1123 GMT November 20, 2017
Irma, once ranked as one of the most powerful hurricanes recorded in the Atlantic, hit a wide swath of Florida over the past day, first making landfall on the Florida Keys archipelago and then coming ashore south of Naples and heading up the west coast, Reuters reported.
Irma, now a tropical storm with sustained winds of up to 70 miles per hour (110 km per hour), was located about 35 miles (56 km) west of Gainesville and headed up the Gulf Coast, the National Hurricane Center said at 8 a.m. ET (1200 GMT).
The Cuban government reported on Monday that 10 people had been killed after Irma battered the island’s north coast with ferocious winds and 36-foot (11-meter) waves over the weekend. This raised the overall death toll from Irma’s powerful rampage through the Caribbean to 38.
The sheriff’s office in Jacksonville, on Florida’s northeast coast, reported that it was making a rescue from waist-deep water on Monday morning and urged people to stay off unsafe roads. The National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning for the city, with nearby St. Augustine also seeing flooding.
“Stay inside. Go up. Not out,” Jacksonville’s website warned residents. “There is flooding throughout the city and more rain is expected.”
Irma first came ashore at Cudjoe Key as a Category 4 hurricane with sustained winds of up to 130 mph (215 kph.)
A large military airborne relief operation was being prepared to take help to the islands, which are linked by a dramatic series of bridges and causeways from Key Largo almost 100 miles (160 km) southwest to the city of Key West, Monroe County Emergency Director Martin Senterfitt told a teleconference.
The state’s largest city, Miami, was spared the brunt of the storm but was still battered. Utility crews were already on the streets there clearing downed trees and utility lines. All causeways leading to Miami Beach were closed by police.
Much of the state’s east and west coasts remained vulnerable on Monday to storm surges, when hurricanes push ocean water dangerously over normal levels. That risk extended to the coast of Georgia and parts of South Carolina, the hurricane Centre said.
Economic cost of Harvey, Irma could be $290bn
US forecaster AccuWeather said in a report Sunday that the combined economic cost of hurricanes Harvey and Irma could reach $290 billion, equivalent to 1.5 percent of the US gross domestic product.
"We believe the damage estimate from Irma to be about $100 billion, among the costliest hurricanes of all time," said the firm's CEO and founder Joel Myers, AFP reported on Monday.
Harvey, which battered Texas and parts of Louisiana in late August, will be "the costliest weather disaster in US history at $190 billion or one full percentage point of GDP" which stands at $19 trillion.
The report said it arrived at the figure by calculating disruptions to business, increased unemployment rates for significant periods of time, damage to transport and infrastructure, crop loss including a 25 percent drop of orange crop, increased costs of fuels including gasoline, heating oil and jet fuel, household damages and loss of valuable documentation.
Only a fraction of the losses would be covered by insurance, said Myers.
Harvey made landfall in Texas in late August, causing severe damage to property and paralyzing the country's fourth-largest city, Houston, with major flooding.
According to Reuters, the Irma storm did some $20 billion to $40 billion in damage to insured property as it tore through Florida, catastrophe modelling firm AIR Worldwide estimated.
High winds snapped power lines and left about 5.8 million Florida homes and businesses without power, state data showed.
Miami International Airport, one of the busiest in the country, halted passenger flights through at least Monday. According to the FlightAware.com tracking site, a total of 3,582 U.S. flights were cancelled on Monday, mostly as a result of the storm.