Irma’s wrath was especially hard on Keys, Jacksonville
FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — Hurricane Irma seemed to inflict special wrath on some unlucky communities, even though it didn’t cause the catastrophic destruction that was feared in Florida and the rest of the Southeastern United States.
Here is a look at what is known so far about areas where Irma’s toll was the worst in Florida and other states:
Aerial images show widespread destruction in the Florida Keys, the chain of islands that extends from south of Miami to Key West, the southernmost point in the continental United States.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency estimates Irma destroyed 25 percent of the homes in the Keys, where about 70,000 people live by the sea in trailers, small houses and multimillion-dollar mansions, and heavily damaged 65 percent. It’s unclear exactly how many businesses were ruined, but the total could be high.
Such a loss could be devastating to the Keys’ economy, which depends heavily on tourist spending from people who drive south along the Overseas Highway that links the islands or arrive by cruise ships that dock in Key West.
Towns along Florida’s southwestern coast are a haven for retirees seeking warm weather and beautiful sunsets across the Gulf of Mexico, but many of their communities are still cleaning up or without power or air conditioning after Irma.
In Lee County, which includes Cape Coral and Fort Myers, the Florida Emergency Management Agency says 66 percent of the area’s 290,000 electrical customers were still without power Wednesday. Widespread outages have led to long lines outside of the relatively few stores, gas stations and restaurants that have reopened.
The situation is even worse to the south in Collier County, where Naples is located. Days after Irma passed, almost 80 percent of homes and businesses are still without electricity there, and floodwaters still cover some communities entirely.
Extensive flooding swamped Jacksonville, located in Florida’s northeastern corner about 500 miles (805 kilometers) from the spot in the Keys where Irma made its first U.S. landfall.
Water from the St. Johns River and its tributaries inundated neighborhoods and parts of downtown Jacksonville that officials said haven’t flooded in generations. More than 250,000 power customers were without electricity at one point.
Mayor Lenny Curry couldn’t estimate yet how many homes were damaged in Jacksonville or how many people were left homeless. The state said almost 25 percent of the area was still without power.
Storm surge flooded hundreds of homes near beaches and marshes, sunk numerous boats and trashed docks on the Georgia coast even though Irma was a weakened tropical storm when its center crossed the state more than 100 miles (160 kilometers) inland.
On Tybee Island, home to Georgia’s largest public beach east of Savannah, surge amplified by unusually high lunar tides submerged neighborhood streets in waist-deep water Monday afternoon. Mayor Jason Buelterman said several hundred homes were flooded — including an estimated 200 houses that suffered flood damage from Hurricane Matthew last October.
Irma left boat docks shattered. Vessels moored to them either sunk or were swept inland, leaking fuel into floodwaters that covered downtown St. Marys on the southern end of Georgia’s 100-mile (160-kilometer) coast just north of the Florida state line.
Associated Press writer Russ Bynum contributed from Savannah, Georgia.
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