President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are scheduled to visit Naples and Fort Myers on Florida's southwest coast on Thursday to see damage from Hurricane Irma and hear from people affected by the storm. Trump said in a Wednesday tweet that he planned to meet "with our great Coast Guard, FEMA and many of the brave first responders & others."
Sixty-six percent of homes and businesses in Lee County, which includes Fort Myers, remained without power on Wednesday, and 80 percent in Collier County, which includes Naples, remained in the dark. About a third of the state's population, about 6.8 million people, still have no electricity in the state's late-summer heat. Harold Maass
Residents of Florida's Upper Keys who evacuated during Hurricane Irma were allowed to start returning to their homes Wednesday morning, but federal officials warned them it wouldn't necessarily be pretty. The Federal Emergency Management Agency said that 90 percent of the homes in the Florida Keys were damaged and 25 percent of homes were destroyed by the hurricane, which made landfall Sunday morning on Cudjoe Key.
Officials from Monroe County, which encompasses the Keys and the Everglades, were a little more optimistic. "Things look real damaged from the air, but when you clear the trees and all the debris, it's not much damage to the houses," said Monroe County Commissioner Heather Carruthers in a statement Tuesday night. Certainly it looks bad from the air, as seen in this helicopter footage of Big Pine Key, due east of Cudjoe Key.
— WeatherNation (@WeatherNation) September 12, 2017
Things don't look great on the ground, either, according to these interviews with people who rode out the storm on Cudjoe Key.
You can learn and see more from Wednesday's reports by David Muir at ABC's Good Morning America.
— Good Morning America (@GMA) September 13, 2017
And from Eliane Quinjano's dispatch from Ramrod Key at CBS This Morning. Peter Weber
— CBS News (@CBSNews) September 13, 2017
Trump reportedly will visit the U.S. Virgin Islands as residents of the devastated territory beg for help
President Trump will travel to the U.S. Virgin Islands within the next week "to see firsthand the damages of the territory" after Hurricane Irma, Gov. Kenneth Mapp (I) said Monday.
The U.S. Virgin Islands took a heavy hit by the superstorm, which was a Category 5 when it swept through the Caribbean. The aftermath has left the territory "like a war zone," residents told BuzzFeed News, with congressional representative Stacey Plaskett informing MSNBC that "we've lost about 70 percent of our infrastructure and utility system on St. Thomas and all our utility system on the island of St. John."
"Everyone back home kept saying 'help is on the way' or 'help is there handing out supplies,' but people were looting from homes and businesses," a St. Thomas resident, Emily Minor, told BuzzFeed News. "It honestly got to the point where we were scared and we had a machete on us at all times."
Another local, Ureen Smith, told The New York Times that "the government is treating us terrible."
"Locals are mad they're not hearing talk about St. Thomas," Smith said.
Mapp assured residents that is going to change, The Washington Examiner reports. "The president wanted me to let the people of the Virgin Islands know that as he speaks of hurricane victims going forward, that he definitely will be including the U.S. Virgin Islands in his list of places that the federal government will be taking care of," Mapp said. Jeva Lange
Hurricane Irma, now a tropical depression, left much of Florida and parts of Georgia and South Carolina drenched or underwater and without power on Monday, but back when it was a Category 5 hurricane out in the Atlantic, it absolutely decimated several Caribbean Islands. A new time-lapse satellite video from NASA of Irma moving from the mid-Atlantic to Florida shows how the hurricane passed directly over some islands, like Barbuda, and raked others with its long outer bands.
NASA also released before-and-after photos of some of the islands, highlighting how Irma turned tropical paradises into brown rocks.
