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It is the most aggressive hurricane in the history of the Caribbean

Update: Hurricane Irma, more devastating than predicted

The powerful Hurricane Irma, which has already reached category 5 - the highest category on the Saffir-Simpson scale - is headed for the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba, and Florida on the United States' east coast. 

The maximum winds reached so far have been 295 kilometres per hour, much more than the expected 185 according to forecasts. Irma stands out from recent hurricanes having reached the highest possible category as well as breaking the record for the longest duration according to the French Meteorological Service.

So far, provisional data indicate that there are a total of 11 dead, with eight dead on the island of San Martin, one in San Bartolomé, one in Barbuda and one in Puerto Rico with 21 injured on the island of San Martin.  

Puerto Rico
The hurricane officially landed as a category 5 on September 6 at 7 a.m. In its passage through the island, it has left infrastructure and vegetation completely damaged. The crews of two ships had to be rescued and almost half of the passengers were left without electricity. The material damages caused by the wind and the intense rains have not yet been quantified. Faced with this situation, sources consulted on the island said that the government recommended that producers collect the maximum amount of fruits and vegetables to try to avoid as many losses as possible.

Dominican Republic
The effects of the hurricane are just beginning to appear. Her check-in time was scheduled for 7 am local time. "We are waiting to see what happens, except to collect as many bananas as possible, it is not much else we can do," explains Julio Cruz, director of ManaDivine Dominicana. As a preventive measure, the government has had the reservoirs emptied to a minimum, as large amounts of water are expected. Ports and airports have been out of service since yesterday.

Lesser Antilles
According to official sources, Hurricane Irma will cover the whole of the Lesser Antilles between 7, 8, 9 and 10 September at Category 5.

Barbuda: 90% of the island has been devastated. The prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda has said that the second island, Antigua, has not suffered serious damage after the passage of 'Irma', on the Saffir-Simpson scale and is currently advancing with maximum sustained winds of 285 kilometers per hour.

San Martin: Winds of up to 295 kilometers per hour have been reached on the island. The eye of 'Irma', about 50 km in diameter, crossed the Antillean islands of San Bartolomé and San Martin, stayed an hour and a half in San Bartolomé and then reached San Martin, a little further northwest. "There are important impacts on these islands," Météo France said yesterday.

Some of Mayabeque's productions are already being harvested in advance. Modesto Abreu Díaz, president of the National Association of Small Farmers (ANAP), in the province, said that they began the extraction of cassava, corn, fruits such as guava, bananas; as well as viands, with the aim of not losing their productions.

Abreu Díaz indicated that there are other interests such as squash, avocado, and melon, which depend on a prompt collection due to the proximity of the rains to the nation, and that are removed from the fields early in order to reach their destinations.

Port Everglades: The port will close at 19.00 EST on Thursday (Sept. 7) and will remain closed through the weekend, it said. 

Circle City Produce Buyer, Leonard Wall: Wall said cucumbers, asparagus, strawberries, peppers and snow peas will likely be impacted the most.

“Peppers might be higher, $5-10 per-case higher to us, which means you’re gonna be looking at 20-50 cents more a pepper,” Wall said. 

Among those is the Florida citrus industry. Growers have been struggling with a disease known as citrus greening, which has cut production by about two-thirds in recent years. 

This is the start of picking season for the citrus industry. Even if the trees survive strong winds, officials worry the fruit will be stripped of them and a crucial harvest essentially lost.

Hurricane Irma could become the most expensive storm in U.S. history and has the potential to devastate the farm economy of Florida, a state with a unique history as a producer of winter fruits and vegetables given its warmer climate. 

Hurricane Irma is threatening to wreak havoc on Florida farmlands, menacing $1.2 billion worth of production in the top U.S. grower of fresh tomatoes, oranges, green beans, cucumbers, squash, and sugarcane. Damage to these crops could affect U.S. food prices and farmer finances in the months and years to come. 

Publication date: 9/7/2017


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