IRMA SLAMS FLORIDA

Knock­ing out elec­tric­ity to mil­lions of homes and busi­nesses, Hur­ri­cane Irma made a rough land­fall on Sun­day as it headed up the Florida coast toward cities brac­ing for the storm’s power.

Metro USA (Boston) - - FRONT PAGE -

Hur­ri­cane Irma lashed the Gulf Coast of Florida with the brunt of its fury on Sun­day af­ter­noon, knock­ing out elec­tric­ity to 2.5 mil­lion homes and busi­nesses statewide while flood­ing streets and sway­ing sky­scrapers in Mi­ami.

Hours af­ter bar­rel­ing across the re­sort ar­chi­pel­ago of the Florida Keys, the storm crept up the west­ern shore of the Florida penin­sula to make a se­cond land­fall at Marco Is­land around 3:35 p.m. ET, about a dozen miles south of up­scale beach town Naples.

Irma’s eye wall came ashore not long af­ter it was down­graded from a Cat­e­gory 4 to a Cat­e­gory 3 storm on the five-point Saf­fir-Simp­son hur­ri­cane scale, with max­i­mum sus­tained winds of 120 mph.

Fore­cast­ers warned that Irma re­mained ex­tremely dan­ger­ous as the mon­ster storm top­pled trees and power lines, peeled tiles off roofs and threat­ened coastal ar­eas with storm surges of up to 15 feet. Tor­na­does were also spot­ted through the south­ern part of the state.

“This is a life-threat­en­ing sit­u­a­tion,” Gov. Rick Scott told a press con­fer­ence. Cur­fews were de­clared on Sun­day evening for the Gulf Coast towns of Tampa and St. Peters­burg as sev­eral Florida coun­ties re­ported ar­rests of loot­ers tak­ing ad­van­tage of homes left va­cant by evac­u­a­tions.

On Sun­day, Irma claimed its first U.S. 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.

The storm’s west­ward tilt as it ad­vanced on Florida put a string of Gulf Coast cities at great­est risk and spared the densely pop­u­lated Mi­ami area the full force of its wrath.

Mi­ami apart­ment tow­ers swayed in the high winds, two con­struc­tion cranes were top­pled, and small waves could be seen in flooded streets be­tween Mi­ami of­fice tow­ers.

Tampa and Hur­ri­cane bays ex­pe­ri­enced ex­traor­di­nar­ily low tides that left sea life vis­i­ble and boats grounded, though fore­cast­ers warned the storm would drive those wa­ters back via storm surges.

Last week, Irma had ranked as one of the most pow­er­ful hur­ri­canes ever doc­u­mented in the At­lantic, one of only a hand­ful of Cat­e­gory 5 storms known to have packed sus­tained winds at 185 miles per hour or more.

Irma is ex­pected to cause bil­lions of dol­lars in dam­age to the third most­pop­u­lous U.S. state, a ma­jor tourism hub with an econ­omy that gen­er­ates about 5 per­cent of U.S. gross do­mes­tic prod­uct.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump spoke to the gov­er­nors of Alabama, Ge­or­gia, South Carolina and Ten­nessee on Sun­day and is­sued a dis­as­ter dec­la­ra­tion for Puerto Rico, which was hit by the storm last week, the White House said.

GETTY IM­AGES

GETTY IM­AGES

East Oak­land Park Boule­vard is blocked by a light pole as Hur­ri­cane Irma hits Fort Laud­erdale, Florida.

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