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Hurricane Irma slams Key West, Florida Keys: 'Everything is underwater, I mean everything'

Hurricane Irma slams Key West, Florida Keys: ‘Everything is underwater, I mean everything’

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Hurricane Irma surges through the Florida Keys with damaging winds.

Boats ride out Hurricane Irma in a marina on September 10, 2017, in Miami, Florida.

Hurricane Irma made landfall in the Florida Keys as a Category 4 storm on Sunday.(Photo: Joe Raedle, Getty Images)

PLANTATION, Fla.

 — Hurricane Irma slammed into the Florida Keys on Sunday morning as a Category 4 storm, uprooting and snapping off trees, filling waterfront streets with surging seawater and knocking out power.

Officials worry that Irma, with sustained winds of 130 mph, has devastated the Keys, a series of low-lying coral-and-sand islands tailing off the southern tip of Florida.

The National Weather Service reported the storm’s eye crossed the chain 20 miles from Key West, over the Big Pine, Summerland and Cudjoe Keys.

Everything is underwater, I mean everything,” said Larry Kahn, an editor for the local newspaper The Keynoter.

 Kahn has been riding out the storm in a shelter that has no power or supplies.

As the storm passed, sheets of rain were visible down Key West’s legendary Duval Street, with what appeared to be at least several inches of water flowing in the street, videos posted to Twitter showed.

Monroe County officials on Sunday night said they’ve called in an airborne relief mission with emergency supplies and personnel to aid the recovery. Officials said reopening the Keys’ two airports are a top priority; the relief mission will arrive via military C-310 cargo planes and other aircraft, they said.

“This is a humanitarian crisis,” Monroe County Emergency Management Director Martin Senterfitt said in a statement. “Help is on the way.

Residents were told Sunday afternoon that they should consider boiling or treating drinking water, in case the Keys’ water system was compromised. Crews were to assess the system once the storm eased.

And county officials said close-in waters were littered with storm debris and presented a navigation hazard for boats.

“Monroe County’s nearshore waters have become a navigation hazard in parts of the Keys with debris, sunken boats, loose boats, buoys and markers,” county officials said in a statement.

“Do not bring a boat into the Keys.”

More: Hurricane Irma makes landfall as mammoth, Category 4 storm

More: After Florida, Irma will impact states from Georgia to Indiana

More: How forecasters will ride out Hurricane Irma

Key West is a popular tourist destination, drawing revelers to the Duval Street bars where pianos duel and frozen drinks flow.

Americans make up the bulk of Key West’s estimated 2.25 million annual visitors, but the city also attracts Canadians, Germans and the British.

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Hurricane Irma pummels Florida Keys.

Video provided by AFP
Newslook

Half of the Keys’ economy depends directly on tourism — a $2.7 billion industry — according to county officials.

On the Key West waterfront, several sailboats appeared to have been knocked loose from their moorings and were banging against the concrete dock, according to webcam images and social media.

In the upper Keys, water blocked parts of some northbound lanes of U.

S. 1, videos and photos showed.

Water levels were 3 feet above normal by 10 a.m.

, the weather service said. Key West’s highest point is just 18 feet above sea level.

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National Weather Service meteorologist Brandon Fling, who is stationed in Key West, said the pressure was rising and winds were gusting to hurricane force: “All well here at the @NWSKeyWest.

#Irma made landfall on Cudjoe Key at 9:10am,” he tweeted.

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Once the storm passes, a major concern for officials is access: Reaching Key West requires driving across 42 bridges, some miles long, and each one will have to be inspected before vehicles are allowed back on them, county officials said.

Utilities already parked their service vehicles in multiple locations along the Keys, and authorities said re-opening the airports on Key West and Marathon Key would be a priority.

Key West is home to about 25,000 people, along with a significant homeless population. Of that permanent population, about 5,000 are members of the military, along with their families and support staff.

 

 

 

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