Irma Dev­as­tates Florida; Mil­lions Still With­out Power & Wa­ter

The Jewish Voice - - NATIONAL - By: Ken Bre­de­meier

Hur­ri­cane Irma weak­ened into a trop­i­cal storm Mon­day as it moved over north­ern Florida and into south­ern Ge­or­gia, even as its tor­ren­tial rains and dan­ger­ous storm surges re­mained a threat to pro­duce coastal flood­ing.

The Na­tional Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter warned that swells gen­er­ated by Irma along the south­east­ern U.S. coast could still cause "life-threat­en­ing surf and rip cur­rent con­di­tions."

In ad­di­tion, the hur­ri­cane cen­ter says tor­na­does are pos­si­ble across north­east­ern Florida, south­east­ern Ge­or­gia and South Carolina through Mon­day night.

By Mon­day, Irma's sus­tained winds di­min­ished to 110 kilo­me­ters an hour, the hur­ri­cane cen­ter said, but trop­i­cal storm force gales ex­tended over a wide re­gion, up to 665 kilo­me­ters out­ward from the Irma's cen­ter.

Nearly 6 mil­lion with­out power

Much of Florida be­gan to as­sess the dam­age left in the hur­ri­cane's af­ter­math. There was sig­nif­i­cant flood­ing in many cities and towns bor­der­ing the penin­sula state's Gulf of Mex­ico shore­line, as well as in Jack­sonville on the east coast along the At­lantic. Nearly 6 mil­lion peo­ple were left with­out power through­out the state.

Be­fore hit­ting the U.S., Irma cre­ated a path of de­struc­tion through the Caribbean, dev­as­tat­ing is­lands that de­pend on tourism as the key­stone of their economies.

Mean­while, weather fore­cast­ers are keep­ing an eye on Hur­ri­cane Jose, now with max­i­mum sus­tained winds of 165 kilo­me­ters per hour. Jose is ex­pected to grad­u­ally weaken as it trav­els in a near-cir­cu­lar pat­tern in the At­lantic through the mid­dle of the week, pos­ing no im­me­di­ate threat to pop­u­lated ar­eas.

Irma dev­as­tated parts of Florida, the third most pop­u­lous U.S. state, although early re­ports Mon­day seemed to in­di­cate that dam­age left be­hind may not have been as much as orig­i­nally feared.

The storm slammed into the Florida Keys early Sun­day, when it was near its great­est strength. By evening it closed in on Tampa and St. Peters­burg, the two largest cities around Tampa Bay, where a storm surge pushed waves of wa­ter deep into streets, yards and homes.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump Sun­day de­clared Florida a ma­jor dis­as­ter area, a step that will re­lease fed­eral aid funds for storm

vic­tims more quickly.

More than 75,000 peo­ple checked into 400 emer­gency shel­ters statewide, but over­all, only three storm-re­lated deaths were re­ported in Florida through late Sun­day. At least 25 peo­ple were killed since Irma clob­bered the Caribbean late last week.

Caribbean hit hard

Prime Min­is­ter Gas­ton Browne of An­tigua and Bar­buda says 95 per­cent of Bar­buda's build­ings were ei­ther de­stroyed or se­verely dam­aged.

The U.S. ter­ri­tory of Puerto Rico suf­fered losses in its elec­tric­ity net­work that left more than one mil­lion peo­ple with­out power. Au­thor­i­ties said it could take up to six months to re­build the is­land's power grid.

Puerto Rico says it col­lab­o­rated with the U.S. De­part­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices to evac­u­ate more than 1,000 peo­ple, mainly U.S. cit­i­zens, from St. Thomas and St. Maarten.

The Pen­tagon de­ployed Navy ships, air­craft and hun­dreds of Marines to help with re­cov­ery ef­forts in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Vir­gin Is­lands. The U.S. Air Force flew evac­u­a­tion flights to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Vir­gin Is­lands, and to the Dutch Caribbean is­land of St. Maarten, which also suf­fered se­vere dam­age.

The Nether­lands' king, Willem-Alexan­der, is re­ported to be headed to St. Maarten to as­sist in re­cov­ery ef­forts, and French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron said he would be ar­riv­ing aboard an Air­bus plane packed with aid sup­plies.

France and the Nether­lands share ju­ris­dic­tion over the is­land that is home to St. Martin and St. Maarten. The smaller French is­land of St. Barthelemy, which is nearby, also was badly dam­aged.

A street is flooded near the ocean af­ter Hur­ri­cane Irma passed through Naples, Fla., Sept. 10, 2017.

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