'Devastating': Floridians assess Irma's toll, death count climbs

 

ISLAMORADA, Fla., Sept 12 (Reuters) - Residents who returned to the Florida Keys archipelago on Tuesday found Hurricane Irma had shredded mobile homes like soda cans and coated businesses with seaweed, while the death toll rose for the second major hurricane to hit the United States this year.

Irma, one of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes on record before it arrived in the United States, killed 43 people in its rampage through the Caribbean and at least 12 in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.

On Islamorada Key, one of just three islands where authorities allowed people to return on Tuesday, the aluminum walls of trailer homes had been ripped open by the storm, exposing insulation, bedrooms and kitchens to the sunlight.

At the Caloosa Cove Resort and Marina, concrete pilings meant to hold the dock in place had been knocked sideways and three manatees lolled in the water, drinking from an outflow pump that was spitting water from the side of the dock.

27 PHOTOS
Hurricane Irma spreads destruction across Florida
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Hurricane Irma spreads destruction across Florida
A man died when his pickup truck crashed into a tree in the Florida Keys during Hurricane Irma in Florida, U.S. in this handout photo obtained by Reuters September 10, 2017. Monroe County Sheriff� Department/Handout via REUTERS REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.??
The crumbled canopy of a gas station damaged by Hurricane Irma is seen in Bonita Springs, Florida, U.S., September 10, 2017. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston
Flood water from Hurricane Irma surround a damaged mobile home in Bonita Springs, Florida, U.S., September 10, 2017. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston
The crumbled canopy of a gas station damaged by Hurricane Irma is seen in Bonita Springs, Florida, U.S., September 10, 2017. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston
A collapsed construction crane is seen in Downtown Miami as Hurricane Irma arrives at south Florida, September 10, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A local resident walks across a flooded street in downtown Miami as Hurricane Irma arrives at south Florida, U.S. September 10, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A boat rack storage facility lays destroyed after Hurricane Irma blew though Hollywood, Florida, U.S., September 10, 2017. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
A smoke shop lays destroyed after Hurricane Irma blew though Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S., September 10, 2017. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Thomas Sanz clears a fallen branch as Hurricane Irma passes Miami, Florida, U.S. September 10, 2017. REUTERS/Stephen Yang
Mailboxes down caused by Hurricane Irma's strong winds and rain in The Vineyards in Monarch Lakes in West Miramar Sunday afternoon, Sept. 10, 2017. As the hurricane moved north up the Gulf coast, it brought violent weather to South Florida. (Taimy Alvarez/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
Palm Bay officer Dustin Terkoski walks over debris from a two-story home at Palm Point Subdivision in Brevard County after a tornado touched down on Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017. (Red Huber, Orlando Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
Brickell Avenue in Miami, Fla. was flooded after Hurricane Irma on Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017. (Mike Stocker/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
The Vineyards in Monarch Lake resident Syed Ali takes pictures of down tree limbs in his neighbor's front yard after Hurricane Irma left the Miramar community, sparing it from major damage other than down trees, branches and mailboxes on Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017. 'Thank God it didn't fall on either of our houses,' said Ali. (Taimy Alvarez/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
Brickell Avenue in Miami, Fla. was flooded after Hurricane Irma on Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017. (Mike Stocker/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
Flooding in the Brickell neighborhood as Hurricane Irma passes Miami, Florida, U.S. September 10, 2017. REUTERS/Stephen Yang
Flooding in the Brickell neighborhood as Hurricane Irma passes Miami, Florida, U.S. September 10, 2017. REUTERS/Stephen Yang
Flooding near the Hard Rock Stadium as Hurricane Irma passes Miami, Florida, U.S. September 10, 2017. REUTERS/Stephen Yang
Flooding in the Brickell neighborhood as Hurricane Irma passes Miami, Florida, U.S. September 10, 2017. REUTERS/Stephen Yang
Flooding in the Brickell neighborhood as Hurricane Irma passes Miami, Florida, U.S. September 10, 2017. REUTERS/Stephen Yang
Fallen trees and flooded streets from Hurricane Irma are pictured in Marco Island, Florida, U.S. in this handout photo obtained by Reuters September 10, 2017. Marco Island Police Department/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.??
Flooding in the Brickell neighborhood as Hurricane Irma passes Miami, Florida, U.S. September 10, 2017. REUTERS/Stephen Yang
Boats are seen at a marina in Coconut Grove as Hurricane Irma arrives at south Florida, in Miami, Florida, U.S., September 10, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Boats are seen at a marina in Coconut Grove as Hurricane Irma arrives at south Florida, in Miami, Florida, U.S., September 10, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
A partially submerged car is seen at a flooded area in Coconut Grove as Hurricane Irma arrives at south Florida, in Miami, Florida, U.S., September 10, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Boats are seen at a marina in Coconut Grove as Hurricane Irma arrives at south Florida, in Miami, Florida, U.S., September 10, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Palm trees blow in the winds of hurricane Irma in Bonita Springs, Florida, northeast of Naples, on September 10, 2017. Hurricane Irma regained strength to a Category 4 storm early as it began pummeling Florida and threatening landfall within hours. / AFP PHOTO / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
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Marilyn Ramos, 44, spent the morning cleaning away the sand and seaweed that had covered her Cuban restaurant Habanos when she arrived early Tuesday.

