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Irma Live Updates: ‘I Just Hope Everyone Survived’

September 12, 2017 7:26 AM
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“I just hope everyone survived,” Gov. Rick Scott of Florida said on Monday after completing a flyover of the islands.

• Over the next two days, Irma is expected to push into Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee.

• At least 42 people have died as a result of the storm, including at least eight in the continental United States, according to The Associated Press.

• After Irma was downgraded to a tropical depression, the National Hurricane Center discontinued all storm surge and tropical weather watches and warnings related to the storm.

• The full extent of the damage is not yet known, and the authorities have hesitated to estimate the cost of a cleanup. Check out our most powerful photographs.

• Sign up for the Morning Briefing for hurricane news and a daily look at what you need to know to begin your day.

High winds felled trees and severed service lines in Georgia and South Carolina on Monday, knocking out power for more than 900,000 customers in the two states.

A tropical storm warning was issued for all of Georgia’s coast and most of South Carolina’s. Some of the worst flooding occurred in Charleston, where knee-high floodwaters coursed through the streets — high enough for some residents to navigate by kayak.

The National Weather Service issued a flash flood emergency for Charleston County and said that parts of the Charleston peninsula, which contains the city’s historic core, were being closed.

In an interview Monday afternoon, Mayor John Tecklenburg said that the city had been hit with a four-foot storm surge, leaving parts of the peninsula looking as if they had merged with the Ashley River.

“It sounds kind of counterintuitive that we’d have that, because the center of the storm is over 200 miles away in western Georgia, and here we are over on the coast of South Carolina,” he said. “But just if you looked at the bigger weather map and saw the counterclockwise rotation of Irma, juxtaposed with a clockwise high-pressure rotation over the Atlantic, Charleston was like in the pincer of those two motions that has driven wind and hurricane bands almost directly into our city.”

Mr. Tecklenburg said that the flooding was even worse than last year’s Hurricane Matthew, which inundated the city in October, in great part because Matthew arrived at low tide, whereas Irma’s effect came at high tide.

Farther inland, concerns about serious damage remained high, even as the storm’s power diminished somewhat.

In Atlanta, the winds whipping through the leaves created a sound like an angry sea breaking on a shoreline, and trees crashed into residences and onto roadways. The city’s public school system canceled classes through Tuesday, and Delta airlines, based in Atlanta, canceled about 900 flights Monday, noting a special concern about strong north-south crosswinds at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, which bills itself as the busiest in the world.

The forecast in Alabama was somewhat milder, though a tropical storm warning was in effect for much of the state’s eastern half.

“We need you to heed our warnings,” Mayor Lenny Curry of Jacksonville said on Monday, explaining that high tides would raise river waters up to six feet above their normal levels and cause additional flooding.

The mayor urged residents to avoid drawing on city resources except in emergencies, but he said people who needed rescuing should raise a white flag to draw the authorities’ attention.

Jacksonville was facing a “trifecta” of water-related threats, city officials said: Storm surge, heavy rainfall over the weekend and Monday’s rising tides. “This is potentially a weeklong event with water and the tides coming and going,” Mr. Curry said.

In Tampa, Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who on Sunday warned residents that the city was about to get “punched in the face,” said on Monday that the city had been spared the storm’s worst.

“It’s looking good,” Mr. Buckhorn said. “The first blush is that not only did we dodge a bullet, but we survived pretty well. Not a lot of flooding. Tree removal, debris — don’t want to say it’s negligible, but it’s manageable.”

The city was again spared from a direct hit by a hurricane, as has been its good fortune for more than 90 years running. How? “Because we live good lives, because we only get drunk once in a while,” Mr. Buckhorn joked. “No, I don’t have an answer for that.”

In St. Petersburg, tree limbs littered lawns and minor debris had blown onto roads but was not stopping traffic. In Orlando, officials said the city had weathered the storm without major damage.


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