Tag: Florida

ARL Rescue Team Heading to Florida

FLORIDA  --  The Animal Rescue League's mobile rescue team is being called into action again.

They are heading to Florida to help the ASPCA with animal rescues. Some team members came back from Texas in the wake of Hurricane Harvey last week. The team is trained for water rescues and moving critical supplies, and plan to be gone for a wee.

ARL members will likely head to an emergency shelter later this week. They are equipped to handle animals in large-scale environments.

Iowa National Guard Members Going to Florida

FLORIDA  --  Nineteen Iowa National Guard members are being deployed to Florida on Monday.

The decision came following a request from the state of Florida for additional assistance. Guard members will take four helicopters to help support response operations for Hurricane Irma.

The team is comprised of members from Waterloo, Davenport, Iowa City, and Boone.

Upon arriving, soldiers will be tasked with moving supplies, equipment, and people, as well as support with search and rescue efforts.

Irma, Now a Category 3 Hurricane, Makes Landfall in Marco Island

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FLORIDA  —  Editor’s note: This is a developing story that is being constantly updated as the storm progresses. Also, follow our live updates here or watch unlimited CNN.

(Breaking news alert, posted at 3:59 p.m. ET Sunday)

Hurricane Irma made landfall in Marco Island, Florida, as a Category 3 hurricane with winds of 120 mph at 3:35 p.m. ET Sunday, the National Hurricane Center said. This is the storm’s second landfall in Florida. It hit Cudjoe Key at 9:10 a.m. as a Category 4 storm.

(Previous story, posted at 3:49 p.m. ET Sunday)

Hurricane Irma bludgeoned Florida on Sunday, uprooting trees and turning Miami streets into rivers.

And there’s plenty more to come.

Naples and Marco Island will endure some of the strongest winds in the next few hours, the National Hurricane Center said.

Irma, now a Category 3 hurricane, is bringing 120 mph winds as it hugs the southwest Florida coast.

A personal weather station at the Marco Island Police Department reported a wind gust of 130 mph, the National Weather Service said.

Police Chief Al Schettino said the worst part of the storm was hitting his city. Without power, emergency officials are using a backup radio system to communicate, he said.

“We’re all hanging in there,” he said, “ready to get out there to help others as soon as its safe to do so.”

Even areas that aren’t facing a direct hit from Irma are already seeing flooding and downed power lines.

“We’re getting slammed right now,” Josh Levy, the mayor of Hollywood, Florida, told CNN on Sunday afternoon.

Expected to b even more dangerous than the powerful winds are the storm surges that threaten Florida’s coastal cities.

“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 hurricane center said. “This is a life-threatening situation.”

Still, not everyone heeded orders to evacuate coastal Florida.

Wayne Ploghoft is hunkered down on the third floor of a building on Marco Island — where life-threatening storm surges are imminent.

Ploghoft said he wasn’t able to evacuate because his flight plans didn’t work out. Now Ploghoft and three others are holed up with stockpiles of water, canned food and battery power.

“We’re all going to be OK,” Ploghoft said.

Gov. Rick Scott said Irma’s wrath is unprecedented.

“We have never had anything like this before,” he told CNN Sunday.

In Florida and southern Georgia, more than 8 million people face hurricane-force winds topping 74 mph, said Ryan Maue of WeatherBell Analytics.

And almost the entire state of Florida is under a hurricane warning, affecting at least 36 million people.

Miami succumbs to Irma’s wrath

Gusts topping 90 mph whipped Miami on Sunday, knocking out power to more than 750,000 customers in the Miami-Dade area.

Flying objects such as coconuts turned into dangerous projectiles. And at least one construction crane snapped, swinging vigorously over downtown Miami.

Matthew Spuler captured video of waves crashing over a seawall toward his downtown high-rise building.

“There is no seawall whatsoever,” Spuler said. “It’s amazing. It’s under water.”

