Hurricane pounds Florida …”IRMA DOWNGRADED”

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Monster Hurricane Irma has been downgraded to a Tropical Storm.

But not after pounding Florida on Sunday, causing widespread damage and knocking out electricity to more than three million people. Irma is now heading to Georgia.

Hurricane Irma left a trail of damage across South Florida: flooded streets, downed trees, crushed cars, leaky homes. The long slog of assessing the damage across the region begins Monday. Miami-Dade and Broward counties were spared the worst of the storm, but the Florida Keys were hit hard, according to the Miami Herald on Monday.

Miami Gardens sees light damage

10:10 a.m.: Residents in Miami Gardens made their way outside Monday morning to rake up smaller branches, cut larger ones and clear their yards of debris.

The inland area was mostly spared from storm surge and flooding but several large trees were uprooted by Irma’s winds including some that blocked streets.

About a mile away from Hard Rock Stadium, Jesse Martin was working on his truck and looked out at a giant tree that came down in his front yard, along Northwest 12th Avenue near 202nd Street.

He said he was watching through the screen in his front door as the winds picked up and then “Boom! It came down.”

“It was rocking and rocking and then whoomp, it fell,” Martin said.

Martin, 58, has lived in Miami Gardens for about 35 years and said that Hurricane Andrew caused some major damage to his roof and patio so he’s grateful he’s only dealing with trees.

“With this, it was just a little wind. We got lucky,” Martin said.

People return to downtown Miami

10:00 a.m.: Carlos Castillo pointed his camera and clicked. This wasn’t the Miami he came to see, but he’ll take it.

“The streets are empty. It’s a very strange, beautiful Miami,” he said.

Castillo was walking outside the Arsht Center for the Performing Arts around 8 a.m. Monday as the city slowly came out of a weekend-long slumber. By 9 a.m., cars were on the road and people were everywhere, walking their dogs along Biscayne Boulevard past uprooted trees and navigating streets without working stop lights.

Outside Bayfront Marketplace, Large palm trees were downed in some places and street signs toppled, but the Miamarina behind the outdoor shopping center looked almost untouched, despite some damaged storefronts and the new presence of a lawn of seaweed and flotsam and jetsam.
“Irma did her due, said Omar Jackson, who lost power in his condo tower and woke up early to charge his iPhone at an outdoor outlet. “There’s windows blown out, trees all over the place, exposed wires, it looks crazy.”

10 dead in Cuba

9:55 a.m.: Cuban civil defense authorities reported 10 deaths in Havana, Matanzas, Camagüey and Ciego de Ávila that resulted from Hurricane Irma’s passage.

They included a 71-year-old-man who fell on a live cable while trying to take down a TV antenna in Havana, a 77-year-old man who was electrocuted in Old Havana after stepping on a fallen electrical line, and two women who were killed when a fourth floor balcony tumbled on to the bus in which they were riding.

Other deaths resulted from collapsed homes and an apparent drowning after the storm surge. Irma hit the northern coast of Cuba as a Category 5 storm.

House of Representatives suspending Monday votes
9:50 a.m.: The House of Representatives will not convene for votes on Monday due to Hurricane Irma.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., made the decision on Sunday as Hurricane Irma moved up Florida’s Gulf Coast.

“Due to the large number of absences as a result of Hurricane Irma, Members are advised that no votes are expected in the House tomorrow, Monday, September 11th,” a release from McCarthy’s office said.

The House is expected to reconvene on Tuesday.

Last week, the majority of Florida’s congressional delegation including Miami Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart missed votes, including a $15 billion hurricane relief package, as they left Washington to prepare for Irma.

The U.S. Senate will convene on Monday afternoon.

Tornado activity detected near Hard Rock Stadium

9:45 a.m.: As of Monday morning, the Dolphins did not know what, if any, structural damage Hurricane Irma caused to Hard Rock Stadium, and won’t until engineers are able to get into the property and perform an inspection.

“All we have is a visual inspection by camera right now,” a team source told the Miami Herald. “We think the stadium may have experiences some tornado activity based on radar tracking.”

The stadium, with its brand new canopy, is built to withstand Category 4 force winds. Irma’s impact on South Florida didn’t reach that level of intensity.

Still no entry into Key Biscayne

9:30 a.m.: “Re-entry to the village of Key Biscayne is prohibited until further notice,” the village announced Monday morning. A 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. curfew is already in effect. Access to the island was shut down across the Rickenbacker Causeway and Bear Cut Bridge on Saturday.

When will power and cell phones come back?

9:25 a.m.: On the day after Hurricane Irma, the question everyone wants answered is: When will my power and cellphone service be restored?

The short answer: Your cellphone should be working again relatively soon. But you’ll likely have to wait longer – several days or even longer in some areas – before the light switches in your home are useful again.

As dawn broke on Monday morning, 2 million of the 2.7 million homes and businesses in South Florida had no electricity, according to Florida Power & Light.

Ugly scenes on the waterfront in Coconut Grove

9: 20 a.m.: Coconut Grove’s marinas suffered their worst storm damage in 12 years after Hurricane Irma thrust Biscayne Bay waters well ashore.

Search and rescue starting in flooded Jacksonville

9:15 a.m.: Three Florida Fish and Wildlife search and rescue teams have been deployed to Jacksonville to help evacuate people stranded from record flooding.