"I'm trying to stay calm and see how we can work through this," said Ramos, who employs 30 people at her two restaurants. "It's devastating."

Local authorities told around 90,000 residents of Miami Beach and people from some parts of the Keys they could go home but warned it might not be prudent to remain there. Irma arrived in the Keys on Sunday with sustained winds of up to 130 miles per hour (215 km per hour).

"It's going to take some time to let people back into their homes, particularly in the Florida Keys," said Brock Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The island chain curves southwest from Key Largo to Key West, linked by bridges and causeways along a nearly 100-mile (160-km) route.

More than 6 million homes and businesses were still without power in Florida and nearby states. Florida's largest utility, Florida Power & Light, said western parts of the state might be without electricity until Sept. 22.

 

8 PHOTOS
Precious items found as floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey recede
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Precious items found as floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey recede
Jon and Pamela Shaffer's 1984 wedding album is seen infested with mold in the aftermath of tropical storm Harvey in west Houston, Texas, U.S. September 11, 2017. "It's hard to let go of these things, just pack stuff up and hope for the best," said Pamela. The Shaffer's home flooded after controlled releases from Addicks Reservoir and neighboring Barker reservoir. REUTERS/Chris Aluka Berry
Jon Shaffer salvages what he can from his home, which was flooded for twelve days, in the aftermath of tropical storm Harvey in west Houston, Texas, U.S. September 11, 2017. Shaffer's home flooded after controlled releases from Addicks Reservoir and neighboring Barker reservoir. REUTERS/Chris Aluka Berry
A volunteer helps clean out the home of Jon and Pamela Shaffer in the aftermath of tropical storm Harvey in west Houston, Texas, U.S. September 11, 2017. The Shaffer's home flooded after controlled releases from Addicks Reservoir and neighboring Barker reservoir. REUTERS/Chris Aluka Berry
Pamela Shaffer photographs a portrait from her 1984 wedding in the aftermath of tropical storm Harvey in west Houston, Texas, U.S. September 11, 2017. "It's hard to let go of these things, just pack stuff up and hope for the best," said Pamela. Shaffer's home flooded after controlled releases from Addicks Reservoir and neighboring Barker reservoir. REUTERS/Chris Aluka Berry
A pile of dolls rest in a chair in Ginger Benfield's backyard in the aftermath of tropical storm Harvey in west Houston, Texas, U.S. September 11, 2017. Benfield's home flooded after controlled releases from Addicks Reservoir and neighboring Barker reservoir. REUTERS/Chris Aluka Berry
Ginger Benfield works to save family photos in the aftermath of tropical storm Harvey in west Houston, Texas, U.S. September 11, 2017. "Memories are the hardest thing, but at least they are in your heart," said Benfield. Benfield's home flooded after controlled releases from Addicks Reservoir and neighboring Barker reservoir. REUTERS/Chris Aluka Berry
Savannah Shaffer (L) hugs her mother Pamela Shaffer after finding a pair of boots that weren't damaged by the flooding in the aftermath of tropical storm Harvey in west Houston, Texas, U.S. September 11, 2017. "We celebrate every victory," said Pamela. The Shaffer's home flooded after controlled releases from Addicks Reservoir and neighboring Barker reservoir. REUTERS/Chris Aluka Berry
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'SO MANY AREAS' FLOODED

The city of Jacksonville, in Florida's northeast, was recovering from heavy flooding.

"There are so many areas that you would never have thought would have flooded that have flooded," Florida Governor Rick Scott told reporters.

Irma destroyed about one-third of the buildings on the Dutch-ruled portion of the eastern Caribbean island of St. Martin en route to Florida, the Dutch Red Cross said on Tuesday.

Irma hit the United States soon after Hurricane Harvey, which plowed into Houston late last month, killing about 60 and causing some $180 billion in damage, largely through flooding.

The U.S. aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln was off Florida's east coast and two amphibious assault ships were en route to help in the Keys.

Several major airports in Florida that halted passenger operations due to Irma began limited service on Tuesday, including Miami International, one of the busiest U.S. airports.

Insured property losses in Florida from Irma were expected to run from $20 billion to $40 billion, catastrophe modeling firm AIR Worldwide estimated.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told a New York investor conference that the storm would ultimately boost the economy by sparking rebuilding.

