When Hurricane Irma reached the island of Barbuda, it was unlike anything meteorologists had ever seen. Winds of up to 185 miles per hour whipped through the small island for 37 hours. The storm destroyed Barbuda, leaving it completely uninhabited – something that hadn’t happened for over three centuries.
With that sort of destruction already in the storm’s wake, Florida’s governor Rick Scott wasn’t taking any chances – especially as the storm was heading straight for the Florida Keys. Consequently, on the very day that Irma struck Barbuda, Scott issued an order requiring that the Keys be evacuated.
Eventually, that evacuation order was extended to include 6.5 million Floridians, including student Claire Connelly. The 18-year-old had headed south to Florida Gulf Coast University to study nursing, but decided to return home to New Jersey during the hurricane.