The storm surge from Hurricane Irma combined with high tide and rain bands from Hurricane Jose to create conditions for the unprecedented deluge, officials at the Florida Emergency Operations Center said Monday.

Venetian closure leaves Beach residents with tough choices

9:05 a.m.: As Venetian Islands resident Peter Warner stopped clearing large branches from his yard to clear them off the Venetian Causeway itself, shirtless Nathan Weiss stopped to chat on his way to his Collins Avenue home.

The Miami Beach police blocking off the Venetian forced Weiss to make a hopeful decision: leave his car at the road block at the risk of being towed, walk to his apartment and get his bike. Then, he’d bike back to his car, park it in Miami until Tuesday at noon (when residents will be allowed to return by car to Miami Beach) and bike back to his apartment.

There’s power there. There wasn’t power in the airport-area hotel Weis and his wife, an airline employee, we’re put up at by her airline.

First thing he’ll do when he gets to his apartment: “Charge my cell phone.”

He also pondered food.

“I’m a vegan,” he laughed. “I won’t just eat any ham sandwich you put in front of me.”

Weiss continued his walk home. Warner continued to clear the Causeway block adjacent to his Rivo Alto home.

Lights are on in downtown Coral Gables

9:00 a.m.: In downtown Coral Gables, amazingly, the electricity was working and street lights were operational. Both police and FPL crews were visible on the roads.

In South Coral Gables, roadways were blocked by tree limbs and and the occasional fallen tree, including one blocking Lejeune Road south of U.S. 1.

U.S. 1 itself appeared clear along the Gables heading into Coconut Grove. Near the Dolphin Expressway, a Latin Cafe on LeJeune was already open for business.

No garbage pickup in Miami Monday

8:55 a.m.: There will be no garbage, recycling or bulky trash pickup in the city of Miami Monday. “All efforts today by the Department of Solid Waste will be dedicated to clearing debris off the roads,” a news release from the city said. “The Mini-Dump Facility located at 1290 NW 20th St. will re-open Tuesday 9/12 at 7 a.m. only for City of Miami Residents (bring identification).”

Scott warns recovery will take time: ‘Everybody’s got to be patient’

8:40 a.m.: As Gov. Rick Scott departed for an aerial tour of the Keys Monday, he gave a hint as to the extent of the physical damage he will encounter as he surveys the destruction and warned that the recovery won’t be quick.

“Power lines are down throughout the state,” he said. “We’ve got roads that are impassable, so everybody’s got to be patient as we work through this.”

He said that for those who have evacuated “it’s going to take some time” before they can return to their homes. The state will need to restore electric lines, put water back on, and make sure roads are passable.

“This is when people make mistakes,” he said. “They go around downed power lines. They go where it’s unsafe. We have so much damage now around the state. We’re drawing every resource we can — locally, the state and federal government.”

He said everyone from the president to the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency are assisting and the ports are working to re-open to replenish fuel supplies.

Meanwhile, as the St. John’s River in Jacksonville reached record levels, search and rescue teams were deployed to save people trapped in the rapidly developing floods.

High tides, combined with the winds of Hurricane Jose, helped swamp Jacksonville with enormous amounts of rain early Monday.

“We’re really concerned to save every life there,” Scott said.

Scott to make an aerial survey of damage in the Keys
8:15 a.m.: As most of Florida woke up in the dark Monday, with power out for 58 percent of the state, Gov. Rick Scott left the state — so he could fly to the Keys to conduct and aerial survey of Irma’s destruction.

The governor traveled to Pensacola late Sunday and Monday planned to drive to Mobile, Ala., where a Coast Guard plane would take him to the Keys to view the damage where Irma first hit the state, said Scott spokesperson John Tupps.

It was not immediately available if he would be landing in Marathon or Boca Chica, the two Keys airports open Monday.

Scott began the day doing rounds on the morning shows on television networks.

Florida Emergency Management Director Bryan Koon briefed members of the state’s emergency operations staff. “Let’s figure out where the worst parts are,” he said.

The governor’s communications staff maintained his Twitter feed from the Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee throughout the night. They urged people to be careful of storm surge.

“The combination of a dangerous storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded,” one Tweet read at 4:06 a.m. “DO NOT GO IN. The water will surge back & could overtake you,” read another.

Irma downgraded to tropical storm.

8:00 a.m.: After battering its way up Florida’s Gulf Coast, Hurricane Irma was downgraded to a tropical storm Monday morning. It was expected to cross into Georgia in the afternoon, leaving potentially dangerous storm surges in its wake.

By 8 a.m. Monday, Irma was about 105 miles north of Tampa, with sustained winds of 70 miles an hour. A storm surge warning was discontinued from Flagler and Volusia counties south to Jupiter inlet, but a flash flood warning remains in effect for downtown Jacksonville.

“This is a particularly dangerous situation,” a National Weather Service alert warned. “Water is expected to rise another 1 to 2 feet when winds switch to the south and push water northward into downtown — and the high tide begins to come into the river. Move to higher ground now. This is an extremely dangerous and life-threatening situation.”
A boat capsized at the entrance of the Venetian Causeway in Biscayne Island after Hurricane Irma swept through South Florida on Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017.
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