The latest developments:

— The center of Hurricane Irma is nearing Naples, Florida, the National Hurricane Center said. Airports in the area reported powerful winds, including a sustained wind of 55 mph (88 kph) and a gust of 82 mph (132 kph) at Naples Municipal Airport, and a sustained wind of 63 mph (102 kph) and a gust of 84 mph (135 kph) at Opa-Locka Executive Airport.

— Miami-Dade County announced a curfew between 7 p.m. Sunday and 7 a.m. Monday.

— Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has expanded a state of emergency to include all 159 Georgia counties, Deal’s office said. The decision was made in advance of heavy rains, strong winds and potential flooding from Hurricane Irma. The state government will be closed Monday and Tuesday except for essential personnel.

— The forecast track for Irma has shifted 15 miles east, the National Hurricane Center said. But it’s still not clear exactly when or where on the Florida mainland Irma will make landfall — meaning half the hurricane’s eye is over land.

“With the eye tracking this close to land, everyone needs to be prepared for the worst possible conditions,” CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller said.

— More than 1.69 million electric customers across 31 counties are without power, Florida Power and Light said Sunday morning.

— Miami-Dade officers can no longer respond to calls for service, the Miami-Dade Police Department tweeted Sunday. Police are urging residents to stay indoors and not venture outside.

— A 6 p.m. curfew has been put in place for Tampa. Manatee County officials announced a curfew from 3 p.m. ET Sunday until 3 p.m. ET Monday.

— A storm surge warning wraps around the state, from Brevard County to Tampa Bay.

 At least 24 deaths have been blamed on Irma in the Caribbean islands, where it hit before barreling toward Florida.

‘You can’t survive these storm surges’

The governor warned some storm surges could be deadly.

“You can’t survive these storm surges,” he said.

Track Hurricane Irma’s path

Those who did not evacuate ahead of the storm are in danger, Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long said Saturday.

“You’re on your own until we can actually get in there and it’s safe,” he told CNN.

Gas stations on Florida’s west coast are running out of fuel

But Key West business owner Jason Jonas said he stayed behind because he’s in a home that is “built like a bunker.”

“It’s pretty much the only reason I considered staying here because I knew that I had a pretty good chance of making it through this thing,” he said.

“We’re 30 plus feet above sea level and in a place that’s built to withstand 225 mph winds — I mean that’s a better chance than being exposed out on the highway in traffic trying to make it to Georgia.”

Mass evacuations jammed highways heading north and created a severe gas shortage in some parts the state.

Irma hit Cuba’s Ciego de Avila province late Friday as a Category 5 hurricane before it weakened and headed to the US.

This is the the first year on record that the continental US has had two Category 4 hurricane landfalls in the same year.

Last month, Hurricane Harvey devastated much of coastal Texas and killed more than 70 people.

Other cities will get pummeled

Several Florida cities are in or near the forecast path of the storm’s eye.

Tampa mayor: ‘We’re about to get punched in the face’

The storm will be devastating for central Florida, Tampa, Fort Myers and Key West, CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said.

What’s with all these hurricane forecast models?

In Fort Myers, where storm surge warnings are in effect, Evanson Ngai stayed up all night, tracking the hurricane.

“I’ve tried to get some sleep but I can’t. Just the nervousness, trying to keep an eye on it to see if its track will change,” he said.

Ngai plans to crouch in the bathtub when the storm makes landfall.

“Right now, it’s a little bit of gusty winds and some rain,” he said early Sunday. “We’ve moved everything away from windows. We’re hoping for the best — we’ve bought nonperishable foods and water, and we have a flashlight.”

Florida Power and Light estimated 3.4 million of its customers could be without power at some point during Irma, the company’s largest number of outages ever.

“We think this could be the most challenging restoration in the history of the US,” company spokesman Chris McGrath said.

