Irma's Impact In Puerto Rico

Sep 9, 2017
Originally published on September 9, 2017 4:06 pm
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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

And we continue to follow the path of Hurricane Irma as it bears down on Florida. Of course, the storm has already culled vast destruction - caused vast destruction throughout the entire length of the Caribbean. NPR's Jason Beaubien is on the line from San Juan, Puerto Rico. Jason, thanks for being with us.

JASON BEAUBIEN, BYLINE: You know, it's good to be with you.

SIMON: And help us understand the scale of the damage Irma has caused in so many nations of the Caribbean.

BEAUBIEN: You know, on Tuesday, Irma first start lashing the eastern most part of the Caribbean, the Leeward Islands. It made landfall late Tuesday night on Barbuda. That's that island on the very northeast corner of the Caribbean. And it was a Category 5 when it hit there. But if I had to summarize its journey through here, you know, it did hit some places incredibly hard. It caused massive destruction. But it also managed to just sort of skirt along the big population centers. It didn't cause massive damage here in Puerto Rico, where I am. Same thing in the Dominican Republic, Haiti. We haven't yet heard of the extensive damage in Cuba.

These places definitely felt the effects of this storm, but they didn't feel the full destructive force of its 185-mile-an-hour winds. For example, here in Puerto Rico, there's a lot of downed trees, power lines. A lot of businesses shut, schools closed. There was one exception, an island off the far east coast of Puerto Rico, Culebra. And the governor said that was flattened. You know, but for the most part, the island was spared. One of the local newspapers, El Nuevo Dia, they described Puerto Rico as this person who is bracing for a powerful punch and closes his eyes. And he's waiting for that blow to come. And then he sort of opens his eyes and is surprised to see that it didn't really hit.

SIMON: Yeah. There were a lot of islands that were very hard hit, too. And I wonder what we know about them from your vantage point?

BEAUBIEN: Yeah. Barbuda, that one on the far eastern most part of the Caribbean, it got absolutely slammed. St. Martin got hit hard. In the U.S. Virgin Islands, it's interesting, St. Thomas was battered. And yet, in neighboring St. Croix, it just wasn't quite as bad. And so now, St. Croix is being used as a staging ground to evacuate people out of St. Thomas.

SIMON: And another storm is coming in the Caribbean, Hurricane Jose. What do we know about Jose? How large a storm? Where is it located? What are the concerns?

BEAUBIEN: Jose is a very powerful storm. It's a Cat 4 storm at the moment. It's got winds of 150 miles an hour. Sort of the cruelest part of this is that it could ravage Barbuda all over again. Some of those other Leeward Islands on the far northeast side of the Caribbean that suffered so much from Irma, they're also directly in Jose's path. It is predicted that before it gets here to Puerto Rico, it's forecast to take a turn to the north and go out into the Atlantic, away from the Caribbean.

You know, but even with that prediction, people that I've spoken to here in Puerto Rico, they're very nervous. And also in other parts of the Caribbean, they're worried that places that just got completely slammed are going to get hit again. And they're worried that this forecast might change and Jose could still be a threat.

SIMON: NPR's Jason Beaubien in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Thanks very much for being with us.

BEAUBIEN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.