The monster storm arrived in Florida on Sunday morning as a fearsome Category 4 hurricane but weakened rapidly in the evening and overnight. It is moving toward the northwest at about 8 miles per hour.
“The hurricane winds lashed the shutters violently, throughout the night”, he wrote in a text message, “making sleep impossible”.
Utility companies have crews are dispersed across Central Florida assessing damages, who are transmitting the information back to command centers so crews can get to work on restoring electricity.
“Pray, pray for everybody in Florida”, Gov. Rick Scott said on “Fox News Sunday” as more than 160,000 people waited out Irma in shelters statewide. Almost 4.5 million homes and businesses statewide lost power, and utility officials said it will take weeks to restore electricity to everyone.
Florida Power Light CEO Eric Silagy said at a news conference that he expects full power restoration after the storm to take “multi-weeks”, as it did after the Category 5 Hurricane Andrew struck South Florida in 1992.
In Miami-Dade County, where roads flooded and debris flew, around three-quarters of residents (830,000 out of 1.1 million) are without power as of Monday.
Irma is forecast to weaken into a tropical depression by Tuesday afternoon as it moves near the northwestern coast of the Florida peninsula and cross into southern Georgia this afternoon and eastern Alabama tonight and Tuesday. Officials said the arena remained in one piece, but wind-driven water leaked in at the height of the storm.
The Orange County Emergency Operations Center said early Monday that the fire department and the National Guard are going door-to-door using boats to ferry families to safety. Emera’s Tampa Electric utility reported 300,000 homes and businesses lost power by Monday morning. No injuries have been reported. It’s located at 29.5 degrees north and 82.9 degrees west, about 30 miles north-northeast of Cedar Key, Florida and 105 miles north-northwest of Tampa, Florida.
While some people thought shooting at the hurricane was a novel idea, some others reportedly tried to blow the storm away with the help of fans.
On Sunday, Irma claimed its first US fatality – a man found dead in a pickup truck that had crashed into a tree in high winds in the town of Marathon, in the Keys.
At least 38 people have died after Irma ravaged the Caribbean this week, destroying buildings and uprooting trees on its catastrophic path toward Florida. In Estero near the state’s southwest corner, people sat in puddles in a crowded arena-turned-shelter. “The surge is yet to be finished”.
The storm did some $20 billion to $40 billion in damage to insured property as it tore through Florida, catastrophe modelling firm AIR Worldwide estimated.
The storm and evacuation orders caused major disruption to transportation in the state that is a major tourist hub.
“It does NOT represent the size of the storm!” the meteorology service warned, explaining that the tropical system only falls within the cone two-thirds of the time.
More than 6.5 million people in the state are in an evacuation zone, but it is unclear how many have taken their lives in their hands and stayed put.
For days, forecasters had warned that Irma was taking dead aim at the Miami area and the rest of the state’s Atlantic coast.