5.6M without power as Hurricane Irma batters Florida

Debris covers parts of Highway A1A as Hurricane Irma lashes Delray Beach, Fla., on Sunday. The hurricane caused widespread damage and power outages as it traveled up the west coast of Florida. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo

By Ed Adamczyk – UPI

The number of people left without power in Florida increased to 5.6 million overnight as Hurricane Irma downed trees and flooded streets throughout the entirety of the peninsula, state officials said Monday.

By 5 a.m. on Monday its center was 60 miles north of Tampa, with winds of 75 mph, but Sunday it started as a Category 4 hurricane, hitting Cuba before it moved through the Florida Keys and up the state’s Gulf Coast. Its center hit portions of the Keys but missed Miami and Naples, then skirted Tampa as the storm slowed. Nonetheless, barrier islands like Marco Island, near Naples, reported rising flood water and a loss of electricity and drinking water, authorities said.

Coastal communities reported rising flood waters in streets, three Miami construction cranes fell and a sewage pump in Hialeah failed. Daylight will afford an opportunity for municipalities to better calculate their losses.

The hurricane made U.S. landfall twice on Sunday, in the Florida Keys and at Marco Island.

“We don’t have a comprehensive insight into what the damage is,” Bryan Koon, Florida director of Emergency Management said late Sunday. “We will work on those at first light. I don’t have any numbers on fatalities at this point.”

At least five deaths were reported from the storm. Cities flooded, power lines were downed and trees were uprooted across the state. Gov. Rick Scott‘s office reported Monday that 5,777,263 people were without electrical power.

Two tornadoes touched down in Brevard County, on the Atlantic Coast; Miami’s major airport sustained damage and remained closed, and storm surges and additional flooding were expected on the Gulf Coast.

“As soon as the wind shifts direction, the water will come back quickly and continue to move inland,” CNN meteorologist Judson Jones said.

At least 26 people were arrested for burglary and looting Sunday night in Miami, and schools, airports and Orlando’s DisneyWorld were on the list of closures.

The hurricane was responsible for at least 26 deaths before it arrived in Florida as it passed through Caribbean island nations. It is expected to be downgraded to a tropical storm with winds of at least 74 mph as it traveled Monday toward southern Georgia.