Saturday 23 June 2018

Florida counts cost of the carnage

Kelly McClenthen returns to see the flood damage to her Bonita Springs home with her boyfriend Daniel Harrison. Photo: Gerald Herbert/AP Photo
Kelly McClenthen returns to see the flood damage to her Bonita Springs home with her boyfriend Daniel Harrison. Photo: Gerald Herbert/AP Photo

Doug Ferguson and Jay Reeves

A weakened Irma took its parting shot at Florida yesterday, triggering severe flooding in the state's northeastern corner, while authorities along the storm's 650km path struggled to rush aid to victims and take the full measure of the damage.

The monster hurricane that hit the Florida Keys on Sunday was downgraded to a tropical storm as it finally pushed its way out of the state and into Georgia, where it caused more misery.

During its rainy, windy run up the length of Florida, Irma swamped homes, uprooted trees, flooded streets, cast boats ashore, snapped miles of power lines and toppled construction cranes.

Read more: Branson calls for 'Marshall Plan' to help islands bounce back from the devastation

"How are we going to survive from here?" asked Gwen Bush, who waded through thigh-deep floodwaters outside her central Florida home to reach National Guard rescuers and get a ride to a shelter. "What's going to happen now? I just don't know."

More than 6.5 million homes and businesses statewide remained without power, and 180,000 people huddled in shelters. Officials warned it could take weeks for electricity to be restored to everyone.

One death in Florida, that of a man killed in an auto accident during the storm, was blamed on Irma. At least 36 people were left dead in the storm's wake across the Caribbean.

Read more: Irish families take shelter from storm in baths and closets

Irma was at one point the most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the open Atlantic, with winds up to 298kph. By yesterday afternoon, its winds were down to 97kph.

The hurricane's wrath in the Sunshine State extended the full length of the state and reached from the west coast to the east. But because of disrupted communications and cut-off roads, the full scale of its damage was unclear, especially in the dangerously exposed Keys, which felt Irma's full fury when the storm came ashore.

Irish Independent

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