Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Breaking Island News

Caribbean: Private Islands In Recovery After Hurricane Irene

One of the largest hurricanes in recent memory left many private islands battered and bruised – now that the storm has moved on, it’s time to pick up the pieces.

(Idyllic: Great Stirrup Cay before Hurricane Irene)

The path of Hurricane Irene, a tropical storm that was considered by meteorologists to be the largest to hit the continental United States in seven years, left a trail of destruction across much of the Caribbean and US Eastern Seaboard, estimated by some analysts to be at least US $3.5B, with some assessments reaching into the tens of billions of dollars. As the storm swept from Puerto Rico across the Caribbean and made landfall in North Carolina, among Irene’s causalities were a number of private islands, including in the hard-hit BVI and Bahamas. A number of cruise lines have announced itinerary changes or temporary closures due to the storm’s damage, including Carnival, Disney, and Norwegian.

(Image from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

One of the most striking examples of Irene’s wrath was a severe lightning storm over the British Virgin Islands on August 22nd, just before the full  size and power of the storm was understood. Prior to the hurricane crashing through Puerto Rico and Hispaniola, knocking out power and causing the evacuations of tens of thousands of people, storm clouds over the BVI unleashed a violent bout of rain and lightning.

One unlucky bolt struck the main house on Sir Richard Branson’s $50K+a night retreat, Necker Island, setting a fire that would burn the tropical-style wooden home to the ground. With some quick thinking, all of the 20 guests, including actress Kate Winslet and her small children, were saved, but Sir Richard is now faced with rebuilding his beloved Great House from the ground up. He is, however, philosophical about the prospect: according to an interview given to the Daily Mail, he intends to begin reconstruction as soon as possible, and reportedly told Winslet as they watched the fire ravage the house;

“At the end of the day, what you realise is that all that matters is the people that you love. Everything else is just stuff. And none of that stuff matters.”

(Necker Island Image from VPI)

According to one noted catastrophic-risk analyst, the Boston-based AIR Worldwide, of the potential US $1.1B cost to insurers in the Caribbean alone, the Bahamas took the lion’s share at 60% of the damage, estimated at between $300-$700M. The country is home to the private islands of numerous celebrities like Johnny Depp and David Copperfield, as well as famous cruise-line ports of call like CoCo Cay and Great Stirrup Cay, large, fun-filled paradise islands which are usually the highlights of the trip for many cruisers.

The damage wreaked on these isles was obviously serious enough to need a major clean-up – Royal Caribbean has cancelled stops at CoCo Cay for the time being, as a spokesperson for the cruise line explained that “we feel our guest’s experience ashore would be disrupted”. Great Stirrup Cay is not operational either; according to its owners Norwegian Cruise Lines, the island received some damage, and a team is currently assessing the steps that will need to be taken to rehabilitate the island. The company anticipates that the island will be in shape to receive visitors by Saturday, September 3rd, missing two scheduled cruise stops. While the company has not commented on any potential damage, Disney’s Castaway Cay is also closed to visitors for at least one scheduled stop. Carnival has announced that their Half Moon Cay will not reopen until September 4th due to the need for a clean-up, but, thankfully, their stable of horses were uninjured.

Read more about Hurricane Irene’s impact in USA Today:  Link

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