A red alert was triggered in the French islands of St. Barthelemy and St. Martin, who were facing the threat of hurricane Irma. The hurricane ultimately reached a category 5, the maximum on the scale, when it began to hit the West Indies, with winds of ‘unprecedented intensity in the Atlantic,’ according to French weather network Meteo France.
The forecast called for torrential rains and winds gusting at over 60 miles per hour. This power would then grow to exceed 180 mph. Several hours before Irma arrived in the West Indies, gusts of wind were already measured at around 220 mph.
While St. Barthelemy and St. Martin called for the total containment of their inhabitants, an aerospace engineer from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the United States published a scary video on Twitter. It was filmed while the scientist was flying through hurricane Irma in a plane.
Flight through the heart of the hurricane
On the footage the external conditions can be observed through the window of the aircraft. The visibility is almost zero and the wing of the craft seems to be hit by very strong winds. This intensity is confirmed by the interior views of the aircraft that show computers shaking under the impacts.
‘My day at the office,’ joked Nick Underwood on his Twitter post. The purpose of this engineer's mission was obviously not just to see what's going on in a hurricane. The scientist used this flight to collect data on Irma to produce prediction models for this hurricane and others.
Another crew which included the NOAA's Lieutenant Rob Mitchell also flew through Hurricane Irma, delivering another equally impressive video showing the shaking plane flying through a huge mass of clouds. The eye of the phenomenon was also filmed by the International Space Station (ISS).
Already significant material damage
According to the last reports the centre of the hurricane was about 30 miles in diameter when it hit St. Barthelemy early in the morning where it stayed for about an hour and half before hitting St. Martin. Very significant material damage was reported. According to a statement from the Prefecture of Guadeloupe, the prefecture of Saint-Martin was partly destroyed and the two islands experienced a total blackout.
‘Major flooding’ would also affect the ‘lower parts of the coast.’ At the time it was unclear whether there were any dead or wounded. In red alert, Guadeloupe remained more at the edge of the eye of the storm. But it was still hit by 60 mph winds, heavy rain and ‘very dangerous’ sea conditions.
After hitting the Lesser Antilles, the hurricane continued its course towards Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Florida by the end of the week.