Published: Wed, September 13, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

Irma Makes Landfall, Lashes at Southern Florida

Irma Makes Landfall, Lashes at Southern Florida

The remnants of Hurricane Irma continued to make their way north towards Tennessee and Alabama on Monday, with tropical storm and flash flooding warnings in place for Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama.

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

Irma roared ashore as a powerful Category 4 hurricane when it hit the far southern Florida Keys on Sunday, tearing boats from their moorings, uprooting palm trees and downing power lines, after devastating a string of Caribbean islands.

Read: Mother Nature's wrath: Is climate change making mega-hurricanes the new normal? .

Speaking as he went on an aerial tour of the Keys, Florida Governor Rick Scott said: "Power lines are down throughout the state".

On the west coast of Florida, drone footage from Naples, a town on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico about 125 miles (200km) to the north-west, shows rows of shattered suburban homes on streets under water. "Still have a lot of water though, and there are couple neighborhoods we can't even get into", Barnett told "CBS This Morning" Monday, as he was out assessing the damage.

The archipelago is connected by a series of bridges and causeways that authorities will have to check for structural damage. About 155,000 people had taken refuge in 573 shelters across the state.

Miami was spared facing the brunt of the hurricane after it tacked up Florida's western coast, but large swaths of the city were flooded by heavy rains and storm surges. Capsized power lines, surging waters, fallen trees and blocked roadways greeted them. Storm surge warnings remained in effect in several other areas, including the Tampa Bay region. Florida Power and Light said it had "safely shut down" one of two nuclear reactors at its Turkey Point power plant.

A stunning 13 million Florida residents were without electricity - two-thirds of the state's residents - as sweltering tropical heat returned across the peninsula following the storm.

President Donald Trump has approved the state's request for emergency federal aid to help with temporary housing, home repairs, emergency work and hazard mitigation. Reports say that 10,000 people made a decision to ride out the storm.

Insured property losses in Florida from Irma were expected to run from US$20 billion to US$40 billion, catastrophe modelling firm AIR Worldwide estimated.

At least 25 people have been killed since Irma clobbered the Caribbean late last week.

In flood-prone Miami, the largest USA city in Irma's path, crews were busy clearing branches, debris and fallen street signs from downtown.

Both the French and Dutch governments have been criticized for delaying their emergency response, and especially over the handling of looting on Saint Barthelemy and Saint Martin, the latter an island with both French and Dutch sectors. Rescuers on the French side said at least eight people died and some 95 percent of homes were destroyed.

Barbuda: The small island is said to be "barely habitable", with 95% of the buildings damaged.

Cuban officials said Irma was the deadliest hurricane to strike the island since Dennis in 2005, adding that three-quarters of the population was without power.

Puerto Rico: More than 6,000 residents of the United States territory are in shelters and many more without power.

The westward shift prompted Pinellas County, home to St. Petersburg, to order 260,000 people to leave, while Georgia scaled back evacuation orders for some coastal residents.

Enormous waves lashed the Malecon, Havana's emblematic seafront, with seawaters penetrating deep into the capital. Cuba is often hit by hurricanes that strike the Caribbean.

The destructive storm also left other victims in its wake, namely marine wildlife.

First Harvey, then Irma and now.

Almost the entire Florida coastline remained under hurricane watches and warnings, and the latest projections could shift again, sparing or savaging other parts of the state. Weather forecasters believe Jose could still pose a threat to the continental US.

Irma was at one time the most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the open Atlantic with a peak wind speed of 185 miles per hour (300 kph) last week. Winds of up to 295 kph (180 mph) destroyed 30 percent the island's properties.

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