Hurricane Irma weakening but still presents a threat to life, say forecasters

12 September, 2017, 16:14 | Author: Lula Armstrong
  • Workers put boats on dry docks in preparation as Hurricane Irma barreling towards the Caribbean and the southern United States was upgrad

The Associated Press reports that while the death toll numbers in the dozens for the Caribbean islands, we still don't know how much damage the hurricane has caused in Florida. The Cuban victims died from causes ranging from electrocution to drowning, building collapse and a balcony falling on a bus, authorities there said.

"How are we going to survive from here?" said Gwen Bush, who had to wade through water outside her central Florida home to get to a shelter.

Hurricane Irma has set a new flood record in northeastern Florida, the National Weather Service said Monday morning.

As the storm was centered about 40 kilometers northeast of Tampa, its maximum sustained winds were about 135 kph.

By evening it was closing in on Tampa and St. Petersburg, the two largest cities around Tampa Bay, where a storm surge was expected to push waves of water up to three meters deep into streets, yards and homes. Governor Rick Scott has warned people to stay vigilant.

The Post and Courier reported that at least 100 roads in the Charleston area were shut down due to storm surge flooding, and reported that by 10:30 a.m., NOAA's tidal gauge in the area was at 7.5 feet.

Downgraded to a tropical storm early on Monday, Irma had ranked as one of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes. It was the first Category 4 landfall in Florida since 2004.

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Heather Carruthers, the Monroe County Commissioner, said people had been killed in the archipelago, where almost 80,000 permanent residents live, apart from one already known fatality.

Officials were still assessing Irma's impact in the Florida Keys, which may have borne the worst of the storm.

And an 11-year-old South Florida boy was struck and killed by a auto in Stone Mountain near Atlanta, cops said.

Insurance experts began offering projections Monday for the total cost of the storm's damage, with initial estimates running in the range of $20 billion to $50 billion. "This is the best I could hope for, for this category of hurricane".

Some of the victims had ignored instructions to evacuate, it said.

State Senate Banking and Insurance Chairwoman Anitere Flores, a Miami Republican whose district also covers the Keys, said the state has to make sure state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp. has the funds to cover individual property-insurance claims, particularly from the Keys. Some residents were trying to reach their homes by walking through floodwater up to their waists, while others paddled canoes.

"I think you guys are sexy. Houses are underwater, cars are floating through the streets, inhabitants are sitting in the dark in ruined houses and are cut off from the outside world".

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Irma has devastated Florida, the third most populous US state. "There is a lot of damage", Scott said.

The hurricane's storms spawned numerous nerve-wracking tornado warnings. "We feel it was more unsafe to travel all over the state, run out of fuel possibly", he said, adding: "We're gonna ride it out".

Shawn Gillen, Tybee Island's city manager, said waters appeared to be receding quickly but the flooding was extensive on the island of more than 3,000 residents.

Millions of homes are without power in Florida, thousands of which are suffering severe flooding damage.

President Donald Trump, who promised to travel to Florida "very soon", approved the state's request for emergency federal aid to help with temporary housing, home repairs, emergency work and hazard mitigation.

NextEra Energy Inc.'s Florida Power & Light utility warned Sunday that some customers may go without power for weeks, and parts of its system may need to be rebuilt "from the ground up".

Before slamming into to the United States, Irma hit Cuba late Friday as a Category 5 hurricane.

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