News ID: 200271
Published: 0934 GMT September 10, 2017

Irma lashes Florida, leaving thousands without power

Irma lashes Florida, leaving thousands without power
A view of the aftermath of Hurricane Irma on Sint Maarten Dutch part of Saint Martin Island in the Caribbean, Sept. 6, 2017. (NETHERLANDS MINISTRY OF DEFENSE/REUTERS)

Hurricane Irma began pummeling Florida late on Saturday, threatening almost the entire southeastern US state after cutting a deadly path of destruction through the Caribbean.

Tens of thousands of Floridians were hunkering down in shelters for a direct hit from the monster storm, after more than 6.3 million ― nearly a third of the state's population — were ordered to evacuate, ALJAZEERA reported.

For those still at home, it was already too late to escape the wrath of what could be the worst hurricane in storm-prone Florida.

More than 170,000 homes and businesses in Florida have lost power and the center of Irma is about 140km southeast of Key West.

Florida Power and Light said on its website that more than half of those outages were in the Miami-Dade area, where about 600,000 people have been ordered to evacuate.

"If you have been ordered to evacuate anywhere in the state, you need to leave right now. Not tonight. Not in an hour. Now. You are running out of time to make a decision," Governor Rick Scott said hours before wind gusts began to lash the island chain known as the Florida Keys.

At North Collier Regional Park, a designated shelter just outside the city of Naples, anxious evacuees prayed they and their loved ones would remain safe when the storm made landfall.

"All we wanted to make sure is to feel safe and whatever happens we just have to start I guess from the beginning," Viviana Sierra said.

MacDill Air Force Base, the military installation home to US Central Command, issued mandatory evacuation orders with the eye of the storm expected to pass over its home city of Tampa early Monday. The Kennedy Space Center was also closed.

The White House said President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and their cabinet were briefed on Hurricanes Irma and Jose, with Trump warning on Twitter that this is a storm of enormous destructive power.

After blasting through the nearby Cuban coastline, Irma weakened from a maximum-strength Category five to a Category three storm, but then strengthened again to a Category four, with 210km/h winds, as it approached south Florida.

With near-hurricane force winds lashing the Florida Keys starting around 8:00pm (01:00GMT), the Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC) warned that Irma is forecast to re-strengthen as it approaches mainland Florida.

There was a serious threat of flooding from storm surges of up to 4.5 meters along Florida's west coast — enough to cover a house.

At least 25 people have been killed since Irma began its devastating march through the Caribbean earlier this week.

Terrified Cubans who rode out Irma in coastal towns after the storm made landfall on Friday on the Camaguey archipelago reported ‘deafening’ winds, uprooted trees and power lines, and blown rooftops.

There were no immediate reports of casualties, but officials reported ‘significant damage’. A total of 1.5 million people were evacuated.

"When Irma eventually hits land it might be a Category three, which is significantly less than what was predicted," said Al Jazeera's Alan Fisher, reporting from Miami.

"But that is still a major storm and still could cause significant destruction across Florida."

While Miami would likely ‘escape the worst’, Key West ‘is going to be hammered’, Fisher said.

"This was a city that was prepared for the worst and has been preparing since Monday to what might come their way,” Fisher said.

Michael Hernandez, adviser to Miami's mayor, told Al Jazeera: "We've taken unprecedented measures to protect our residents.

"We feel that we have done all that we can ... whether this storm hits us as a Category five, four, or what they're saying since it's moved away ― a Category one or two. It doesn't matter. We made the right call."

 

PHOTO: Roof damage caused by high winds brought on by Hurricane Irma is shown, Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017, in Sunny Isles Beach, Fla.

Roof damage caused by high winds brought on by Hurricane Irma is shown, Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017, in Sunny Isles Beach, Fla. (WILFREDO LEE/AP)

 

PHOTO: Waves crash against the Southernmost Point in Key West, Fla., Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017. Hurricane Irmas leading edge bent palm trees and spit rain as the storm swirled toward Florida on Saturday.

Waves crash against the Southernmost Point in Key West, Fla., Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017. Hurricane Irma's leading edge bent palm trees and spit rain as the storm swirled toward Florida on Saturday. (ROB ONEAL/AP)

 

PHOTO: Hurricane Irma evacuating traffic streaming out of Florida creeps along northbound Interstate 75 after a vehicle accident in Lake Park, Ga., Sept. 6, 2017.

Hurricane Irma evacuating traffic streaming out of Florida creeps along northbound Interstate 75 after a vehicle accident in Lake Park, Ga., Sept. 6, 2017. (ERIK S. LESSER/AP)

 

PHOTO: A child plays outside the Germain Arena as families wait to take shelter from Hurricane Irma in Estero, Fla., Sept. 9, 2017.

A child plays outside the Germain Arena as families wait to take shelter from Hurricane Irma in Estero, Fla., Sept. 9, 2017. (BRYAN WOOLSTON/REUTERS)

 

PHOTO: An aerial photo shows the damage from Hurricane Irma on the Caribbean island of St. Martin, Sept. 6, 2017.

An aerial photo shows the damage from Hurricane Irma on the Caribbean island of St. Martin, Sept. 6, 2017. (DUTCH DEFENSE MINISTRY/AFP/GETTY)

 

   
KeyWords
 
Comments
Comment
Name:
Email:
Comment:
Security Key:
Captcha refresh
Page Generated in 0/0762 sec