Hurricane Irma: millions lose power as roads turn to rivers

The storm is tearing up the west coast of Florida, bringing 130mph winds and the threat of flooding

Widespread damage throughout Florida after Hurricane Irma makes landfall
Hurricane Irma has left at least 30 dead, including five in the British Virgin Islands.
(Image credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Hurricane Irma is leaving a trail of destruction as it moves up the west coast of Florida towards Tampa, the US state’s second-largest city.

Residents have been told to seek shelter as the storm approaches. “What we really fear more than anything is that storm surge,” said Tampa mayor Bob Buckhorn.

Coastal areas in the south of the state, which were hit by Irma yesterday, have reported storm surges of up to 15ft, causing widespread flooding and knocking out power for an estimated 3.4 million homes.

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The severity of the surge depends on the path of the storm, according to CNN meteorologist Judson Jones.

“If Tampa stays on the east side of the eye, we expect the storm surge to be worse than if the eye moves inland and the west side of the storm hits it,” he said.

Although Irma has been downgraded to a category two storm, it is still bringing gusts of up to 130mph and could cause significant damage to the area around Tampa. “The region is flat and flood-prone, and by some estimates it is the nation’s most vulnerable area in the event of a hurricane strike,” the Washington Post reports.

The storm was originally predicted to make landfall on the east coast of Florida, prompting mass evacuations which left major cities, including Miami, all but deserted. But even though downtown Miami was spared the strongest winds, the storm “turned its biggest streets into rivers”, says the Miami Herald.

“Extensive flooding was reported on Sunday, with tornado alerts and one twister confirmed,” The Guardian reports. “Two large construction cranes in Miami were broken by the storm.”

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