As Irma Moves On, Florida Is Left To Deal With Its Aftermath

Sep 12, 2017
Originally published on September 12, 2017 8:06 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Another view on what it's like to live through Irma's devastation. Nisha Dupuis is a radio announcer in Anguilla, a small British territory in the Caribbean. The 19-year-old continued to broadcast as Hurricane Irma's intense eye wall scraped the islands last week leaving extensive damage to property.

NISHA DUPUIS: When you go over to the hospital, there is still debris in the maternity ward and the roof has been blown away. And I think what was most evident was definitely the destruction to the buildings, large buildings just basically now just debris on the ground.

MARTIN: She says the hurricane left many people homeless.

DUPUIS: Really we're in survival mode right now. Of course we're thankful that we - many of us have survived Hurricane Irma, but right now we're starting from square one, we're starting from the foundation.

MARTIN: The Caribbean was hit hard by this storm, but for the most part, the American mainland seems to have escaped the worst. NPR's Greg Allen joins us now from Miami. Greg, Irma was billed as a monster storm, a historic storm that led to the evacuation of more than a million residents. In retrospect, which I understand is easy to do - Monday morning quarterbacking - but was that mandatory evacuation, was it an overreaction?

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Well, Rachel, you know, you're hearing no from - resounding no from officials, and I think even from residents. Many of the people who evacuated I've heard that from. Of course you'll get some naysayers on that. But this was a Category 4 storm that that did massive damage in the Florida Keys where it made its first landfall. You know, it was 130-miles per hour. Fortunately, it didn't target Florida's most vulnerable population centers. But, you know, after that, after going through the Keys it went to southwest Florida, where it brought its, you know, tropical - its winds and its storm surge. Miami, which was in its path for a while, only got maybe tropical storm-force winds, some gusts up to 90-miles per hour or more. But - and but even with that, we still had storm-surge flooding downtown. You know, hurricanes shift and people know that. So I don't think you get a lot of resentment about this.

MARTIN: So there was some storm surge, some flooding. Can you just give us a sense of the damage that this storm did as it traveled up the - I mean, it did travel up the entire peninsula.

ALLEN: Exactly. And, you know, it's still heading north. The Florida Keys, of course, were devastated. We're still getting reports there. After that, it landed in southwest Florida. Marco Island and Naples were flooded. We're just starting to get an understanding of some of the damage there. But as it traveled inland, it lost power quickly and it missed the Tampa Bay Area, which had expected a much larger storm surge. But by going near inland, it went near Orlando, which brought this heavy rain and high winds, downed trees, lots of power outages there. And then finally, it got - in Florida, it got up toward Jacksonville and caused this huge flooding there, a storm surge they had never seen before. The Coast Guard had to rescue more than a hundred people from their homes there. So very powerful throughout Florida.

MARTIN: What about the power? We're hearing a lot about - a lot, a lot of people without power right now.

ALLEN: Right. Well, at one point yesterday, we had some 13 million people in Florida - that's two thirds of the people who live in the state - who didn't have power. The number has dropped significantly since then. Crews are out working in - where I live in Miami, people are getting power back. But still in my neighborhood, many of my neighbors, probably most of my neighbors still don't have power. So it's going to be quite a few days and weeks for power to come back here.

MARTIN: President Trump has signed disaster declarations for Florida and Alabama because of the effects of Hurricane Irma. I imagine this is going to be an expensive storm to recover from.

ALLEN: Yeah. It - I think it really will be. It's not so much because it devastated each community so much, but it's because it's such a large area, from Florida all the way up to Tennessee and Kentucky, potentially. You know, flooding, power outages. Economic losses, they say, may run as high as $90 billion. That's from an estimate from Moody's Analytics service. If you add that to the cost of Harvey, we are looking at losses that are comparable to the losses we saw from Hurricane Katrina.

MARTIN: NPR's Greg Allen reporting this morning from Miami. Thanks so much, Greg.

ALLEN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.