Photos and videos from Florida show the terrifying power of Hurricane Irma

Gladys Abbott
September 13, 2017

Even before its expected impacts on South Florida, the trail of devastation Irma has wrought and the strength it has achieved would assure its place in the annals of the worst storms on record for the region. A major round of evacuations was ordered in the Tampa area, and shelters there soon began filling up.

Still, Miami was not out of danger.

Irma was at one time the most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the open Atlantic with a peak wind speed of 185 miles per hour (300 kph) last week.

There were no immediate reports of fatalities in Cuba, where the government prides itself on disaster preparedness and said it had carried out evacuations totaling more than 1 million people.

Hurricane Irma made landfall in the lower Florida Keys on Sunday morning, unleashing severe winds and storm surges on its path toward the state's west coast.

Mr Trump deflected questions about the billions of dollars the government will be asked to spend to help communities in Florida and other affected states rebuild after Irma, saying "right now we're anxious about lives, not cost".

The Tampa Bay area, with a population of about 3 million, has not been hit by a major hurricane since 1921. Now the area has around 3 million people.

In St. Thomas, the U.S. Virgin islands, a convoy of FEMA trucks carrying water rumbled past damaged homes with sirens blaring.

By late morning Saturday, however, few businesses in St. Petersburg and its barrier islands had put plywood or hurricane shutters on their windows, and some locals grumbled about the change in the forecast.

"I don't know [why they don't believe in climate change] because I can't divine their motives", he told CNN.

Another storm, Jose, further out in the Atlantic behind Irma, is now a category four hurricane, with winds of up to 233km/h. In some parts of the state, along and east of the hurricane's path, damage could be catastrophic.

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Forecasters warned of storm surge as high as 15 feet (4.5 meters).

"This is going to sneak up on people", said Jamie Rhome, head of the hurricane center's storm surge unit.

"If I lived in a house I would have left, but if it gets flooded here it's going to take a week at least to come back". Motorists heading inland from the Tampa area were allowed to drive on the shoulders.

It tweeted late Saturday: "DO NOT shoot weapons @ (hashtag) Irma".

In Houston, 70 people died in flooding after Harvey picked up an inordinate amount of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico - which was 5ºF warmer than average - and then hovered over the city for days.

A Miami woman who went into labour was guided through delivery by phone when authorities couldn't reach her because of high winds and street flooding.

"This will no doubt be one of the most complex restorations that the company has ever seen", he said.

"Well", he added, "we're about to get punched in the face".

The governor activated all 7,000 members of the Florida National Guard, and 30,000 guardsmen from elsewhere were on standby. The Miami and Fort Lauderdale airports shut down, and those in Orlando and Tampa planned to do the same later in the day.

As of midnight in New York, Irma was about 80 miles southeast of Key West, according to the hurricane center. Scarborough was 12 when Andrew hit and remembers lying on the floor in a hall as the storm almost ripped the roof off his house.

"They said this one is going to be bigger than Andrew".

Other reports by LeisureTravelAid

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