Hurricane Irma was one of the most powerful storms to come out of the Atlantic Ocean with sustained winds of 130-mile-per-hour. One of the largest evacuations in American history was conducted in preparation for the storm.
It hit the Florida Keys at Cudjoe Key Sunday morning as a Category 4 storm,then hit Marco Island off of the Naples coast and made it's way northward at a slow 14-miles-per-hour to Tampa Bay. By late afternoon on Sunday,it had weakened to a Category 2 storm and early this morning it was downgraded to a Category 1. But a Category 1 storm still causes extreme weather conditions and central and western Florida will still experience bad weather as Irma makes her way up north. At 8am this morning maximum sustained winds were recorded at 70mph.
This was the second Category 4 storm this season to hit the US - a very rare occurrence.
5.9 million households have lost power in the state - about 58% of the state's customers. FEMA chief Brock Long says some places may be without electricity for weeks.
155,000 people sought shelter in the 573 shelters across the state.
In Miami two construction cranes sitting atop huge skyscrapers collapsed. Streets downtown were flooded as the waters from Biscayne Bay swept in. Miami International Airport reports significant water damage.
Much of the damage may be superficial — all the billboards have had their fabric ripped away, but they are designed that way. Cranes have collapsed and debris littered the streets, but Miami did not appear to be a disaster zone. - WP
Many of the counties and cities,like Miami,Naples,Fort Myers and Tampa,put overnight curfews into effect. Miami-Dade police have arrested 28 people for burglary and looting. Ft.Lauderdale arrested 9 people on suspicion of looting a pawnshop and shoe store. In Brevard Country,two teens were arrested in Weston for breaking into six homes that had been evacuated. Homeowners alerted the police after witnessing the event on a remote monitoring system as the teens broke into their home. One of the teens was shot and wounded by a deputy.
In Venice,Fl,the water plant was shut down because of storm damage.
The Florida Keys experienced 12 inches of rain and a 10 foot storm surge. US Route 1 - the road that runs like a spine from Key West to Miami over multiple bridges connecting the islands was flooded, as was expected. Residents who evacuated to other parts are being told to hold off returning until all 42 bridges have been inspected and deemed safe. In contrast to the mid and upper Keys,Key West itself did not suffer extensive flooding or severely damaged houses. About 25% of Key West's residents sheltered in place rather than evacuate. But there is now no power,no water or phone service in about 83% of Monroe County and no way to know how long it will take to restore service.
Communication to the islands has been erratic and increases the anxiety of how the population has fared in that area. Residents of the keys are being told at this time to boil all drinking water as a precaution.Florida Governor Scott has stated that Monroe County (the Keys) is going to require a lot of support.
Images showed entire houses underwater. The flooding in Key Largo had small boats bobbing in the streets next to furniture and refrigerators like rubber toys in a bathtub. Shingles were kidnapped from roofs; swimming pools dissolved into the ocean.
From USA Today:
In the Florida Keys, Monday two airports appeared ready to accept planes stocked with relief supplies for the stricken islands.
Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Bryan Koon said Monroe County officials have not yet been able to travel the length of the island chain to access the storm's toll. County crews spent Sunday clearing the airport on Boca Chica Key, and a team hoped to have another airport in Marathon ready to accept large military planes ferrying relief supplies, Koon said.
Utilities such as power and water were likely damaged in some areas of the Keys. Four “last resort” shelters set up on the islands will become more permanent, with services such as food and supply distribution. The military planes waiting to be brought in are filled with supplies from organizations such as the Red Cross and the Salvation Army.
Koon said first reports from the Keys showed U.S. 1 may be passable.“It’s certainly not passable at highway speeds,” Koon said. “Definitely not right now.” None of the network of bridges linking the islands appears to be damaged, but they will require safety tests by the Florida Department of Transportation. The agency will fly a drone aircraft along the 100-mile stretch of road Monday morning.
State officials said the fact the storm is still moving in a northerly path up the state is going to slow rescue efforts. Emergency supplies are kept out of the storm's reach,in some cases as far north as Alabama,and with the continuing extreme weather conditions on routes going south,they will have to sit out until conditions on roads improve before they can move those supplies south to the affected areas. Strong tropical storm winds of 40 -60mph are still going to hit the Panhandle and Tallahassee,the state's capital situated in the north of the state with low end hurricane force gusts of 60-75mph possible. Up to 15 inches of rain is still possible in areas of the Panhandle and southern Georgia bringing with it the potential for flash floods. Storm surge warnings could remain in effect for Tampa and other areas for days. Atlanta in the north of Georgia was placed under its first-ever tropical storm warning. 17,000 people have lost power in Savannah,Georgia.One news report said more than 100,000 have lost power in Georgia.
Doctors,searchers,canine handlers and communication experts have poured into the state to assist rescue efforts,some coming from as far away as California.
Warn your families that Hurricane Irma could end communications home for days, Chuck Ruddell, a member of California Task Force 1, told his teammates. Accept that the team, which worked the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in Texas, might be sleeping at high schools and fairgrounds for weeks more. And prepare to make snap decisions about who to save first.
Speaking in shorthand, the men and women checked their eight boats, three tractor-trailers and other equipment. They scanned maps of Florida communities. They watched the news. - NYT
4 deaths have been reported in Florida as a result of the storm. One of those deaths occurred in Monroe Country (the Keys). A man was found in a single car crash during the storm. The other was in Hardee County when a sheriff deputy who was helping supply a shelter crashed into a vehicle driven by a state prison employee killing them both.
This is not over yet.
From USA Today:
On Thursday, the Federal Aviation Administration told the New York Times its air traffic control center in Miami, which handles only flights over the southern half of Florida and the Caribbean, had managed 8,107 flights compared to about 2,000 the week before.
Concern that the storm’s powerful winds could weaken the retaining wall around Lake Okeechobee led Gov. Rick Scott to evacuate nearby communities. A test of the retaining wall by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers showed no apparent damage. The Corps will perform another test on Monday before they deem the structure safe, Koon said.
Some power companies have been working during the storm to restore power. By Sunday, Florida Power & Light company restored power to more than 400,000 customers.