Nation & World

Richard Branson finds a nice place to hunker down on his island as Hurricane Irma hits

Beach camera shows Hurricane Irma make landfall in St Maarten

Live footage shows the power of Hurricane Irma as it destroys the Maho Beach Cam in St Maarten. Video courtesy of PTZtv.
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Live footage shows the power of Hurricane Irma as it destroys the Maho Beach Cam in St Maarten. Video courtesy of PTZtv.

Richard Branson, whose net worth is $5 billion, didn’t plan any fancy evacuation in a private jet to escape the brunt of Hurricane Irma.

Instead, the Virgin Group founder will hunker down on his private Caribbean island in the British Virgin Islands, despite acknowledging that almost nothing — including the “really strong buildings (with hurricane blinds)” built on his island — can withstand a Category 5 hurricane.

He’ll be in his wine cellar alongside his team, the Washington Post reported.

Some of his guests, though, “have cut their trip short for safety reasons, and another group of guests have also postponed,” Branson wrote in a blog post.

Branson goes on to romanticize the coming hurricane, which is expected to batter the islands throughout Wednesday.

“It may sound strange, but I consider hurricanes one of the wonders of the natural world. Two powerful hurricanes, Earl and Otto, hit the BVI in 2010 and caused extensive damage,” Branson wrote. “I beheld nature at its most ferocious. The power of the sea breaking over the cliff tops, the eerie hush when you are in the eye of the hurricane and then the roar of the winds, the lightning and the rain.”

He also expressed hope that the people and wildlife on the islands remain safe.

“As has been so clearly shown by Hurricane Harvey, the devastation that hurricanes (in particular higher category hurricanes) can cause cannot be overstated,” he wrote.

The hurricane is the strongest storm forecasters have ever seen develop in the Atlantic. It also has a female-sounding name; a study in 2014 found more people die in hurricanes with female names because those storms’ intensity are underestimated due to gender bias.

Branson has also been documenting the storm’s approach on Twitter:

Hurricane Irma has maximum sustained winds of 175 mph, says NOAA. Hurricane warnings are in effect for the Leeward Islands and Irma is also expected to affect Puerto Rico & the British and U.S. Virgin Islands on Wednesday.

Max Londberg: 816-234-4378, @MaxLondberg