Irma once was the most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the open Atlantic, a Category 5 with a peak wind speed of 185 mph (300 kph). For days, forecasters warned Irma was taking dead aim at Florida. Irma made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane Sunday morning at Cudjoe Key, not far from Key West. It then rounded Florida’s southwestern corner and hugged the coast closely as it pushed north.
On Monday, a weakened but still dangerous Irma pushed inland and hammered Florida with winds and floodwaters that created hazards even for rescuers trying to help beleaguered residents.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott has said that there’s damage across the state caused by Hurricane Irma.
Evacuees from the Florida Keys began returning to the storm-ravaged island chain on Tuesday to find homes ripped apart and businesses coated in seaweed amid a debris-strewn landscape where an estimated 25 percent of all dwellings were destroyed.
Irma’s death toll
The death toll from Irma, previously ranked as one of the most powerful Atlantic storms on record and the second major hurricane to strike the U.S. mainland this season, climbed to 58 in the Caribbean, with at least 22 killed in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.
Six patients died at a sweltering Hollywood nursing home. Hollywood Police Chief Tom Sanchez said investigators believe the deaths at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills were heat-related, and added: “The building has been sealed off and we are conducting a criminal investigation.” He did not elaborate.
Three patients were found dead at the nursing home early Wednesday, and three more died at the hospital after a total of more than 100 were evacuated, many of them on stretchers or in wheelchairs, authorities said.
More than a dozen were treated after breathing carbon monoxide fumes from generators in the Orlando, Miami and Daytona Beach areas.
Not counting the nursing home deaths, at least 13 people in Florida have died under in Irma-related circumstances, many of them well after the storm had passed. A Tampa man died after the chain saw he was using to remove branches kicked back and cut his carotid artery.
Elsewhere, Irma has been blamed for four deaths in South Carolina and two in Georgia. At least 37 people were killed in the Caribbean.
Destruction was widespread in the Keys.
In Marathon Key, a Publix grocery store opened under police guard on Tuesday, but residents could buy only 20 items each, and no cigarettes or alcohol allowed, said 70-year-old retiree Elaine Yaquinto.
President Donald Trump’s homeland security adviser, Tom Bossert, said the federal government is working to help Florida Keys residents secure shelter through rental assistance, hotels or pre-manufactured housing.
For many of Irma’s victims, the days ahead are likely to be soggy, sweaty, dark and discouraging. One of the biggest worries is the fate of Florida’s many senior citizens.
While nearly all of Florida was engulfed by the massive storm, the Keys – home to about 70,000 people – appeared to be the hardest hit. Drinking water and power were cut off, all three of the islands’ hospitals were closed, and gasoline was extremely limited.
Accessing Hurricane Irma aftermath throughout Florida
Hurricane Irma rolled through Florida with water surge, force winds, and caused flood.
Irma gave Florida a coast-to-coast pummeling with winds up to 130 mph Sunday, swamping homes and boats, knocking out power to millions and toppling massive construction cranes over the Miami skyline.
The monster storm when arrived in Florida as a Category 4 hurricane, toppled at least three constructions cranes – two over downtown Miami and one in Fort Lauderdale.
In the low-lying Keys, appliances and furniture were seen floating away. Authorities were set to begin house-to-house searches Monday to check on survivors.
Nearly 4.5 million homes and businesses across Florida lost power, and utility officials said it will take weeks to restore electricity to everyone. More than 100,000 were in the dark in Georgia.
Initial damage assessments found 25 percent of homes in the Keys destroyed and 65 percent with major damage, according to Brock Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
The walls of nearby trailer homes were left ripped wide open, exposing insulation and the sodden interiors of bedrooms and kitchens to the elements.
Here are photos of the aftermath of Hurricane Irma throughout Florida
Evacuations caused by Irma
In one of the largest U.S. evacuations, nearly 7 million people in the Southeast were warned to seek shelter, including 6.4 million in Florida alone. More than 200,000 people waited in shelters across Florida.
More than 120 homes were being evacuated early Monday in Orange County, just outside the city of Orlando, as floodwaters started to pour in. Firefighters and the National Guard were going door-to-door and using boats to ferry families to safety. A few miles away, 30 others had to be evacuated when a 60-foot sinkhole opened up under an apartment building. No injuries were reported in either case.
About 30,000 people heeded orders to leave the Keys as the storm closed in, but an untold number refused.
At Germain Arena, where thousands sought refuge south of Fort Myers, people sat amid puddles on the concrete floor Monday morning. Officials said the arena remained in one piece, but wind-driven water leaked in at the height of the storm.
Overall info on Hurricane Irma aftermath throughout Florida and economic loss. Surged caused flooding, millions lost power, homes, cars, boats damaged.