Six days ago, Hurricane Irma’s massive reach covered a 364-mile footprint, roughly the size of Pennsylvania. With that breadth, she slammed into the Caribbean as a full-strength, Category 5 hurricane, sowing widespread destruction and claiming the lives of 38 people.
According to Quartz.com, “Irma was the strongest storm ever on record in the Atlantic, outside of the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico” and it was “the most powerful hurricane ever to hit the Leeward Islands, including Barbuda, Anguilla, and Saint Martin.”
Next, the monstrous storm careened into Florida as a Category 4 hurricane, but still packing a punch of 130-mph winds and massive waves, hammering Miami, Naples, Tampa Bay, and other towns across the Sunshine state. CNN reported that FEMA is estimating an amazing 25% of homes in the Florida Keys were destroyed and another 65% have major damage. The network reported that 15 million people still have no power in the state, although a subsequent CNN story said 2.3 million Floridians had power restored today.
Yesterday, Irma continued her onslaught of heavy rain and high winds through northern Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and eastern Alabama, causing flooding, power outages, and downed trees. Charleston, S.C. saw a nearly 10-foot storm surge, and for the first time since Hurricane Hugo in 1989, historic homes along the city’s battery and famous Rainbow Row took on water. More than 1.3 million homes had no power in Georgia and 161,000 South Carolinian’s were left in the dark.
According to ABC News, Irma claimed 12 lives in the U.S. in addition to the 38 in the Caribbean.
Now characterized by Weather.com as a “post-tropical cyclone,” Irma is a shadow of its weekend strength and is now dumping a steady soaking over north Alabama, while the rest of the state, along with our southern neighbors, begins to dry out and clean up.
Alabama Power estimates 71,000 of their customers were affected by Irma. At 9:00 am today they Tweeted: “This morning we’re shifting crews to help in the hardest hit areas. 20,000 outages statewide.” An hour ago, they updated the situation, Tweeting, “Our crews have worked since yesterday to restore service to nearly 57,000 customers” and added in a second post, “A reminder, our customer service team is listening here from 7a-10p on weekdays and 8a-9p on weekends. #PowerTo #Alabama.”
Before Irma made landfall, over 6 million of Florida’s 20 million residents were ordered to evacuate the state, and many came to Alabama. Today, they’re determining when and how to head home. In counties surrounding the Florida Keys, 320 shelters are offering aid and refuge to at least 54,000 residents in need.
For those wondering about gas prices, the GasBuddy App tracks prices at different stations and indicates which ones are distributing fuel. With respect to air travel, Irma forced the cancellation of 12,587 flights Sunday and some airlines are now waiving change fees as customers scramble to reschedule their flights.
As we reported yesterday, President Trump acknowledged that an emergency exists in the State of Alabama due to Irma and has ordered Federal assistance to supplement “State, tribal, and local response efforts due to the emergency conditions resulting from Hurricane Irma beginning on September 8, 2017, and continuing.”
Thankfully, Irma didn’t hit Alabama as hard as originally expected, so many in the Yellowhammer state are now turning their attention to their southern neighbors to offer a helping hand—just as they did to thousands of Texans in the wake of Harvey.
Editor’s Note: Anna Grace Moore contributed to this article.