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