Storm pushes in­land

Irma weak­ens to trop­i­cal storm af­ter in­flict­ing mas­sive amount of dam­age

Kenora Daily Miner and News - - WORLD NEWS - JENNIFER KAY and DOUG FER­GU­SON

MI­AMI — Author­i­ties sent an air­craft car­rier and other Navy ships to Florida to help with search-and-res­cue op­er­a­tions Mon­day as a fly­over of the hur­ri­cane-bat­tered Keys yielded what the gover­nor said were scenes of dev­as­ta­tion.

“I just hope ev­ery­one sur­vived,” Gov. Rick Scott said.

He said boats were cast ashore, wa­ter, sew­ers and elec­tric­ity were knocked out, and “I don’t think I saw one trailer park where al­most ev­ery­thing wasn’t over­turned.” Author­i­ties also strug­gled to clear the sin­gle high­way con­nect­ing the string of is­lands to the main­land.

The scale of the dam­age in­flicted by Irma on Sun­day be­gan to come into fo­cus as the hur­ri­cane weak­ened to a trop­i­cal storm and fi­nally pushed its way out of Florida, but not be­fore deal­ing a part­ing shot by trig­ger­ing se­vere flood­ing around Jack­sonville in the state’s north­east­ern cor­ner.

Around mid­day, Irma also spread mis­ery into Ge­or­gia and South Carolina as it moved in­land with winds at 80 km/h.

One death in Florida, that of a man killed in an auto ac­ci­dent in the Keys dur­ing the storm, was blamed on Irma, along with one death in Ge­or­gia. At least 36 peo­ple were killed in the Caribbean as the storm closed in on the U.S. main­land.

The gover­nor said that the dam­age along Florida’s south­west coast in such places as Naples and Fort My­ers was not as bad as feared. But in the Keys, he said, “there is dev­as­ta­tion.”

“It’s hor­ri­ble, what we saw,” Scott said. “I know for our en­tire state, es­pe­cially the Keys, it’s go­ing to be a long road.”

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.

Dur­ing its rainy, windy run up the full 643-km length of Florida, Irma swamped homes, up­rooted trees, flooded streets, snapped miles of power lines and top­pled con­struc­tion cranes.

“How are we go­ing to sur­vive from here?” asked Gwen Bush, who waded through thigh-deep flood­wa­ters out­side her cen­tral Florida home to reach Na­tional Guard res­cuers and get a ride to a shel­ter. “What’s go­ing to hap­pen now? I just don’t know.”

More than 6.5 mil­lion homes and busi­nesses statewide re­mained with­out power, and 180,000 peo­ple hud­dled in shel­ters. Of­fi­cials warned it could take weeks for elec­tric­ity to be re­stored to ev­ery­one.

Irma was at one point the most pow­er­ful hur­ri­cane ever recorded in the open At­lantic, with winds up to 300 km/h. By Mon­day af­ter­noon, its winds were down to 97 km/h.

The hur­ri­cane’s wrath in Florida ex­tended the full length of the state and reached from the west coast to the east.

The Keys felt Irma’s full fury when it came ashore as a Cat­e­gory 4 storm with 209 km/h winds.

Emer­gency man­agers there de­clared “the Keys are not open for busi­ness” and warned that there was no fuel, elec­tric­ity, run­ning wa­ter or cell ser­vice and that sup­plies were low and anx­i­ety high.

“HELP IS ON THE WAY,” they promised on Face­book.

In the Jack­sonville area, close to the Ge­or­gia line, storm surge brought some of the worst flood­ing ever seen there, with at least 46 peo­ple pulled from swamped homes.

The Jack­sonville Sher­iff’s Of­fice warned res­i­dents along the St. Johns River to “Get out NOW.”

“If you need to get out, put a white flag in front of your house. A t-shirt, any­thing white,” the of­fice said on its Face­book page. “Search and res­cue teams are ready to de­ploy.”

As Irma be­gan mov­ing into Ge­or­gia, a tor­nado spun off by the storm was re­ported on the coast, and fire­fight­ers in­land had to res­cue sev­eral peo­ple af­ter trees fell on their homes.

A trop­i­cal storm warn­ing was is­sued for the first time in At­lanta, and school was can­celled in com­mu­ni­ties around the state. More than 100,000 cus­tomers were with­out power in Ge­or­gia and over 80,000 in South Carolina.

Over the next two days, Irma is ex­pected to push to the north­west, into Alabama, Mis­sis­sippi and Ten­nessee.

Peo­ple in the heav­ily pop­u­lated Tampa-St. Peters­burg, Fla., area were braced for its first di­rect hit from a ma­jor hur­ri­cane since 1921. But by the time it struck in the mid­dle of the night Mon­day, its winds were down to 161 km/h or less, and the dam­age was nowhere near as bad as ex­pected.

More than 120 homes were be­ing evac­u­ated early Mon­day in just out­side Orlando as flood­wa­ters started to pour in. Fire­fight­ers and Na­tional Guards­men went door-todoor and used boats to ferry fam­i­lies to safety.

A few kilo­me­tres away, a huge sink­hole opened at the edge of an apart­ment build­ing, swal­low­ing air con­di­tion­ing units and bushes. Fire­fight­ers evac­u­ated more than two dozen ten­ants in the pound­ing rain and wind.

GER­ALD HER­BERT/ THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Fire­fight­ers check on Kelly McC­len­then, who re­turned to check on the dam­age to her flooded home in the af­ter­math of hur­ri­cane Irma in Bonita Springs, Fla., on Mon­day.

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