Sept. 12 (UPI) — The U.S. Defense Department said it may need to help evacuate about 10,000 people stranded in the Florida Keys by Hurricane Irma.
The Keys, a Florida island chain about 120 miles long, were hard-hit by the hurricane on Sunday. The islands were closed to the public Tuesday while damage is assessed, and several areas remain without water, power or communications, officials said.
The Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority issued a notice to boil water, and small water distribution systems broke down during the storm, leading to low water pressure and widespread water outages. The agency, though, said the pipeline bringing drinking water from the mainland “appears to be intact.”
Post-hurricane storm surge in the Florida Keys was limited and it remains unclear if two reported deaths there were storm-related. Those involved in relief efforts in the Keys expect to find casualties, but Monroe County Commissioner Heather Carruthers said she expected a low count because “so many people evacuated.”
The aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln arrived on Florida’s east coast on Monday, and its helicopters were put to use assessing the damage to the Keys.
Throughout Florida, 62 percent of the state was without electrical power, affecting about 13 million people, the state Emergency Operations Center said Monday evening. Interstate 95 in Duval County and parts of Interstate 75 and Interstate 95 in Miami-Dade County remained closed because of flooding or debris. Except for Pensacola, all of Florida’s ports remain closed; Port Everglades and Port Tampa Bay have fuel tankers awaiting unloading, Gov. Rick Scott said earlier Monday.
Hurricane Irma dissipated across the southeastern United States by Tuesday morning. A 5 a.m. advisory from the National Hurricane Center said the center was about 65 miles southwest of Atlanta and 100 miles east-southeast of Birmingham, Ala. Irma, now regarded as a post-tropical cyclone, was moving north-northwest at 10 mph with maximum sustained winds of 15 mph. Flash flood warnings are in effect for portions of the southern Appalachians, and flood warnings and predictions off heavy rainfall throughout the Southeast.
Parts of Georgia lost power on Monday as Irma passed. Tybee Island and the historic city of Savannah, were particularly hard hit by rains and a storm surge. Chatham County, which includes Savannah, sustained massive flooding due to the storm, a surge of 4.7 feet and a high tide, known locally as a king tide.
“We have received quite a bit of flooding in Chatham County. This was a king tide, so with that king tide and the storm surge, plus the heavy amount of rain that came in, there is considerable flooding.” Dennis Jones, director of the county’s Emergency Management Agency, said in a Monday report.