Irma death toll in US rises to 11; Florida Keys face ‘devastation’ – ABC News
The death toll from Irma, which tore a path of destruction across the Caribbean and through the Southeast, has climbed to 12 in the United States as power was restored today for over 2 million customers in Florida.
By mid-day today, Florida Power & Light Co. had restored power to 2.3 million customers, which was 40 percent of the affected customers. Still without power in Florida are 4.4 million customers.
The company said its customers on the state’s east coast should expect most power to be restored by about Sept. 17, while customers on the state’s west coast should expect most power to be restored by Sept. 22.
As evacuated Floridians sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic to head home and face monumental cleanups throughout the state, the remnants of Irma is still bringing wind and rain to the Southeast.
Upper Keys and Miami Beach residents permitted to return home
The Florida Keys had been cut off from the mainland for days after Irma made landfall on the low-lying islands Sunday morning as a Category 4 hurricane, bringing 130 mph winds and a storm surge of 10 feet. It was the first Category 4 landfall in Florida since 2004.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott said the storm left “devastation” on the Keys, which were under mandatory evacuation orders during Irma. At least one person died on the Keys.
Officials finally this morning opened entry into the Upper Keys for residents in Key Largo, Tavernier and Islamorada, up to mile marker 73, allowing residents to return home and see the damage for themselves.
Dozens of eager Keys residents parked their cars along U.S. 1 Monday, staying there through the night to make sure they could get onto the Keys when access was granted, ABC Miami affiliate WPLG-TV reported.
But water, power, sewer, medical services and cell service are still limited, Monroe County officials said today. In the meantime, shelters and distribution centers for food and water are being opened.
Florida’s Department of Transportation is also today working to repair two 300-foot stretches of road on the Keys that were washed out.
While the Keys were under mandatory evacuation orders as Irma neared, not everyone left. Florida Director of Emergency Management Bryan Koon estimates that about 10,000 people remained in the Keys during the storm, according to the Miami Herald.
County officials are working to restore services and make the county safe for residents in the Middle and Lower Keys to return, they said today, adding that this will take time.
Further north, Miami Beach residents were permitted to return this morning, too.
Miami Beach Cswys are now open to everyone. Expect delays and use caution. Welcome home! ????
— City of Miami Beach (@MiamiBeachNews) September 12, 2017
Clean up efforts were underway this morning on Miami Beach’s iconic Ocean Drive, which was covered in sand from the storm surge and wind. The area was littered with down trees and street signs, but appeared to escape without major structural damage.
Some business owners this morning removed boards from their windows, preparing to reopen.
Heavy rain in Georgia, South Carolina and Jacksonville
Irma moved north Monday, bringing heavy rain and wind through the northern Florida city of Jacksonville and then Georgia and South Carolina.
Wind gusts reached 64 mph in Atlanta, and the coastal city of Brunswick, Georgia, saw over 6 inches of rain.
Charleston, South Carolina, saw a nearly 10-foot storm surge. Five to 6 inches of rain fell in the area and winds reached 66 mph.
Water raced through the streets of Jacksonville earlier Monday, bringing record levels of storm surge along the coast and inland rivers.
Storm pummels Naples and Miami
After Irma left the Keys Sunday morning, it moved north, passing over Naples, which recorded a 142-mph wind gust. The city also saw nearly 12 inches of rain and a 7-foot storm surge. Farther north, wind gusts reached 94 mph in Lakeland and up to 90 mph in the Tampa Bay area.
In Miami, which saw winds up to 99 mph, resident Joe Kiener said he has endured multiple hurricanes in the Caribbean but had never experienced a storm as brutal as Irma.
“I’ve been in Miami Beach for two years, which is prone to flooding, but this is completely out of the norm,” Kiener told ABC News.
Kiener boarded up his house and is staying at a high-rise hotel in Miami. He said he had to move down to the lobby after his hotel room windows took a beating from the strong winds.
“The windows started cracking, and these are massive-impact windows. They were exposed 12 hours of continuous heavy winds. At one point in time, one of them started splintering and that’s when I lost my nerve and said, ‘I’m leaving,'” he said. “It psyches you out; it’s just the endless hallowing and pounding of the wind.”
President Donald Trump approved a “major disaster” declaration in Florida on Sunday, authorizing “federal funding to flow directly to Floridians impacted by Hurricane Irma and reimburs[ing] local communities and the state government to aid in response and recovery,” state officials said.
Trump may travel to the U.S. Virgin Islands, which suffered extreme destruction from the storm.
Fatalities in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and the Caribbean
At least seven people, including a sheriff’s deputy, died of storm-related injuries in Florida as the hurricane barreled across the state.
One person was killed in Monroe County, which includes the Florida Keys. The man was killed after he lost control of a truck that carried a generator as winds whipped at tropical-storm strength, officials said.
Two others, a sheriff’s deputy and a corrections officer, died from a two-car crash in the rain in Hardee County, which is about 60 miles inland from Sarasota, officials said.
In Winter Park, near Orlando, a man was electrocuted by a downed power line Monday morning, according to the Winter Park Police Department. He was pronounced dead at the scene after investigators found him lying in the street, police said.
Another person died from carbon monoxide poisoning from improper use of a generator in Miami-Dade County, the mayor said.
Another person died in Hillsborough County while cutting fallen tree branches.
Another fatality was from a car crash in Orange County in central Florida.
At least three people have died in Georgia as a result of the storm. In Sandy Springs, a man died while lying in bed after a large tree broke and fell on his home, Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul announced on Facebook.
In Forsyth County, a female passenger died after a downed tree struck her vehicle, the sheriff’s office said.
A third death was reported in Worth County.
At least two people have died in South Carolina: a 57-year-old man was killed after a tree limb fell on him and a 21-year-old died in a car crash.
At least 37 others died from Irma in the Caribbean, including at least 10 in Cuba.
ABC News’ Max Golembo, Dan Peck, Rachel Katz, Will Gretsky, Jason Volack, Gio Benitez, Rachel Scott, Ben Gittleson and Ben Stein contributed to this report.