Irma continued its march north on Monday morning, dumping rain across the width of Florida and lashing the state with powerful winds that downed power lines and left millions in the dark.
The National Hurricane Center said that Irma had weakened to a tropical storm but cautioned that it was still capable of throwing off wind gusts that were near hurricane force.
Losing some of its deadly strength but retaining its vast size, the storm stretched from Florida’s Gulf Coast to the Atlantic as it churned past Tampa. Officials in Tampa lifted the city’s curfew at 8 a.m. amid early assessments showing some debris, minimal flooding and no major damage.
Irma came ashore on the mainland as a Category 2 hurricane, flooded parts of downtown Miami and knocked over construction cranes there as winds exceeded 100 miles per hour.
Here’s the latest:
• As of 11 a.m., the storm had maximum sustained winds of 65 miles per hour and was moving north-northwest about 70 miles east of Tallahassee, Fla..
• Forecasters expect it to stay inland over Florida as it heads into Georgia, before moving on to Alabama and Tennessee.
• At least four deaths were reported in Florida after the storm’s arrival on Sunday. It has left at least 27 people dead across the Caribbean.
• The National Weather Service reported Monday that flooding from a storm surge in Jacksonville had exceeded a record set by Hurricane Dora in 1964.
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Jacksonville is inundated, while Tampa is ‘looking good.’
Mayor Charlie Latham of Jacksonville Beach, appearing on CNN, said that about 90 percent of people in the city had lost power. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said of the surge and flooding there.
In Tampa, Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who on Sunday warned residents that the city was about to get “punched in the face,” said on Monday that the city had been spared the storm’s worst.
“It’s looking good,” Mr. Buckhorn said. “The first blush is that not only did we dodge a bullet, but we survived pretty well. Not a lot of flooding. Tree removal, debris — don’t want to say it’s negligible, but it’s manageable.”
The city was again spared from a direct hit by a hurricane, as has been its good fortune for more than 90 years running. How? “Because we live good lives, because we only get drunk once in a while,” Mr. Buckhorn joked. “No, I don’t have an answer for that.”
In St. Petersburg, tree limbs littered lawns and minor debris had blown onto roads but was not stopping traffic. Most businesses remained closed.
The governor is taking stock of the damage in the Keys.
Gov. Rick Scott headed to the Florida Keys on Monday to survey the extent of damage there and in other parts of South Florida. The governor was traveling aboard a Coast Guard aircraft to inspect the strings of islands and the bridges that connect them.
“The Keys I am very concerned about,” he told Fox News, adding that there were power lines out, impassable roads and unsafe bridges there.
“We are doing everything we can to get food and water throughout the state,” Mr. Scott said. “Most importantly we have got to save every life and we have got to make sure people understand it is still dangerous.”
He urged Floridians to be patient and to not rush out to check their houses or look around, saying they should listen to local authorities before leaving shelters. “Everybody has got to be patient as we work through this,” he said.
Miami residents are venturing out into the streets.
Mayor Tomás Regalado and other city officials pleaded for residents to stay off the streets of Miami on Monday, saying that teams were out in force dealing with downed power lines, search-and-rescue operations and clearing roads.
The mayor made the request at a morning news conference, where officials said another concern was that parts of two cranes had collapsed during the storm.
But in Brickell, a highrise neighborhood, many people were already venturing out, cameras in hand, marveling at the number of trees that once lined the roads like Roman columns but now lay beaten and torn apart, defeated by the storm.
Tiffany Fields, who stayed at her home in Brickell throughout the storm despite an evacuation order, said on Monday that she had watched as the windows in a nearby building were blown out.
“It was a very long day,” she said. “When the winds were at their highest, I was worried I made the wrong decision.”
But by Monday, she was glad she stayed. She said she could not imagine spending three days in a shelter, cooped up and away from home. “That would have been the worst,” she said.
As Ms. Fields spoke, a steady stream of cars passed nearby, many returning home for the first time in three days to assess the damage and see if they could resume normal life.
A search-and-rescue team pauses to remember 9/11.
The search-and-rescue team from California had been up since before dawn, packing their gear and checking, again, their dozens of vehicles. But before California Task Force 1 would leave from Orlando for expected missions in the Florida Keys, they bowed their heads.
“On this day, it would be appropriate for us to say a few words,” said Chuck Ruddell, a leader of the task force and one of the approximately dozen current members who worked on rescue efforts in New York.
“On this day, the 16th anniversary of 9/11, it’s an obligation, I think, for each of us to remind ourselves of those who were killed, recognize those who survived in honor of the sacrifices of the first responders and those recovery workers who were there for so many days,” he said.
There was silence, followed by a few “amens.” Then the task force went back to work. The potential devastation of the Keys, Mr. Ruddell reminded the group, loomed.
Retreating water alarms observers.
Suddenly, the water went away. In the Bahamas, in Tampa Bay and in Naples, observers were shocked to see the waters that usually lap against the shore recede into the distance.
On social media, people reacted with incredulity, noting that the water had disappeared where whitecaps were just hours before on Sunday in Tampa Bay. James Spann, an Alabama meteorologist and weather blogger, reacted sternly to a photograph on Twitter of people playing in the sand exposed by the retreating water.
“The water will come rushing back with a vengeance,” Mr. Spann said on Twitter. “They won’t have time to get out when it begins.”
On Twitter, Gov. Rick Scott issued an urgent warning to stay away from the water. “DO NOT GO IN. The water will surge back & could overtake you.”
Chris O’Donnell, a reporter with The Tampa Bay Times, later reported that the police had cleared people from the shore well before the water came back.
The phenomenon of water being drawn off by the power of Hurricane Irma is known as a negative surge. As Mr. Spann warned, that odd condition will not last — and will become dangerous. Michael R. Lowry, a scientist with the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, a nonprofit education consortium, explained in a series of tweets that staying away from the water in this storm is important because the hurricane is sending a dangerous surge ashore: 10 to 15 feet, for instance, in Naples, Fla.
And as the National Hurricane Center explained, the water will come rushing back to Naples after the eye passes. On Twitter, the center warned: “MOVE AWAY FROM THE WATER!”
Published at Mon, 11 Sep 2017 15:08:45 +0000