Tampa Bay emptied before Hurricane Irma hit

Arnold Nichols
September 12, 2017

More than 1 million residents had already lost power by Sunday morning, and it could be days before officials can provide food and water to those struggling in the aftermath of the powerful storm.

The vast majority were in Florida. "To have any kind of focus on the cause and effect of the storm; versus helping people, or actually facing the effect of the storm, is misplaced".

On Sunday afternoon, Florida Power and Light reported that almost 75 percent of customers were without power in Miami-Dade County.

All American flights remain canceled through today at 12 other Florida airports, as well as Hilton Head, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia. The most extensive damage was likely in the Naples area, but a full assessment was ongoing.

The company plans to deploy about 16,000 utility workers from 29 different states to begin restoration efforts once conditions are safe. Tornadoes were also spotted through the southern part of the state.

"If you're in an evacuation zone, you've got to get out; you can't wait", Gov. Rick Scott said in an interview on ABC News' "Good Morning America".

"The threat of catastrophic storm surge flooding is highest along the southwest coast of Florida, where 10 to 15 feet of inundation above ground level is expected", the National Hurricane Centre said. "I know that the storm has weakened a lot, so I'm not too concerned".

"There is imminent danger of life-threatening storm surge flooding along much of the Florida west coast", it said in a statement. The Leeward Islands saw food, water and medicine shortages and looting.

Storm surge also sent floodwaters into downtown St. Marys just north of the Georgia-Florida line.

The storm is expected to move north Monday, heading toward Fort Myers and Tampa.

The challenges in the immediate aftermath of the storm will be many: Restoring across the state, removing debris from roads, dealing with possible fuel shortages, and making sure nursing home and hospital patients who were evacuated can safely return.

Irma made landfall on Sunday morning as a Category 4 storm at Cudjoe Key, about 75 miles from Key Largo, where the NBC 6 helicopter was flying. Photo by Marco Island Police.

Meanwhile, the city of Charlotte announced on Saturday afternoon it is opening a shelter at J.M. Alexander Middle School in Huntersville for out-of-state evacuees.

Irma is still forecast to move away from North Carolina.

This means impacts will be low for central North Carolina. Wind gusts can be upwards of 60mph.

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