GREAT BAY – The 22nd anniversary of Hurricane Luis is tomorrow, September 5, while Hurricane Irma is barreling down on the island. The way things looked late on Sunday afternoon, Irma’s hurricane force winds will hit St. Maarten. Yesterday morning it still looked like the hurricane would narrowly miss the island.
Yesterday afternoon the government of the Netherlands issued a hurricane warning for St. Maarten, Saba and Statia. Hurricane warnings are also in place for neighboring islands like Anguilla, St. Barths, Antigua, Barbuda, Montserrat and St. Kitts and Nevis.
On Sunday morning at 11 a.m. Irma’s location was at 17.7 N and 48.4 W. St. Maarten’s coordinates are 18.0425 N and 63.0548 W. this shows that the center of the system was just 38 kilometers south of St. Maarten and 1,622 kilometers to the east. At a speed of 22 kilometers per hour, the system is now expected to be the closest to St Maarten’s coordinates on Wednesday around noon, though the National Hurricane Center said at 5 p.m. yesterday afternoon that the northern Leeward Islands would start feeling the storm by late Tuesday.
At 5 p.m. the storm was located at 17.6 N – 49.8 W. That’s just 44 kilometers south of St. Maarten and 1,467 kilometers to the east.
Maximum sustained winds remained 185 kilometers per hour, but the National Hurricane Center said that the system is strengthening over the next 48 hours. Hurricane winds now extend 55 kilometers outward from the center, indicating that St. Maarten will experience hurricane force winds. Tropical storm force winds extend 220 kilometers outward from the center.
Prime Minister William Marlin chaired an emergency operations center meeting on Friday. The PM has asked military assistance from the Dutch ministry of Defense in case Irma causes real trouble. There is already a detachment of marines on the island, but the government calls on 40 additional marines from their stations in Curacao or Aruba.
“It is key to prepare and not wait until the hurricane is knocking at the door,” Marlin said on Friday. He urged citizens to review hurricane emergency preparedness plans, check hurricane shutters and take stock of what needs to be done in case the call comes to close down businesses.
The Vromi-Ministry was busy lowering the water level in the Great Salt Pond on Friday. “The objective is to ensure that if there is a large amount of rainfall, the pond’s holding capacity will be sufficient to retain the water, thereby avoiding potential flooding of nearby areas,” the government said in a press statement.
The government wants to have hurricane shelters in every district and the emergency operations center was working on expanding the number of shelters. However, these shelters are a last resort: “They will only open after a hurricane has passed and they will be open for 48 hours only,’ the press statement said.
“Those who don’t feel safe “should make preparations to stay with family or friends before a hurricane hits the island,” the government said.
Yesterday morning the disaster management team had another meeting and in the afternoon PM Marlin met again with the Emergency Operations Center