Published: Thu, September 14, 2017
Sports | By Grace Becker

Hurricane Irma to pound Florida peninsula through the night

Hurricane Irma to pound Florida peninsula through the night

Clearwater Beach measured a gust of 96 miles per hour, bu high winds persisted much farther away and forecasters warned against venturing out because of a variety of hazards. Petersburg area started bracing for the onslaught.

"We know we have many people who want to get off the island, as we have no power, and many, manty more trying to get on the island", Tybee Island Mayor Jason Buelterman said. But then Irma made a westward shift and lost some of its punch while crossing Cuba's northern coast - just before a crucial turn into Florida's Gulf Coast.

Up and down the wide, sandy beaches of Pinellas County are traditional "old Florida" waterfront hotels such as the Don Cesar, a coral pink 1920s hotel on St. Pete Beach, which was closed by the storm. Twenty-four people were killed during Irma's destructive trek across the Caribbean.

In the low-lying Keys, appliances and furniture were seen floating away.

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In Miami-Dade, Irma's fierce winds bent a construction crane in half, tore a roof off a gas station and left streets throughout the county littered with felled trees and palm fronds.

In Houston, still recovering from Hurricane Harvey which hit just over two weeks ago, people continued to return to their homes, though an analysis by the New York Times found that flood water in two areas of the city has been contaminated by toxins and bacteria.

In Hialeah, Irma knocked out power at the regional sewage pump station.

Officials permitted some residents to return to their island homes Tuesday.

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"The first bit of good news is that some hurricane warnings have been downgraded to tropical storm warnings in south Florida", the weather report noted.

Florida Power & Light, the state's major electricity provider, says it has almost 20,000 workers deployed around the state.

A Hurricane Warning has been changed to a Tropical Storm Warning from Jupiter Inlet southward around the Florida peninsula to Bonita Beach, as well as for the Florida Keys and Florida Bay.

The south to north scenario along a coastline that Irma seems to be taking has always been seen as the most problematic for Floridians because of the few places it leaves for residents to flee from the storm. No injuries were reported in either case. More than 100,000 customers were without power in Georgia and over 80,000 in SC. In the coming days, Irma is expected to push into Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and beyond.

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At least 6.5 million residents of Florida have been asked to evacuate while many residents continue to seek shelter in safer areas. Gov. Rick Scott requested a major disaster declaration from President Donald Trump "to help bring important federal resources and aid to Florida" once Irma passes, he said.

It is moving northwest at 15 miles per hour, and can't get out of Florida fast enough to suit most residents.

Update 2 a.m.: Hurricane Irma has weakened to a Category 1 hurricane with top winds up to 85 mph as it moves 25 miles northeast of Tampa. "All of the pictures and videos of Floridians out in the storm do not surprise me at all".

Michael Sechler shared a photo of a stranded sea cow on Facebook, writing that he called every service he could think of to no avail.

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