Sept. 10 (UPI) — Hurricane Irma left three people dead and 1.1 million in Florida without electricity Sunday morning after the Category 4 storm made landfall in the Keys.
The storm made landfall at Cudjoe Key in the lower Florida Keys at 9:10 a.m., the National Hurricane Center said.
In Monroe County, which encompasses Key West, one man died after he lost control of a truck that carried a generator, local officials said. And two other people died in a car crash in the rain in Hardee County, which is about 60 miles inland from Sarasota, the Florida Highway Patrol said.
Irma, which strengthened to 130 mph as a Category 4 overnight, had gusts of 89 mph recorded at Key West International Airport at 7:10 a.m. as the Keys prepared for their worst hurricane hit in decades.
“It’s wicked, this is unbelievable,” Vic Lamorte, said at 7:45 a.m. to the Sun Sentinel in a hurricane-shuttered, three-story concrete house in Tavernier in the Middle Keys. “When I say whipping, I mean it’s whipping outside. And it’s howling, unbelievable howling.”
Irma’s dangerous winds knocked down trees and downpours flooded streets.
As of 9:30 a.m., Florida Power Light, the state’s main electric power, reported there were 360,750 outages in Broward, 135,730 in Palm Beach County and 574,490 in Miami-Dade. Few outages were reported on the west coast.
FPL estimated 3.4 million out of its 5 million accounts — a total of 5 million people — could be without power at some point during Irma, the company’s largest number of outages in history.
“We think this could be the most challenging restoration in the history of the U.S.” company spokesman Chris McGrath said.
Most of the state was under a hurricane warning.
“Hurricane Irma is a massive storm with effects that will be felt across the entire South Florida peninsula,” the National Weather Service said in a report issued at 5:38 a.m. Sunday.
The hurricane prompted state officials to order 6.6 million — a third of the population — to evacuate, causing massive backups on the northbound roads out of the state. And gas became scarce.
Those who stayed in the state hunkered down as curfews were ordered throughout the area. The roads were deserted — except for law enforcement — and businesses were closed.
Because of mandatory evacuations, people filled shelters across South Florida.
More than 72,000 people were in than 390 shelters across the state, the governor’s office said.
Storm surge was a big concern.
“You can’t survive these storm surges,” Gov. Rick Scott said.
In Fort Myers, where the storm was expected to hit a second time, storm surge warnings were in effect.
“Right now, it’s a little bit of gusty winds and some rain,” said Evanson Ngai, who stayed at home in Fort Myers. “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.”
Up the Atlantic Coast from North Miami Beach to the Jupitier Inlet, storm surge warnings were discontinued. A few days ago the storm was predicted to more impact that area.
However, tornadoes were reported in the area.
The National Weather Service said a “large and dangerous tornado” swept west through central Broward County toward the Everglades on Saturday night. The weather service issued tornado warnings across Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
Across South Florida, schools and businesses closed Thursday.
The governor shut all public schools and state offices on Friday and Monday.
Airports throughout the state were shut down by Friday, and Greyhound, Amtrack and local rails stopped service. Cruise lines also canceled cruises.