Last updated: September 11, 2017 at 16:46 pm
Authorities in Florida are undertaking massive relief operations as the magnitude of Hurricane Irma’s destructive path is revealed.
A weakening but still potent Irma lashed Florida’s Gulf Coast with tree-bending winds, pounding rain and surging surf since making landfall yesterday.
The disturbance has now been downgraded to tropical storm status.
Millions of people have been left without power, streets have been flooded and roofs have been ripped off homes.
Some reports states that 62% of the state has no electricity.
In storm-battered towns up and down Florida’s western shore – from Naples and Fort Myers north through Sarasota, Tampa and St Petersburg – residents huddled with relatives, neighbours and pets to ride out a hurricane that had ranked as one of the Atlantic’s most powerful in a century.
Hurricane-force winds extended across portions of central Florida on Sunday night, the National Hurricane Center reported.
WIC News has reached out to a number of contacts on the ground in Florida.
The storm killed at least 37 people as it raged through the Caribbean en route to Florida. When it landed it was a category four hurricane.
On Sunday, Irma claimed its first US fatality – a man found dead in a pickup truck that had crashed into a tree in high winds in the town of Marathon, in the Keys.
Since then three more deaths have been confirmed.
Florida Governor Rick Scott is quoted by the Miami Herald as saying it was “going to take some time” before people could go home.
Irma’s centre came ashore at Marco Island not long after it was downgraded to a category three storm from a category four on the five-point Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale, with maximum sustained winds of 120mph (195kmph).
A few hours later, it was downgraded again to category two, with maximum sustained wind gusts of 110mph (175kmph).
The storm gradually lost strength, weakening to a category one hurricane overnight, the National Hurricane Center said.
By 4am AST, Irma was churning northwest in the centre of the state and was about 60 miles (100km) north of Tampa, with maximum sustained winds of 75mph (120km per hour.)
Some 6.5 million people, about a third of the state’s population, had been ordered to evacuate southern Florida as the storm approached the US mainland after pummelling Cuba with 36ft-tall (11m) waves and ravaging several smaller Caribbean islands.
An estimated 170,000 people were lodged in some 650 emergency shelters as of early evening, according to the Florida Division of Emergency Management.
Police in Miami-Dade County said they had made 29 arrests for looting and burglary.
Irma comes just days after Hurricane Harvey dumped record-breaking rain in Texas, killing at least 60 people and causing unprecedented flooding and an estimated US$180 billion in property damage.
President Donald Trump has approved a major disaster declaration and emergency federal aid for Florida, describing the hurricane as a “big monster”.