Other states may be affected

As Irma moves inland, more than 45 million people will face tropical storm conditions — meaning winds will top 39 mph, Maue said. Affected states include Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina and North Carolina.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster issued a mandatory evacuation for some barrier islands.

The National Weather Service in Atlanta issued a tropical storm watch for the area Monday and Tuesday. Schools in the state planned to close Monday.

Are you affected by Irma? Text, iMessage or WhatsApp your videos, photos and stories to CNN (but only if it’s safe to do so): +1 347-322-0415.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott Tells Residents: ‘You Need to Go Right Now’

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FLORIDA  —  Gov. Rick Scott implored Floridians on Saturday to heed their local evacuation orders.

“If you have been ordered to evacuate, you need to leave now,” he said at a morning press conference. “Do not wait. Evacuate. Not tonight, not in an hour. You need to go right now.”

Scott told residents of southwest Florida they needed to be evacuate by noon. If they weren’t on the road at that point, he said, “Do not get on the road.”

An estimated 6.3 million people have been ordered to evacuate, according to the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

Residents of the Miami area and the Florida Keys streamed north in packed vehicles Friday, anxiously rushing to dodge Hurricane Irma as the deadly storm took aim at their state after devastating the Caribbean.

The dramatic mass exodus from South Florida could become one of the largest evacuations in US history, CNN senior meteorologist Dave Hennen said. Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties are home to about 6 million people combined.

But by Saturday, Irma’s path had shifted toward Florida’s west coast, threatening the lower Florida Keys and cities such as Naples, Fort Myers and Tampa, and the clock is ticking for those who haven’t left yet, officials warned.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn told CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Saturday morning that 14 shelters are opening in the area to take in evacuees.

“Obviously, there will be people who think they can ride this out. We hope they will be OK,” Buckhorn said. “I will tell you that if the winds are consistently at 40 miles an hour or greater, our police and firefighters cannot come to get you. So if you’re going to stay, hunker down.”

After battering Cuba, Irma was expected to strengthen again before it hits the Florida Keys.

“Based on what we know, the majority of Florida will have major hurricane impact and deadly winds. We expect this along the entire east coast and west coast,” the governor said at a Friday news conference. “All Floridians should be prepared to evacuate.”

On the road

On Friday, motorists braved clogged roads, backups and slowdowns to get out. Drivers waited for hours at gas stations, some of which ran out of fuel. The Florida Highway Patrol escorted fuel tankers so they could reach and resupply gas stations, the agency said.

Travel hot spots included Interstates 10, 95 and 75, and Florida’s Turnpike. Troopers monitored roadways, stepping in to help after fender benders and with disabled cars and trucks.

Yesenia Rivera left the Jacksonville Beach area Friday and, 3½ hours later, was traveling west on I-10 near Lake City. “There is still severe congestion and stop-and-go traffic all the way to Tallahassee,” she told CNN.

Transportation officials said Friday long areas of congestion were occurring on segments of I-75 northbound and I-95 northbound.

There was bumper-to-bumper traffic late Friday in the northbound lanes of I-95 south of Savannah, Georgia, CNN senior producer Bill Kirkos reported.

He said the parking lots of gas stations and truck stops were filled with parked cars, although it appeared stations had gas supplies and short lines.

Heading in the opposite direction, toward Florida, were utility trucks with out-of-state license plates, Kirkos said.

By Saturday morning, the Florida Department of Transportation said traffic had lessened.

The Georgia Department of Transportation suspended construction on interstates and state routes due to the expected surge of traffic.

In Florida, mandatory evacuation orders covered parts of Miami-Dade County, Broward County east of US 1, Palm Beach County, low-lying parts of Brevard County, coastal and low-lying areas of Jacksonville and Duval County, and Monroe County, home to the Florida Keys.

The evacuation of Miami-Dade County was the largest in its history, with an estimated 660,000 people asked to leave, Mayor Carlos Gimenez said Friday.

