Sigh of relief as hurricanes turn into tropical storms
As Mexico braced for Hurricane Katia, which followed a different path to Irma and Jose, the South-Eastern coast of Mexico was hit by a much greater menace, an 8.1 magnitude earthquake that left 61 people dead, half of the fatalities were in Juchitan. The quake was labeled by many meteorologists as the worst earthquake in a century.
Before the hurricane, citrus import and exporter Don Limón had been concerned about Hurricane Katia having a devastating effect on their Persian limes because the path of Katia was projected to hit the company’s pack houses. Mercifully, Hurricane Katia was quickly downgraded to a tropical depression and reports said that although some rivers had risen to near flood levels, it did not appear to cause any major damage in the region.
Florida breathes sigh of relief
Hurricane Irma, which has now been downgraded to Category 1, with maximum winds of 75 miles per hour, is now making its journey landwards, losing some of its deadly strength but retaining its vast size.
There were also fears of a tsunami, after the strength of the storm made water retreat from beaches throughout the Caribbean and Florida, but luckily this was not the case, with the water returning again within a few hours.
The hurricane came ashore on the mainland as a Category 2 storm, flooded parts of down town Miami and knocked over construction cranes there as winds exceeded 100 m.p.h. The storm’s eye was north of Tampa at 5 a.m. Forecasters expect it to stay inland over Florida as it heads into Georgia, before moving on to Alabama and Tennessee.
According to the National Hurricane Center, Irma is expected to weaken to a tropical storm by Monday morning, and become a tropical depression by Tuesday afternoon.
Full extent of damages not yet known
Although the storm has been dying down, things are definitely not back to normal for those living in Florida. Phones are still down, making it impossible to reach citrus producers at this time for an assessment of the current situation.
According to one person we did reach by cell phone, "We are still without power here, the phone lines are down, and all I have is my cell phone. I have been separate from my family and without a way to charge my cell, it is really a lifeline. The storm is still going on to a certain extent, so many of the experts haven't had the chance yet to go and access any damage to citrus. It is still too soon to comment."
A papaya producer in Puerto contacted Freshplaza to give an update on the current situation there. Although, Puerto Rico was relatively spared from the full wrath of Irma, compared to other Islands, infrastructure problems meant that 70% of residents were left without power after the storm.
According to Mayra Quiñonez from MS Mango Farm, "We were fortunate that the hurricane didn't affect the south of the island, where a majority of growers are located. It brought only rain and strong winds and we did not have significant losses. I did hear about some losses in the West-Central region of Puerto Rico, hitting a plantain farm."
There was more good news for the United States, and some of the previously hit Caribbean islands who had been in the path of Irma, but were spared by the second category four Hurricane, Jose. The second hurricane ending up veering north towards the mid-Atlantic, sparing the US and islands like St. Martin and St. Barts, who had already suffered catastrophic damage from Irma.