Irma knocks out power for 5.8 million Florida homes

Wednesday, 13 Sep, 2017

A view over the aftermath of Hurricane Irma over the Florida Keys. "What's going to happen now?

It's going to take some time to let people back into their homes particularly in the Florida Keys", Brock Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, told a morning press conference.

"I wanted to cry, but this is what it is, this is life", Melida Hernandez, 67, who had ridden out the storm at a nearby church, said as she gazed at the ruins of her dwelling, split in two by a fallen tree.

As Florida struggles to resupply gas stations drained by Hurricane Irma evacuees, a growing number of stations in Georgia and SC are running out of fuel as the storm moves north.

Around the Tampa-St. Petersburg area, where Irma rolled through early Monday, damage appeared modest.

It could have been worse, but the impact of Hurricane Irma on Florida will nearly certainly still qualify as the worst storm in the state's history.

As damage assessments continued on the Keys, stories also emerged of the harrowing ordeal some residents experienced after ignoring a drumbeat of official pleas to evacuate.

On Sunday, Irma claimed its first United States fatality - a man found dead in a pick-up truck that had crashed into a tree in high winds in Marathon in the Florida Keys, local officials said.

That risk extended to the coast of Georgia and parts of SC.

FPL, the biggest power company in Florida, said more than 3.6 million of its customers were without power by 6 a.m. (1000 GMT Monday). He cautioned that recovery could take longer because the storm affected the entire state.

He said the Navy dispatched the USS Iwo Jima, USS New York and the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln to help with search and rescue and other relief efforts.

Rick Scott says he flew over the Keys and saw a lot of flood damage and boats that had washed ashore.

Meantime, flooding and widespread power outages remained a problem in Jacksonville, Florida's largest city, after the St. Johns River that flows through downtown experienced record levels Monday. Facebook groups were forming Monday to help from afar. "You've got to be patient".

From here, the storm will likely weaken further still, and it'll probably be downgraded to tropical depression by Tuesday afternoon, according to NOAA.

In Georgia, utilities reported nearly 390,000 customers without power. The storm could move into Alabama by Tuesday while tracking northwestward across the state.

Irma however may in fact be the strongest hurricane ever observed in the Leeward Islands where places like Barbuda and Sint Maarten were utterly decimated with winds that exceeded 180 miles per hour. The category 4 storm veered north of Barbuda, sparing it from a second direct hit.

Two days after Irma roared into the island chain with 130 miles per hour winds, residents were allowed to return to the parts of the Keys closest to Florida's mainland. The average price for a gallon of unleaded was $2.65 at mid-morning Tuesday, about the same as a week ago.