As Category 5 Hurricane Irma heads towards the United States, it left a path of massive destruction, flattening 95% of the homes on the tiny island of Barbuda, and causing extreme damage to other islands including Sint Maarten/Saint Martin, Sint Eustatius, and the British Virgin Islands.
Based on the aftermath photos circulating around the web, it will take years for the island to recover from the damage.
One of St. Maarten’s major revenue earners is its plane spotting attraction at Maho Beach where planes fly in just over the water before touching down at the Princess Juliana International Airport located next to the shore line. Even though not officially recognized as a tourist activity, it’s one of the main reasons why the tiny island is well known across the globe.
Hurricane Irma showed no mercy though, destroying the entire beach front, washing the sand onto the edge of the runway and service road.
The popular Sunset Beach Bar located next to the beach was also gutted by the storm force winds and rain.
The good news is that mother nature should do her job over time by washing in more sand to hopefully restore the beach to its former glory. However, it’s going to take some time for people to rebuild, making it difficult for tourists to find accommodation in the new few months. Even the Sonesta Maho hotel (which has a prime view of the airport) issued a statement that they will be closed for renovations for the rest of the year due to damage suffered from the hurricane.
There won’t be any plane spotting just yet as the airport itself also suffered catastrophic damage to its interior and exterior. The only expected activity at the airport so far would include any relief aid flights needed for recovery. There is no word yet as to when commercial airlines can resume service to airlift stranded passengers on the island.
Here are a few post-hurricane photos of the airport.