Hurricane Irma didn’t go easy on the small island of Anguilla whatsoever when it hit land on September, 6th 2017, but this tiny island in the Caribbean was prepared from 22 years earlier after experiencing the strength of Hurricane Luis. They had built their homes and community to withstand the strength of winds around 200mph. If you are looking to contribute to the restoration of the island in any way continue reading.
As a medical student studying in Anguilla for the past year, this small island had become my new home. I was hesitant to leave the island when there were warnings about the arrival of Hurrican Irma, and it was my decision to stay. I’m currently still living on the island and have seen the changes daily, as well as the incredible resilience of the locals. This post will discuss how exactly Hurricane Irma affected the island of Anguilla.
As it was nearing Anguilla, Hurricane Irma flirted with meteoroligists and those keeping a close track on the NOAA database. It jumped in and out of strength from a category 3 to a category 4 and then category 5. By the time the hurricane reached Anguilla it had winds at around 225mph – making scientists want to declare a new category 6 level hurricane.
The entire storm lasted approximately 7 hours, beginning at 5:54am on September 6th and lasting until 1:13pm in the afternoon on the same day. The apartment I stayed in during the storm had boarded the windows, along with all of the other businesses and homes in the island, save for one looking out to the northwestern side of the island. It was there that I was able to see the affect of the storm while it was happening. Trees were bent horizontally, loose building materials were ripped off like a stray thread pulled from a piece of clothing. Water seeped into the apartment through the caulking of the windows and collected on the floor to reach a total height of approximately 2 inches. The air felt heavy and smelled like the ocean and the winds banging against the cement buildings were as loud as a truck driver’s horn.
Anguilla before Hurricane Irma
As mentioned before, this wasn’t Anguilla’s first rodeo when it came to hurricanes. Hurricane Luis trashed through the island 22 years ago, leaving the small island without power for two months and flooding that destroyed plenty of crops, natural foliage and the beaches. Since then, the locals of the island have been prepared for another storm.
Their homes are built with cement blocks reinforced with rebar wiring. They followed the architectural design of Caribbean colonial style housing. Some other houses weren’t aesthetically pleasing to the eye, but they were built with keeping a family safe and in shelter.
Some people who have visited the island have remarked that it looks like a time capsule from 20 years ago – and to an extent they are correct. Some part of the island were unable to afford restoring and upgrading th
e infrastructure to full capactiy. There are a few homes that were built with a wooden stick frame or used sheet metal as the roofing. Those were the only homes, along with the homes that had been previously abandoned, that took the majority of the damage from the storm.
The beaches are Anguilla’s marketing namesake and are the reason for their tourism empire. Anguilla-Beaches goes into beautiful detail of the 33 gorgeous beaches on this island, and the surrounding amenities that attracted so many tourists from around the world.
Damage inflicted to Anguilla
Luckily, the majority of the damage to the island was mostly done to the foliage and the telephone poles. As mentioned above, the homes that took damage were not built to withstand winds to the strength of Hurricane Irma. There was sand and debris blown into the villages of the island near the beaches, and fallen trees and telephone poles plaguing the streets immediately after the storm.
What still cracks me up is the still standing 300 year old building in The Valley. It is the oldest standing building on the island and it took barely any damage in comparison to others buildings and homes built with similar material.
Cleaning up the island
Initially, the island was under the impression that a second hurricane, Hurricane Jose, was scheduled to arrive at our doorstep just a few days
after Hurricane Irma made its debut. Locals were concerned for the now loose debris and made quick efforts to pick up and stabilize the island where they could.
The Flow building’s tower was still working after Irma, and people would flock to its doorsteps to get access to limited wifi and data. They would contact family members and stay updated on the news of Hurricane Jose.
The ferry system and aiport were down for the first initial few days after Hurricane Irma. So if people were loo
icane Irma affected Anguilla, what to expect if you are planning to visit the island any time soon, and how you can help bring this country with a population of 15,000 back to its full glory… and then some.
king to get off the island, they needed to pay for private charters to take them only as far as Antigua or St. Kitts in order to find international flights back to their homes.
Since we were blessed to have been missed by Hurricane Jose, the island of Anguilla has taken many steps over the past few weeks to pick up the island, piece by piece. Workers at Angelec (the local electricity company), Flow, and Digicel have been working tirelessly to repair damaged telephone poles and power supplies. Locals have been cleaning the debris collected in their yards and in public areas. The island has been springing back to life day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute. Everyone is working tirelessely to get back to normal life before the hurricane hit as quickly as possible.
Some people are lucky to have personal generators at their homes, allowing them diesel fueled power at night. Others take advantage of community locations to charge their devices and share wifi access. Big grocery stores like Best Buy West and other privately owned markets have kicked on their generators to continue business as usual.
The biggest problem I’ve noticed since Irma is that because the majority of locals here don’t have refrigerators to keep fresh food, or cash because they lost their businesses, they are in situations where they buy canned meats and foods lacking in the proper nutrition everyone needs. This is something people can help improve by sending donated money and nutritional foods to the Anguillan Red Cross.
British military and civilians who can afford flights into the country have been slowly flying in supplies and volunteers every day to get Anguilla back on its feet. Their presence is welcomed by the locals as they help to rebuild this colorful island back to its entirety.
Stay updated on the cleanup
What We Do in Anguilla keeps an awesome list focusing on all of the businesses opening back up since the hurricane.
See who’s open in Anguilla here.
Electricity to the Island
Electricity is confirmed back in the following areas of the island – if you know of other areas on the island let me know in the comments below.
Central parts of The Valley
How you can help restore Anguilla
Crowd Funding Campaigns
APANY is the official hurricane relief charitable organization designated by the government of Anguilla. Donations are tax-deductible.
SJSM Red Cross has raised $600 of its $5K goal since September 18, 2017. The fundraiser is run by my school, Saint James School of Medicine Anguilla. Donations will go towards the Anguilla Red Cross foundation to provide food and supplies to locals.
Anguilla Relief Fund has raised $40K of its $200K goal since September 18, 2017. The donations are put towards sending supplies to the locals in Anguilla.
Anguilla Hurricane Relief Fund has raised $45K of its $75K goal since September 18, 2017. The donations are put towards sending supplies to the locals in Anguilla.
English Rose Irma Relief Fund has raised $2K of its $20K goal since September 18, 2017. The owner’s daughter is a student at Saint James School of Medicine. Funds go towards the repair of the popular food spot in The Valley.
Pumphouse Relief Fund has raised approximately $4800 of its $18K goal (donations are made in CHF which converts to $1.04 US dollars for every CHF 1. Help support the regrowth of the popular watering hole in Sandy Ground.
Elvis’ Beach Bar Rebuild has raised $18K of its $35K goal since September 18, 2017. Funds go towards the rebuild of the popular bar and grill located on the beautiful Sandy Ground sand.
Anguilla Beaches’ Hurricane Donation List
Nori over at Anguilla Beaches has done a wonderful job putting together a full list of places you can send supplies and donations to. She’s got it broken down from national organizations to private GoFundMe pages. Check out her post here.
Currently I have only been able to find British military and those who can afford private charters into the island be able to access Anguillan soil. I am in communication with a number of resources on and off the island and will return with more information.
Spread the Word!
Share this page on any of your social media so that this island can get the help it needs to get back on its feet. Anguilla’s major source of income is its tourism industry which is normally during November to February. Anything we can do to help, from sharing to donating to organizing reliefs, will help bring the island of Anguilla back to its full glory.
If you have any questions or suggestions please leave them in the comments below.
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