‘You could die’

Some people heard officials’ dire admonitions loud and clear.

“If you don’t heed the warning, you could die,” Don Anderson of Key Largo told CNN on Friday. “This is your life. What’s it worth? You can always party later.”

Craig Fugate, former administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, told CNN on Saturday morning that going just a few miles inland could beneficial for those in coastal areas.

“Go to friends, go to families, go to the shelters that are open,” he said. “But if you are planning to go long distance, leave early and give yourself time. And that is running out.”

Flying out of the storm zone

Some Floridians opted to fly instead of risking chaos on the highways. Delta Air Lines added flights out of Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Key West to Atlanta, its largest hub, and allowed passengers affected by Irma to rebook flights for free, the airline said.

American and United also waived change fees for passengers affected by Irma, the airlines said.

But Irma’s impending landfall forced airlines serving some of the nation’s largest airports to begin to shut down operations this weekend.

By late Saturday, Miami, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale — home to the 12th, 13th and 21st largest US airports, respectively — were expected to be largely dormant, and will halt operations through Sunday. Jacksonville and Tampa international airports both announced they would cease operations Saturday night.

Stranded at the airport

Kevin Brokbals, who hails from Germany, was among several dozen people who spent the night on cots at the Miami airport. He planned to be stuck for a while and said airport officials hadn’t given much sense of his options.

“The airport didn’t tell us anything,” he said Friday. “We asked some police officers to give us any information because there was no one officially from the airport.”

First, he and others were told they had to leave the airport and head to a shelter. Then they were told all shelters were full.

“And we have to stay here,” he said. “We can’t stay upstairs because there are too many windows, too (much glass) which can break. And that’s why they want all the people in one area, even though it’s not a shelter.”

More than 54,000 residents were in 320 shelters across the Florida, according to the governor’s office Saturday. More shelters were expected to open throughout the day.

Leila Traversoni of Argentina was visiting Miami to shop for a wedding dress and a tuxedo for her fiancé. The couple are desperate to get back home; they’ve never been through a hurricane.

“I am very afraid,” Traversoni told CNN on Friday. “I am terrified. I don’t know what to do. We don’t have any place to go. We are looking for a shelter.”

Traversoni said she’s hoping for an answer from American Airlines or airport staff.

“We don’t know what to expect,” she said. “We are really, really terrified because we don’t know what to do, where to go — just praying at this point.”

Hunkering down

Others planned to stay put to protect their homes.

“I evacuated Matthew,” one Merritt Island resident said, referring to last year’s hurricane. “I feel this is going to be a Category 2 or 3 by the time it hits us. I’ve got a pretty strong home, so I’m pretty confident it will survive.”

Wary of tornadoes, though, he said he could change his plans if it looks like Irma is strengthening.

“I’m watching the weather and the news and keeping track with the storm,” he said.

Scott Abraham, who lives on the 11th floor of a building in Miami Beach, said he is prepared to ride it out.

“I have been here 15 years and been through so many storms. We have been told many times to evacuate,” Abraham said. “I don’t think it’s going to hit us directly. If it does, I think we are safe. We have food. We have supplies. We have everything we need.

“We are ready to rock ‘n’ roll with the storm,” he said.

Another South Floridian, Linda Blackshear, also planned to stay. She doesn’t live in an evacuation zone, she said, and her grandson lives with her.

“I feel safe,” she said, adding she has no place to evacuate to. “I have all the supplies and all the essentials.”

MidAmerican Sending Iowans to Help in Florida Ahead of Expected Damage from Hurricane Irma

FLORIDA  --  As Hurricane Irma gets closer, Florida is preparing for the damage it may cause, which could mean millions of people left without power for months.

MidAmerican Energy is already preparing for the damage, and sent 250 Iowans to help down south on Friday. They will join energy workers from around the county in Lake City, Florida, to ride out the storm. Once Irma passes, they will be deployed around the state to help where needed.