforcements to keep order amid looting, while the damage was expected to total billions of dollars.
Ex-pat billionaires and poor islanders alike were forced to take cover as Irma tore roofs off buildings, flipped cars and killed livestock, raging from the Leeward Islands across Puerto Rico and Hispaniola then into Cuba before turning on Florida.
Waves of up to 36 feet (11 meters) smashed businesses along the Cuban capital Havana’s sea-side drive on Sunday morning. Further east, high winds whipped Varadero, the island’s most important tourist resort.
“It’s a complete disaster and it will take a great deal of work to get Varadero back on its feet,” said Osmel de Armas, 53, an aquatic photographer who works on the beach at the battered resort.
Sea-front hotels were evacuated in Havana and relief workers spent the night rescuing people from homes in the city center as the sea penetrated to historic depths in the flood-prone area.
U.S President Donald Trump issued a disaster declaration on Sunday for Puerto Rico, where Irma killed at least 3 people and left hundreds of thousands without electricity. Trump also expanded federal funds available to the U.S. Virgin Islands, which suffered extensive damage to homes and infrastructure.
Further east in the Caribbean, battered islands such as St. Martin and Barbuda were taking stock of the damage as people began emerging from shelters to scenes of devastation.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the death toll on the Dutch part of St. Martin had doubled to four, and that 70 percent of homes had been damaged or destroyed.
Puerto Rico was already in the middle of a financial hurricane, the territory was locked in a battle with Congress over the island's bankruptcy declaration last year and what impact Irma will have on that restructuring of the island's $120 billion in debt and pension liabilities is unknown.
As bad as Irma's assessments will be for Florida as nearly five million are without power, remember that in Puerto Rico residents there could be facing that situation for months.
It's been a pretty rough couple of weeks weather-wise for North America...and with flooding still continuing in India, Nepal and Bangladesh, the world.