Richard Branson is riding out Hurricane Irma in the wine cellar on his private island
By AMY B WANG | The Washington Post | Published: September 6, 2017
Sir Richard Branson, the billionaire founder of the Virgin Group, said he had no plans to evacuate his home in the British Virgin Islands, which lies directly in the path of Hurricane Irma.
Instead, Branson said he would hunker down with his team on Necker, his private Caribbean island, "as I have been on the three times we have had hurricanes over the past 30 years."
"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," Branson wrote in a blog post, which also implied there would be no guests at his island's private resort when the hurricane hits. "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."
On Wednesday night, before Irma hit, Branson said he and his team experienced "howling wind and rain."
He posted pictures of people smiling and bedded down in a room filled with furniture, backpacks and makeshift beds.
"All of us slept together in two rooms," Branson wrote. "I haven't had a sleepover quite like it since I was a kid. Strangely, it's a privilege to experience what is turning into possibly the strongest storm ever with such a great group of young people.
"We were listening to the parrots in their boxes in the next room chattering away. Watching the tortoises congregating together, as if they sense what is coming our way."
The National Hurricane Center called Irma's conditions "life-threatening," noting that this ferocious and possibly historic Category 5 hurricane will bring with it a devastating storm surge, destructive winds and dangerous flooding.
Despite the approaching Category 5 storm, Branson said, people were "calm and upbeat."
A subsequent photo showed him seated with a group at a dining table, playing with dice.
Once the full strength of the storm hits the island, Branson said he planned to retreat with his team to his concrete wine cellar below "the Great House." As one does.
"Knowing our wonderful team as I do, I suspect there will be little wine left in the cellar when we all emerge," Branson wrote.
Branson is the 324th wealthiest person in the world, with a net worth of about $5 billion, according to Forbes, which notes that Branson bought Necker Island for $180,000 nearly four decades ago.