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Residents begin returning to storm-battered Florida Keys

13 September 2017

At least 10 deaths in the USA are now attributed to Irma, some hit by falling trees or tree limbs and one killed in a storm-related auto accident.

Local authorities told around 90,000 residents of Miami Beach and people from some parts of the Keys they could go home, but they warned them that it might not be prudent to remain there.

Downgraded to a tropical storm that day, Irma had ranked as one of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes before barrelling into the Florida Keys on Sunday and moving inland to wreak havoc across the third most populous USA state.

Irma hit southwest Florida on Sunday morning as a risky Category 4 storm, the second-highest level on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale.

It gradually weakened to a tropical storm by Monday morning as it headed toward Georgia. For more than three days of that total, it was a Category 5 - tying it with Cuba's deadly 1932 storm and setting a record for the satellite era, Klotzbach says.

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The scope of damage in Florida and its neighbouring states paled in comparison with the destruction left by Irma in parts of the Caribbean, where it devastated several islands and killed almost 40 people.

Power disruptions caused more serious dilemmas for others.

Barbuda: The small island is said to be "barely habitable", with 95 percent of the buildings damaged. "It's going to take some time to let people back into their homes particularly in the Florida Keys", Brock Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, told a morning press conference.

As Irma pushed north, outage figures were increasing at other large utilities, including units of Duke Energy, Southern Co and Emera Inc. Winds have snapped power lines and 72 percent of homes there are without electricity, officials say.

FPL said its two nuclear plants in Florida were safe. Both units at its Turkey Point facility, about 30 miles (48 km) south of Miami, were shut by early Monday. Florida has long dealt with hurricanes, including a stretch of eight hurricanes in two years while Jeb Bush was governor, but Irma's wide reach has proved daunting.

Millions Without Power As Irma Pounds Florida
Chief Meteorologist Paul Dellegatto said the long awaited turn to the northwest should occur later on Saturday. In downtown Miami, two of the two dozen construction cranes looming over the skyline collapsed in the wind.

Dozens of eager Keys residents parked their cars along US 1 Monday, staying there through the night to make sure they could get onto the Keys when access was granted, ABC Miami affiliate WPLG-TV reported.

"We believe the damage estimate from Irma to be about $100 billion, among the costliest hurricanes of all time". The city has its own power grid.

Recovery operations are intensifying around Florida and beyond, even as the last vestiges of Irma scatter light to moderate rain around the lower Mississippi Valley and the Ohio Valley in the nation's interior.

In Gainesville, more than 60% of stations are still out of gas, according to GasBuddy, which tracks fuel prices and availability.

National weather forecaster AccuWeather has released a staggering prediction for what it will cost to fix the destruction left by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

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Residents begin returning to storm-battered Florida Keys