— NASA (@NASA) September 11, 2017
BuzzFeed News picked out one of the islands, Virgin Gorda, for a close-up:
— BuzzFeed Storm (@BuzzFeedStorm) September 12, 2017
You can view higher-resolution photos at NASA Earth Observatory, and before-and-after photos of leveled Caribbean towns at BuzzFeed. At least 38 people died from Irma in the Caribbean and 10 deaths have been reported in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. Peter Weber
Watch Hurricane Irma crawl up Florida through on-the-ground reports from storm-battered broadcasters
A weakening but still dangerously powerful Hurricane Irma, now a Category 2 storm, is nearing the Tampa-St. Petersburg area on Sunday night, with tropical storm-force winds extending out 415 miles, according to the National Hurricane Center. Irma made landfall at Cudjoe Key just after 9 a.m. on Sunday, then made landfall a second time at Marco Island at 3:30 p.m. before pummeling Naples just to the north. Winds as strong as 99 miles per hour swept through Miami-Dade County, flooding the streets of Miami and toppling two cranes plus another in Ft. Lauderdale. At least 3.3 million homes and businesses were without power in Florida on Sunday night, and "life-threatening" wind and storm surge warnings are in effect from the Keys to Tampa and much of western and central Florida.
From the Florida Keys to points north, broadcasters and the occasional storm chaser tried to capture the power of Irma, with varying degrees of success. Here's storm-chaser Lagend Juston measuring the winds on Key West at 8:50 a.m., right before landfall at nearby Cudjoe Key.
— Fawad Rehman (@fawadrehman) September 10, 2017
In Key Largo, CNN's Bill Weir describe's Irma's wind and rain as like a power-washer on his face:
In Naples, The Weather Channel's Mike Bettes couldn't finish his broadcast:
The winds are so strong Mike Bettes had to give up in the middle of his live shot pic.twitter.com/Y6Jr3AohSN
— Eric Morrow (@ericmorrow11) September 10, 2017
And here's a drone's-eye view of what Naples looked like after Irma's eye passed over it:
— ABC News (@ABC) September 11, 2017
ABC News' Tom Llamas described what the hurricane was like in Fort Myers, due north of Naples.
— Michael Del Moro (@MikeDelMoro) September 10, 2017
Mike Tobin at Fox News explained the deteriorating conditions in Tampa on Sunday night, before the storm hits in force early Monday morning.
And if you're wondering how these hardy (or foolhardy) weather reporters manage to broadcast from the eye of a hurricane, NBC News' Kerry Sanders took a relatively calm moment in Naples to give everyone a peek behind the scenes. Peter Weber
Hurricane Irma slammed into Florida as a Category 4 storm Sunday morning, and The Washington Post has assembled a four-camera live stream of Irma's winds and floods in and around downtown Miami.
The city's Brickell neighborhood is already underwater thanks to a storm surge, though the eye of the hurricane is still near Key West as of midday. "Irma is showing her strength now," reports a Miami holdout named Zak Mann who is chronicling his experience for ABC News. "Very strong gusts of wind. The streets are flooded up to the newspaper stands. You have a broken window at the JW Marriott with the curtains flying out of it. There is small pieces of debris flying through the air..."
Watch live below. Bonnie Kristian
After coming under criticism for mixing comments about Hurricane Harvey with swipes at political opponents and promotions of his friends, President Trump mostly stuck to the issue at hand in the run-up to Hurricane Irma's landfall in Florida on Sunday.
Trump retweeted warnings about the importance of evacuation and guidance for U.S. citizens stuck overseas because of the storm. He also posted a few tweets of his own, advising Floridians to obey Gov. Rick Scott's evacuation orders and praising first responders:
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 10, 2017
The U.S. Coast Guard, FEMA and all Federal and State brave people are ready. Here comes Irma. God bless everyone!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 10, 2017
Ignoring warnings of high winds and life-threatening storm surges, some of the 6.3 million Floridians under evacuation order have decided to stay put as Hurricane Irma tears through their state. "It's a crap shoot really," said one such holdout, Ed Brown, who lives on an island near Fort Myers Beach. "I've been a gambler my whole life. I'm gonna roll the dice." Others are staying out of necessity, unable to move ill or elderly relatives.
— Mike Theiss (@MikeTheiss) September 10, 2017
In Key West, some locals booked rooms in rapidly emptying hotels, preferring to stay in a heftier building than the wooden "conch houses" common on the island. "It's a little like the Titanic right now," said Kim Sylar, a Key West teacher who decided to ride out the storm in a hotel room. "But I have a feeling it will be okay."
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Brock Long on Saturday reiterated holdouts are "on your own until we can actually get in there" and "you put your life in your own hands by not evacuating." Bonnie Kristian