Hurricane Irma continues to pound Florida, extent of damage not yet clear

Elias Hubbard
September 12, 2017

Gov. Rick Scott, who flew over hard-hit areas Monday, said damage along the Southwest coast, where Irma made a second landfall Sunday, included roofs off homes, boats tossed, flooding and sand across roads.

One of the biggest lingering problems was widespread power outages, with utilities reporting some 7.4 million homes and businesses without electricity in Florida and neighboring states.

Warnings of storm surges remained in place in several areas of south and central Florida, including the heavily populated Tampa Bay region. The governor described overturned mobile homes, washed-ashore boats, and rampant flood damage.

"Basically every house in the Keys has been impacted some way or another", the FEMA chief said.

"I don't want anybody to die, so I hoped everybody listened to what we were talking about. It's awful what we saw".

"This was the worst of the storms I have been through, and the sea rose much higher", Pulpito said.

In flood-prone Miami, the largest United States city in Irma's path, cleaning crews began clearing branches, debris and fallen street signs from downtown and the Brickell financial district at dawn on Monday.

Irma has devastated Florida, the third most populous USA state.

Meanwhile, bands of heavy rain from Irma were lashing Georgia and SC, which was also hit by a strong storm surge.

He said he expected power to be out for some sections of Tampa for at least a couple more days. "We have downed power lines all across the state".

While some evacuees from the Keys expressed anger at authorities refusing to allow them to return to their homes on Monday, the US Defense Department said as many as 10,000 residents who had stayed put on the island may now be stranded and in need of evacuation.

Homes and a auto are inundated by floodwaters on Briarhills Parkway, in an upscale development in Houston on September 5, 2017.

The county administrator, Roman Gastesi, said crews would begin house-to-house searches Monday to check on survivors.

"Returning residents should consider that there are limited services".

"Everyone is working to get assets here, get our power back on". "We will be moving to a recovery stage soon", he said, "but we are in a rescue stage at this point".

"This is going to be a frustrating event".

But overall, he said the conditions appeared "not as bad as we thought the storm surge would do".

And more than 120 homes were being evacuated early Monday in Orange County, just outside the city of Orlando, as floodwaters started to pour in. Before dawn, National Guard troops and Orange County Fire Rescue crews worked to rescue almost 150 people and an unknown number of family pets, in some cases from water that had reached 1 to 2 metres. But just north, in Bonita Springs, that wasn't the case by Monday evening.

"We woke up to a lake outside in my yard, and three feet of floodwaters inside my man-cave", said Mr Jenkins, a doughnut maker.

Lakeland police said in a Facebook post that officers rescued the family of four early Monday as water reached the children's auto seats.

But Irma again intensified over the warm waters approaching the Florida mainland, making it a Category 4, then shortly thereafter a 3 (still considered a major hurricane).

The storm hit the Caribbean last week with the full force of its Category 5 winds. Miami Beach barred outsiders from the island. Still, that amounts to a pretty steep natural disaster check for the United States, after Hurricane Harvey inundated Houston and southeastern Texas with floods. "And we're very happy about that". On Sunday afternoon, it rounded Florida's southwestern corner and hugged the coast closely as it pushed toward Naples, Sanibel, Fort Myers and, beyond that, Sarasota. Mr Love said he had moved to Florida just a month ago from Minnesota with his parents, and had taken shelter Saturday night at Temple Shalom in Naples.

Flash floods and up to 15 inches of rain were expected as the storm continued on its northwest path. Mr Love said he had anxious that he might not be able to bring home his father, Richard, who is disabled, but a couple that he befriended at the shelter volunteered their pickup truck to help. "This is the best I could hope for, for this category of hurricane".

School was canceled in communities around Georgia, and more than 1.2 million customers there were without power Tuesday morning.

Medical facilities and nursing homes reported struggles with power supplies. Although utility companies make restoring service to hospitals a priority, some were still lacking normal service Monday.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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