"There clearly is going to be an impact on GDP in the short run, we will make it up in the long run," Mnuchin said. "As we rebuild, that will help GDP ... It won't have a bad impact on the economy."

15 PHOTOS
The worst of Hurricane Irma's destruction
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The worst of Hurricane Irma's destruction
A destroyed trailer park is seen after Hurricane Irma strikes Florida, in Plantation Key in the Florida Keys, U.S., September 12, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
An uprooted tree that slashed a trailer in half in the wake of Hurricane Irma is pictured at a mobile home park in Kissimmee, Florida, U.S. September 12, 2017. REUTERS/Gregg Newton
Storm damage is seen from the air after hurricane Irma passed Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands, September 11, 2017. Picture taken September 11, 2017. Captain George Eatwell RM/Ministry of Defence handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES
Boats wrecked by Hurricane Irma are seen from a plane in Sint Maarten, Netherlands September 11, 2017. REUTERS/Alvin Baez TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Waves crash at the seafront Malecon seen from a damaged restaurant after Hurricane Irma caused flooding and a blackout, in Havana, Cuba September 11, 2017. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
SAINT MARTIN - SEPTEMBER 11: Hurricane damage on the island of Saint Martin after the passage of the hurricane IRMA through the Caribbean Islands on September 11, 2017 in the French island of Saint Martin. (Photo by Aurelien Morissard/IP3/Getty Images)
MARCO ISLAND, FL - SEPTEMBER 11: An office with the roof missing is seen after Hurricane Irma passed in Marco Island, Fla. on Monday, Sept 11, 2017. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
PHILIPSBURG, ST MAARTEN - SEPTEMBER 11: Franklin Sosa from San Pedro Macoris, Dominican Republic, walks past a split palm tree on September 11, 2017 in Philipsburg, St. Maarten. The Caribbean island sustained extensive damage from Hurricane Irma. (Photo by Jose Jimenez/Getty Images)
NAPLES, FL - SEPTEMBER 11: A man walks through a flooded street in a rural part of Naples the morning after Hurricane Irma swept through the area on September 11, 2017 in Naples, Florida. Hurricane Irma made another landfall near Naples yesterday after inundating the Florida Keys. Electricity was out in much of the region with extensive flooding. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
EAST NAPLES, FL - SEPTEMBER 11: A home is shown damaged after Hurricane Irma hit the area on September 11, 2017 in East Naples, Florida. Hurricane Irma made landfall in the Florida Keys as a Category 4 storm on Sunday, lashing the state with 130 mph winds as it moved up the coast. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Housing insulation is seen floating in flood water in a mobile housing park after the passing of Hurricane Irma in Naples, Florida, U.S. September 11, 2017 REUTERS/Stephen Yang
A bedroom is seen in a mobile housing park after the passing of Hurricane Irma in Naples, Florida, U.S. September 11, 2017. REUTERS/Stephen Yang
JACKSONVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 11: Justin Hand navigates storm surge flood waters from Hurricane Irma along the St. Johns River on Sept. 11, 2017 in Jacksonville, Florida. Flooding in downtown Jacksonville along the river topped a record set during Hurricane Dora in 1965. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
JACKSONVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 11: The St. Johns River rises from storm surge flood waters from Hurricane Irma on Sept. 11, 2017 in Jacksonville, Florida. Flooding in downtown Jacksonville along the river topped a record set during Hurricane Dora in 1965. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
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DEATHS DURING CLEANUP

Several of the deaths caused by Irma occurred as people started cleaning up and making repairs.

A 55-year-old man died Monday in Tampa, Florida, while using a chainsaw in a tree during storm cleanup, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said.

A man died in Worth County, Georgia, on Monday while repairing the roof of a shed during heavy winds, a National Weather Service report said.

A man was found dead in Winter Garden, Florida, after being electrocuted by a downed power line, local police said.

One man in South Carolina was killed by a falling tree limb and another died in a traffic accident, officials said. A city employee in Columbia, South Carolina, died Monday after being critically injured in a car crash as he responded to a report of a downed tree, the city said.

Irma was downgraded to a tropical depression on Monday and would likely dissipate Tuesday evening, the National Hurricane Center said.

The center was monitoring another hurricane, Jose, which was spinning in the Atlantic about 700 miles (1,130 km) west of Florida. The Atlantic hurricane season runs through November.

Even as residents of the upper Florida Keys assessed the damage, others who lived on harder-hit islands further southwest waited to see what toll Irma had taken on their property.

Mechanic Dean Christiansen watched police turn around residents and wave through utility workers, law enforcement and health workers at a checkpoint at the end of Islamorada.

He had slept in his truck the last three nights and did not want to return to the mainland, saying, "I've just got to wait for someone I know to come along so I can get through here."

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