Richard Branson is staying on his private island through Hurricane Irma
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Richard Branson is staying on his private island through Hurricane Irma


Though the British Virgin Islands are currently taking a direct hit from historic Hurricane Irma, Richard Branson is there taking his chances.

On Tuesday, the Virgin Group founder and billionaire released a statement sharing that he’ll remain on his private island for the duration of the category 5 storm.

He says he’s remained on Necker Island for past hurricanes and plans to do the same this week despite the severity of the storm: 

On Necker Island we have constructed really strong buildings (with hurricane blinds) that should be able to handle extreme weather pretty well, though with a Category 5 hurricane almost nothing can withstand it. We had some lovely guests staying on Necker Island who have cut their trip short for safety reasons, and another group of guests have also postponed. I will be on Necker alongside our team, as I have been on the three times we have had hurricanes over the past 30 years.

On Wednesday morning, Branson posted an update from Necker Island, noting that he and his staff spent the night in one room while rain and winds swirled outside. 

“We have just experienced a night of howling wind and rain as Hurricane Irma edges ever closer towards us on Necker and the British Virgin Islands,” he wrote.

The group is spending the storm in a concrete wine cellar beneath his house. Still, even the sturdiest buildings might have trouble weathering a category 5 storm. On Tuesday, Brian L. Kahn of Climate Central shared an animation depicting the kind of damage storms like Irma can inflict on property.

And the National Hurricane Center describes category 5 storm damage this way:

Catastrophic damage will occur: A high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last for weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.

In Branson’s first statement, he encouraged residents of the BVI to evacuate to storm shelters. “In the past, many British Virgin Islanders have shrugged off hurricanes, stayed at home and not gone to shelters,” he writes.

But while Branson doesn’t play down Irma’s potential severity, he himself is opting to stay home.

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. 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.

As of this writing, the hurricane had just reached Necker Island with maximum sustained winds of 185 mph. 

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September 6, 2017
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