Calgary couple braces for Hurricane Irma
The Molinari's run a beer-cycle tour company on the northern Caribbean island of St. Maarten
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A Calgary couple who moved to the northern Caribbean island of St. Maarten less than a year ago are hoping the Category 5 hurricane heading their way won’t affect their new business.
Hurricane Irma— a category five storm with winds as high as 185 mph, according to the Weather Channel— is currently slamming the island.
Esther and Marco Molinari moved to the island in November of 2016 to start up their own beer-bike tour company on the St. Maarten boardwalk.
Their tour, Island Pedals, drives visitors along the waterfront on a 12-passenger bike while sipping Heinekens and enjoying the view—but without warehouse space to store their bikes, they risk losing them all together.
“We have been experiencing extremely fast winds. It is now 5:30 a.m. and we are expecting the eye of the storm to hit us in less than an hour,” Esther said in an interview with Metro Wednesday morning.
“We have heard large debris flying around and crashing on the rooftops and all around us. Even with hurricane glass and hurricane shutters, our windows and doors are flexing from the winds.”
The Molinari’s said they attempted to store their bikes in a warehouse, but were given the boot when that company required the space to store their own assets.
“We have prepped our bikes as best we can by chaining them to a thick concrete wall on one side and concretes posts on the other,” said Esther. “We removed anything that could be blown over by the wind, and we’re using sandbags as weights and to prevent flooding.”
The couple said their home is currently filled with outdoor furniture and business supplies.
On Tuesday, Esther said businesses were advised to shut down at noon, and grocery stores and gas stations were advised to shut down by 5 p.m..
“There were long line ups for gas but it has been fairly easy to stock up on supplies,” she said. “I think a lot of people prepared in advance knowing that September can be the worst month of the year for hurricanes.”
Further, the Molinari’s said there was an 8 p.m. curfew on the island on Tuesday, and additional marines and authorities have been brought in to help.
“There is definitely an eerie vibe on the island right now,” said Esther.
The couple has never experienced a hurricane before and said they’ve heard talk that Irma will bring the strongest-ever sustained winds St. Maarten.
“I’m really worried about stray animals and people with zinc or wood roofs,” said Esther. “They could be ripped right off.”
According to Sunwing Vacations, they sent two special flights to St. Maarten on Tuesday to evacuate affected passengers. Other travel companies sent planes to Caribbean destinations to evacuate Canadian passengers.