* * *
At a time when South Floridians rocked by Hurricane Irma were still surveying the damage to their properties, the county of Miami-Dade apparently thought it appropriate to begin handing out safety notices.
Celso Perez told local WSVN-TV that he, his family, and his neighbors were starting to clear fallen trees from the streets after the storm passed through at nine in the morning on Monday. Hours later, in the afternoon, Perez got a visit from the county.
As much of Florida is left flooded and without power from this weekend’s hurricane, the damage across much of the Caribbean goes well beyond water damage and downed power lines with many describing the devastation left by Irma as “end-of-the-world times.” As one resident of St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands told the Washington Post, “it was beyond rough times, it was end-of-the-world times…everything normal to us has been destroyed.”
On St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands, “people there are roaming like zombies,” said Stacey Alvarado, a bar owner who managed to leave for the mainland. Her husband, who is still there, told her Sunday that residents and tourists are in shock. “They don’t know what to do. The island was wiped out. It’s like the walking dead down there.” Other islanders sent social media messages pleading for help, decrying looting and a series of armed burglaries.
“We need help,” wrote St. John blogger Jenn Manes. “We need the United States government to step up. We need military. We need security.”
Lauren Boquette, a 48-year-old restaurant manager on St. John, said his family had barricaded themselves in the bathroom of their home. When they emerged, he said, they saw a scene of total destruction.
“It was beyond rough times, it was end-of-the-world times. Everything normal to us has been destroyed,” he said.
Some of the hardest-hit places were those in the Leeward Islands like St. Martin and St. Barts,
where 11 people have reportedly died.
Residents of South Florida woke up Sunday morning to Hurricane Irma making landfall at 9:10 a.m. in the Florida Keys as a monster Category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph.
The monster storm made a second landfall later at 3:35 p.m. near Marco Island as it continued traveling north along Florida’s Gulf Coast. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) expects Irma to continue overnight into Monday before finally losing hurricane strength status.
— NHC Atlantic Ops (@NHC_Atlantic) September 10, 2017
By Sunday afternoon Irma had been downgraded to a Category 2 hurricane, but the NHC was still warning of an “imminent danger of life-threatening storm surge flooding along much of the Florida west coast.” More than 6.3 million people evacuated from their homes after the Florida governor ordered those in Irma’s projected path to seek safe shelter away from the storm. Curfews for 6:00 p.m. have been declared by local officials in the cities of St. Petersburg and Tampa Bay.
As Florida residents continue to brace for life-threatening storm surges of up to 15 feet, here are 11 surreal scenes from Miami that reminded us of a real-life disaster movie:
In what is either a generous act of charity or an unnerving example of the control Tesla exercises over the vehicles it producers, or perhaps both, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has magically unlocked the batteries of every Tesla in Florida to maximize the distance that people fleeing from Hurricane Irma can travel before stopping to refuel at one of the company’s “superstation” charging centers.
Typically, these types of over-the-air upgrades can cost thousands – if not tens of thousands – of dollars.
(Update: Associated Press tweeted that French President Emmanuel Macron will visit St Martin on Tuesday. Macron tweeted on Saturday that an additional contingent of 240-300 French officers are being sent to restore order to the island.)
Citizens and some news sources are reporting that the island of St Martin/St Maarten is on the verge of a civil war as organized gangs armed with machetes raid stores and homes, leaving some residents in fear for their lives.
The island, which remains isolated after widespread destruction caused by Hurricane Irma, remains cut off after the island’s main airport was significantly damaged.
Update 9 (1:10pm): Deputies shot and wounded a burglar and arrested his accomplice at a Florida home as Hurricane Irma blew in.
The Broward Sheriff’s Office said in a news release Sunday that the homeowners in Weston were out of town but saw the burglars remotely inside the house through a home surveillance system. Deputies responded shortly before 3 a.m. and one of the two juvenile males was shot outside the home. He was taken to a local hospital for treatment of non-life threatening injuries. The other person was arrested.
* * *
Update 8 (12:54 pm): Miami’s financial center appears to now be flooding as ocean water enters city streets as part of the storm’s surge.
As we noted on Friday, sea-level analytics firm Climate Central had created a simulation based on the National Hurricane Center’s Coastal Emergency Risks Assessment storm surge and wave modeling that illustrated the devastating flooding in Miami that could result from Hurricane Irma’s storm surge. By overlaying the NHC data with a three-dimensional visual of the city obtained using Google maps, the firm created a realistic visual of what the city would look like under between seven and 11 feet of water.
Luckily, in the last minute the Hurricane shifted westward, but the concerns remain.
Given the expected intensity of the flooding, some readers might assume that the dreaded surge would be the result of tsunami-like waves overwhelming the city’s beaches. But that’s not the case. As the Associated Press explains, the hurricane-force winds draw in water not just form the ocean, but other nearby bodies of water as well. However, forecasters say surges kill more people than the strong winds.
As Florida Gov. Rick Scott warned, the surge “will cover your house.” Already, at least three Floridians have died in the Keys.
Florida’s highways and backroads are clogged with motorists after Gov. Rick Scott has ordered an unprecedented 6.2 million residents of central and southern Florida to evacuate. Meanwhile, Miami, along with many towns and cities along the state’s southeastern coast, resembles a ghost town, according to the New York Post.
To recap: The category 4 storm has already carved a path of destruction through the Caribbean, leaving 90% or Barbuda uninhabitable and nearly a million people without power in Puerto Rico. And now, with the storm’s outer bands already battering the southern part of the state, meteorologists are saying Irma has suddenly shifted westward and is now heading toward Florida’s Gulf Coast – specifically, the Tampa Bay area.
Here’s the Associated Press:
Forecasters expect Irma’s core to come ashore Sunday and strike the Keys, southwestern Florida and the Tampa Bay region, which hasn’t felt a major hurricane since 1921. The eye is expected to miss heavily-populated Miami, which may have dodged a bubble in the last minute, but that area will still get life-threatening hurricane conditions even without a direct hit, Hurricane Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen said.