Hurricane Irma Is Here, Battering Florida [UPDATING]


Update, 9:35 p.m.: After dropping more than a foot of rain in South Florida, Hurricane Irma has continued up the coast towards Tampa Bay, FL. The storm’s surge dropped in Naples, FL, where some forecasters predicted catastrophic flooding. The National Weather Service reported wind gusts of 142 miles per hour in Naples. Marco Island was hit with winds that peaked at 130 miles per hour.

Update, 6:55 p.m.: Hurricane Irma’s eye has passed through Naples, FL, where the sea level jumped 7 feet in 90 minutes. Irma’s surge was 9 to 15 feet above ground level in some places, the New York Times reported after interviewing a meteorologist from the National Weather Service on the ground in Florida.

Update, 5:25 p.m.: Hurricane Irma has now been classified as a Category 2 storm as it makes its way up the coast toward Tampa. That doesn’t mean it’s no longer dangerous, however, as Irma is still bringing sustained winds of 110 mph and poses a surge risk.

Update, 3:45 p.m.:Here’s a staggering number that’s likely to continue increasing as Irma winds its way north: Florida Power & Light reported Sunday afternoon that 2.1 million customers are without power. Of those, 845,000 are in Miami–Dade County, the AP reported. In northern Florida, about 13,000 power outages have been reported so far.

Also, Irma has made landfall for a second time today, this time at Marco Island.

Update, 2:45 p.m.: A second crane has collapsed in Miami, according to NBC:

Update, 2:14 p.m.: A fast–moving tornado has touched down at Ft. Lauderdale’s airport, providing yet another reason to remain indoors and away from windows.

Tornadoes continue to be an added risk, prompting several tornado warnings across the state throughout the day. Yet, just 60 miles north of the Ft. Lauderdale airport, police in Palm Beach told CNN that they had arrested 43 people for violating an ongoing curfew.

Meanwhile, on the Gulf coast, the National Hurricane Center just issued an urgent storm surge warning for the Naples and Marco Island areas. Water levels on Florida’s southwestern coast could rise by 10–15 feet “in a matter of minutes,” the alert said.

Update, 11:40 a.m.: Miami’s financial center appears to now be flooding as ocean water enters city streets as part of the storm’s surge.

Update, 10:40 a.m.: A construction crane has collapsed in downtown Miami, confirming earlier fears that the city’s several cranes pose dangerous threats to nearby buildings and residents who remain.

According to the Miami New Times, citing the city’s building department director, Maurice Pons, Miami has 20–25 tower construction cranes, whose arms were allowed to remain loose in order to swivel with Irma’s strong winds. While Pons said these cranes are built to withstand winds of 145 mph, the boom of one crane already has fallen, and if winds exceed that speed, more could follow.

City officials said they didn’t have enough time to remove the cranes as Irma approached.

As the Times’ Tim Elfrink wrote earlier this week:

The city’s crane warning is just the most surprising reminder that Hurricane Irma could be an unprecedented test for Miami-Dade County. This is a vastly different city from the one that weathered Andrew in 1992.

If you’re in Miami in a building near one of these cranes, stay away from windows!

Meanwhile, a curious phenomenon is happening in Tampa Bay and elsewhere along the Gulf coast, where water is actually being pulled away from the coastline.

Scientists say that while water surges along Florida’s eastern coastline, it is being drawn away from the state’s southwestern Gulf coastline. This shows how powerful Irma actually is. However, experts warn that this is temporary, and all of that water that has receded eventually will come back in force.

Original story continues here:

Hurricane Irma reached the Florida Keys Sunday morning as a Category 4 storm with incredibly powerful winds, harsh, swirling rains, and an imminent storm surge expected to reach up to 15 feet in some areas along southwestern Florida.

Irma’s winds were recorded at about 130 mph as its eyewall reached the Keys at about 9:10 a.m. The National Weather Service had issued a warning about the extreme winds hours earlier. A second landfall was expected later on Sunday as the hurricane travels slowly up Florida’s southwestern coast, exposing cities like Ft. Meyers, Naples, and Tampa to unprecedented storm damage.

While we definitely don’t recommend doing the following, as it’s extremely dangerous and stupid, this tweet gives an idea of how powerful Irma’s winds were Sunday morning in Key West:

Other shots of the wind and oncoming storm surge showed trees bending and floodwaters accumulating:

At least half a million people already are without power in the state, and some 50,000 people are in shelters. About 6.3 million Floridians were ordered to evacuate from the oncoming storm, which spans the size of Texas and is expected to cause massive destruction as it makes its way north, covering almost the entire state of Florida. Places as far away as Atlanta—more than 800 miles north of where Irma made landfall—are expected to eventually feel its effects.

Those who did not evacuate are now on their own, as emergency responders will not venture out into the harsh winds of what is now a full–blown hurricane in southern Florida.

This story is developing.

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