Hurricane Irma has been downgraded to Category 2 as it is making its way along the western Florida coast, but it will remain in hurricane classification at least until Monday morning.
Irma made landfall on Marco Island off Florida’s west coast with winds of up to 105mph (169km/h). Miami streets are flooded. Three storm-related deaths have been reported in Florida. Irma has already devastated parts of the Caribbean, killing at least 28 people. Some 6.3 million people in Florida had been told to evacuate. President Donald Trump has approved a major disaster declaration and emergency federal aid for Florida. He described the hurricane as a “big monster”, praising the federal agencies involved with the storm and saying he would go to the state very soon.
Irma knocked out power to more than 3 million homes and businesses in Florida, threatening millions more as it crept up the state’s west coast, and full restoration of service could take weeks, local electric utilities said. So far, the brunt of the storm has affected Florida Power & Light’s customers in the states’ southern and eastern sections, and its own operations were not immune, either.
“We are not subject to any special treatment from Hurricane Irma. We just experienced a power outage at our command center. We do have backup generation,” FPL spokesman Rob Gould said on Sunday.
FPL, the biggest power company in Florida, said more than 2.9 million of its customers were without power, mostly in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. More than 200,000 had electricity restored, mostly by automated devices. The company’s system will need to be rebuilt, particularly in the western part of the state, Gould said.
Forecasters warned that Irma remained dangerous as it toppled trees and power lines, tore up roofs and threatened coastal areas with storm surges as high as 15 feet. Tornadoes were also spotted through the southern part of the state. Some 6.5 million people, about a third of the state’s population, had been ordered to evacuate southern Florida as the storm approached the U.S. mainland after pummeling Cuba with 36-foot-tall waves and ravaging several smaller Caribbean islands. An estimated 170,000 people were lodged in more than 650 emergency shelters as of early evening, according to the Florida Division of Emergency Management.