Hurricane Irma passes over Florida, leaves a trail of destruction
Hurricane Irma has ended, being dissolved into a number of smaller tropical storms that scattered across the USA. However, its total damage and death toll is yet to be estimated, as first residents and emergency crews return to evacuated areas.
Search-and-rescue teams have made their way into the Florida Keys’ farthest reaches, with crews laboring to repair the single washed-out highway connecting the islands and rush aid to Hurricane Irma’s victims. Federal officials estimated one-quarter of all homes in the Keys were destroyed.
Two days after Irma roared into the island chain with 130 mph winds, residents were allowed to return to the parts of the Keys closest to Florida’s mainland. But the full extent of the death and destruction there remained a question mark because communications and access were cut off in places.
Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Brock Long said that while the assessment of damage was constantly changing, preliminary estimates suggested that 25 percent of the homes in the Keys were destroyed and 65 percent sustained major damage. “Basically every house in the Keys was impacted,” he said.
An aircraft carrier was positioned off Key West to help in the search-and-rescue effort. And crews worked to repair two washed-out, 300-foot sections of U.S. 1, the lone highway from the mainland, and check the safety of the 42 bridges linking the islands.
Authorities stopped people and checked for documentation such as proof of residency or business ownership before allowing them back into the Upper Keys, including Key Largo, Tavernier and Islamorada.