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Aircraft carrier rushed to battered Keys

  • Boats are partially submerged in the wake of Hurricane Irma, Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, in Key Largo, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee) Wilfredo Lee

  • Motorists turn around after a levee from a phosphate plant ruptured from rain and wind associated with Hurricane Irma on Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, in Homeland, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) Chris O'Meara

  • Bayardo Perez prepares to dismantle the mangled tin roof of his shed in Sweetwater, Fla., Monday, Sept. 11. Inland communities like Sweetwater were spared the storm surge from Hurricane Irma, but streets were swamped, fences and trees fell, cars got stuck in floodwater, and the ground will remain saturated as trillions of gallons of ocean water flow south through the Everglades. (AP Photo/Jason Dearen) Jason Dearen

  • Cars with water up over the doors are parked in a downtown neighborhood after Hurricane Irma brought floodwaters to in Jacksonville, Fla. Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, (AP Photo/John Raoux) John Raoux

  • A City of Tybee police officer checks the well being of a resident fleeing her flooded home on Tybee Island, Ga., Monday, Sept., 11, 2017. Parts of the coastal Georgia island suffered from Tropical Storm Irma. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton) Stephen B. Morton

  • Joey Spalding walks back to his truck down the street where he lives, Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, on Tybee Island, Ga. Spalding just finished repairing his house from nine inches of water after Hurricane Matthew past the island last year. He said the Tropical Storm Irma brought three feet of storm surge into his living room today. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton) Stephen B. Morton

  • Pedestrians walk by a flooded car on a street as Tropical Storm Irma hits Charleston, S.C., Monday. AP PHOTO

  • Boats, some partially submerged, float in a canal in the wake of Hurricane Irma, Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, in Key Largo, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee) Wilfredo Lee

  • A boat is partially submerged in a canal in the wake of Hurricane Irma, Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, in Key Largo, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee) Wilfredo Lee

  • A sinking boat is surrounded by debris in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma at Sundance Marine in Palm Shores, Fla., Monday, Sept. 11, 2017 (Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel via AP) Red Huber

  • Floodwaters surround a business on US 1 in Rockledge, Fla., Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, after Hurricane Irma blew through Brevard County. (Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel via AP) Red Huber

  • A man walks by damage from Hurricane Irma at Sundance Marine in Palm Shores, Fla., Monday, Sept. 11, 2017 (Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel via AP) Red Huber

  • Kissimmee residents Robert Gonzalez, his wife Maria and son David, 10, survey the flooded Town & Country Drive in front of their home in Kissimmee, Fla., on Monday, Sept. 11, 2017. (Jacob Langston/Orlando Sentinel via AP) Jacob Langston

  • A man returns to his flooded home in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in Bonita Springs, Fla., Monday, Sept. 11, 2017. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) Gerald Herbert

  • People tend to a car that flipped over on Cape Coral Parkway during Hurricane Irma, in Cape Coral, Fla., Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) Gerald Herbert



Associated Press
Monday, September 11, 2017

MIAMI — Authorities sent an aircraft carrier and other Navy ships to help with search-and-rescue operations in Florida on Monday as a flyover of the hurricane-battered Keys yielded what the governor said were scenes of devastation.

“I just hope everyone survived,” Gov. Rick Scott said.

He said boats were cast ashore, water, sewers and electricity were knocked out, and “I don’t think I saw one trailer park where almost everything wasn’t overturned.” Authorities also struggled to clear the single highway connecting the string of islands to the mainland.

The Keys felt Irma’s full fury when the storm blew ashore as a Category 4 hurricane Sunday morning with 130 mph winds. How many people in the dangerously exposed, low-lying islands defied evacuation orders and stayed behind was unclear.

As Irma weakened into a tropical storm and finally left Florida on Monday after a run up the entire 400-mile length of the state, the full scale of its destruction was still unknown, in part because of cutoff communications and blocked roads.

Six deaths in Florida have been blamed on Irma, along with three in Georgia and one in South Carolina. At least 35 people were killed in the Caribbean.

Statewide, an estimated 13 million people, or two-thirds of Florida’s population, remained without power. That’s more than the population of New York and Los Angeles combined. Officials warned it could take weeks for electricity to be restored to everyone.

More than 180,000 people huddled in shelters in the Sunshine State.

“How are we going to survive from here?” asked Gwen Bush, who waded through thigh-deep floodwaters outside her central Florida home to reach National Guard rescuers and get a ride to a shelter. “What’s going to happen now? I just don’t know.”

The governor said it was way too early to put a dollar estimate on the damage.

During its march up Florida’s west coast, Irma swamped homes, uprooted trees, flooded streets, snapped miles of power lines and toppled construction cranes.

In a parting shot, it triggered severe flooding around Jacksonville in the state’s northeastern corner. It also spread misery into Georgia and South Carolina as it moved inland with winds at 50 mph, causing flooding and power outages.

Around the Tampa-St. Petersburg area, where Irma rolled through early Monday, damage appeared modest. And the governor said damage on the southwest coast, including in Naples and Fort Myers, was not as bad as feared. In the Keys, though, he said “there is devastation.”

“It’s horrible, what we saw,” Scott said. “I know for our entire state, especially the Keys, it’s going to be a long road.”

He said the Navy dispatched the USS Iwo Jima, USS New York and the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln to help with search and rescue and other relief efforts.

Emergency managers in the islands declared on Monday “the Keys are not open for business” and warned that there was no fuel, electricity, running water or cell service and that supplies were low and anxiety high.

“HELP IS ON THE WAY,” they promised on Facebook.

The Keys are linked by 42 bridges that have to be checked for safety before motorists can be allowed in, officials said. The governor said the route also needs to be cleared of debris and sand, but should be usable fairly quickly.

In the Jacksonville area, close to the Georgia line, storm surge brought some of the worst flooding ever seen there, with at least 46 people pulled from swamped homes.

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office warned residents along the St. Johns River to “Get out NOW.”

“If you need to get out, put a white flag in front of your house. A t-shirt, anything white,” the office said on its Facebook page. “Search and rescue teams are ready to deploy.”

A tornado spun off by Irma was reported on the Georgia coast, and firefighters inland had to rescue several people after trees fell on their homes.

A tropical storm warning was issued for the first time ever in Atlanta, and school was canceled in communities around the state. More than 100,000 customers were without power in Georgia and over 80,000 in South Carolina.

Over the next two days, Irma is expected to push to the northwest, into Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee.

People in the heavily populated Tampa-St. Petersburg area had braced for the first direct hit from a major hurricane since 1921. But by the time Irma arrived in the middle of the night Monday, its winds were down to 100 mph or less.

“When that sun came out this morning and the damage was minimal, it became a good day,” said Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn.