Let’s talk about a few facts. Billionaire party enthusiast Richard Branson owns a private isle in the Virgin Islands. Branson’s island sits squarely in the path of Hurricane Irma, one the strongest storms the Atlantic has ever seen. Rather than retreat to a safer location, Branson has collected a mysterious group of “young people” for a “sleepover” in the wine cellar on his private island. They’re gonna ride it out.
This is all true information. The hurricane should be pummeling Necker Island, the aforementioned private isle owned by Branson, at the time this post was published. On the eve of the storm, Branson detailed his plan for a wine-soaked, game-filled slumber party for Hurricane Irma on Virgin’s blog. “The atmosphere is eerie but beautiful,” he wrote.
The eerie part makes perfect sense. With a hurricane of historic proportions bearing down on Branson and his young friends, it only takes a glance at the photos of the scene on Necker Island to realize that this plan is weird as shit. It also seems idiotic and, to a degree, mysteriously sinister. Look:
Now is a good time to point out that meteorologists spotted Irma forming in the east Atlantic nearly a week ago. They mapped out the probable path of what they expected to become a major storm, and it seemed almost certain that Irma would plow right into the Virgin Islands. Hundreds of miles northwest of Necker Island, all Florida counties declared a state of emergency nearly a day and a half ago, long after hurricane warnings had been issued in Puerto Rico. So this storm was hardly a surprise to the folks in the Virgin Islands, including the an ultra-rich adventure-seeker like Branson.
I’m not an expert on disaster preparedness. However, I do have some doubts that retreating to an underground wine cellar as storm surges threaten to cause widespread flooding is a good idea. Hanging out next to unobstructed windows that appear to be reinforced with masking tape also seems unwise. Here’s another image from Branson’s Hurricane Irma bunker:
Then again, maybe this room isn’t where the storm-time slumber party is happening. Branson’s last tweet before the storm:
And here’s a video taken in the British Virgin Islands during the storm:
We’ll see what happens to Branson and his young friends. It remains unclear why all of these people were on the island when the hurricane hit. Maybe Branson wanted to stay and some of his staffers had to stay, too. Perhaps, they weren’t able to evacuate in time and figured the wine cellar would be safe enough. It’s possible that this is something stranger, like a game that rich people play during natural disasters.
We can’t know the truth until Branson emerges from his boozy bunker—hopefully safe and sound—and explains. With any luck, he’ll write another blog post about his brush with Hurricane Irma. As for anyone else in the path of the storm, get out of the way if you can.
Update 09.07.2017 - As expected, Hurricane Irma did plow into Necker Island. In a blog post retweeted from Branson’s account, Virgin confirmed that everyone on the island was okay. “We are very grateful to be able to report that all of our team on Island have been accounted for as safe as well,” the post reads. “Necker Island felt the effects of Hurricane Irma and sustained extensive damage, the extent of which we are still assessing.”