Hurricane Irma 'destroys' Caribbean isle of Barbuda on its way to Florida

While Irma keeps our attention, two new hurricanes have also formed.

You might not have heard of the tiny Caribbean island of Barbuda unless you've visited it on a vacation. It's a tropical island paradise, with pink sandy beaches, gorgeous views and easy living.

That was, until one of the most powerful storms to ever form in the Atlantic Ocean hit.

Hurricane Irma has all but destroyed the tiny island as it churns toward the Florida coastline. As of 7:30 p.m. MDT, the storm was skating along the northern coast of Puerto Rico, lashing the U.S. territory with sustained winds of 185 mph and gusts up to 225.

Barbuda, an island of just over 1,600 people, saw that fierce power strike early Wednesday morning.

An infant was killed, Reuters reports, but that number may rise as the island begins to sift through the rubble and rebuild.

Gaston Browne, Antigua and Barbuda's prime minister, said the damage across Barbuda was "heart-wrenching, absolutely devastating," according to ABS-TV/Radio, an AM radio station in the nation.

He commended his people for heeding his warnings and preparing for the storm. They didn't take the storm lightly, but "we didn't really anticipate this level of damage," he told the network in a live interview.

Browne said the island couldn't communicate with the outside world, and that it took some time for him to get reports on the status of the island after the storm (Antigua is home to the capital, St. John's).

He said 95 percent of the island has been damaged in some way. If Hurricane Jose - already formed in the Atlantic behind Irma - strikes the island, Browne said it may have to be completely evacuated, the Antigua News Room said.

As Irma turns toward other islands, rolling its way toward the southern tip of Florida, it's claimed two more lives, according to NBC. Two people have been killed on the French islands of St. Martin and St. Barts.

The storm shows no signs of slowing down. It's expected to skim along Hispaniola, the island home to the Dominican Republic and Haiti, Cuba and then make landfall as a major hurricane (most likely a Category 5) near Miami.

The National Weather Service's forecast track shows Irma hitting Florida right at Miami, then rolling up the spine of the state, potentially smothering the state until it eventually goes back out into the Atlantic Ocean near Jacksonville, Florida. 

That won't be the end of the storm; the National Hurricane Center only forecasts five days out. 

It has Irma hitting Miami Sunday afternoon and heading just north of Jacksonville by Monday at 2 p.m. Georgia and South Carolina then come into its crosshairs. 

© 2017 KUSA-TV


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