It’s Monday, another dark dawn in Florida as Hurricane Irma stretches into her second day of chewing up coast line, snapping trees and power lines, flooding homes and roads, ripping off roofs and upending the lives of as many as 7 million people — 6.4 million in Florida alone — before it exits the state this afternoon.
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STATE OF UNCERTAINTY — We don’t know how many are dead or injured. We don’t know if all the bridges in the Florida Keys, which bore the brunt of Irma’s Category 4 winds, are safe. We don’t know how many homes and businesses have been ruined. We don’t know how many are without power. We don’t know how long it will take to restore it. We don’t know how many hospitals and nursing homes are in danger of running out of fuel. We don’t know when some schools will reopen. But we do know this: Florida has never seen a storm like Irma. And it could have been even worse.
MILE ZERO, GROUND ZERO — Key West and the Lower Keys were bracing for storm surges of seven feet or more. It wasn’t that bad. New Town in Key West was flooded; most of Old Town wasn’t. But in Cudjoe Key and farther up the Keys to the north east, the wind and flood damage was significant. Disaster mortuary teams are on the way. The damage from Naples wasn’t as significant, but it was greater than in Miami and points north. And Irma is still headed north. As of 5 a.m., Irma was barely still a hurricane — likely to be downgraded to a tropical storm later this morning — about 60 miles north of Tampa. By mid-afternoon, the center of Irma should pass across the Florida-Georgia border.
— “Fears mount in Florida Keys over damage, possible deaths from Hurricane Irma,” by David Ovalle and David Goodhue in the Miami Herald: Read more
POLITICAL POWER — Facing a storm no governor ever faced, Gov. Rick Scott early on was adamant that people evacuate quickly. And he quickly declared a state of emergency to ensure federal help was easy to tap. “[President Donald] Trump’s given me everything I’ve asked for,” Scott told POLITICO Florida. He viewed the problems Irma posed in stages: first was evacuation, then ensuring nursing homes and hospitals were ready, then ensuring adequate fuel supplies and now getting the power up and running, a problem that surfaced in miniature in Tallahassee last year after Hurricane Hermine.
‘EVERYONE WANTS MY HELP NOW’ — Scott: “I figured out with Hermine that the utility industry didn’t cooperate. And so now we have daily calls — I’ll start them tomorrow, twice a day calls — and so I have a commitment. I have 23,000 people coming down here from the utilities … We’ll start putting out a report tomorrow: How many outages. What everybody is doing. And so people will have a better idea of how long it’s going to take. So by doing that, if you look at [Hurricane] Matthew, how much faster we got power back everywhere in contrast to Tallahassee. I couldn’t get them to take resources or anything. Let me tell you, everyone wants my help now.”
— “As Irma slams Florida, Scott says storm surge is biggest worry,” by POLITICO Florida’s Sergio Bustos: Read more
HOSPITAL HELP —@marcorubio: “Just got report @HialeahHospital has less than 2 hours of diesel left to run generator. They need diesel or @insideFPL restoration ASAP”.
IRMA WEIRD — Hurricanes have a knack for turning things inside out and upside down. Cars wind up in water. Boats get tossed on land. Hurricane Irma was odder still. The force of Irma was so great it sucked the water out of rivers and even Tampa Bay. Manatees were stranded when the water left them on dry ground. Flamingos were herded to safety in Tampa. And, of course, a tiger being transported from Tampa to Memphis somehow got loose Friday in an Atlanta suburb and was shot dead by cops after she mauled a dog. (I’m not sure if this is Irma related. But who cares?)
THESE CRANES DON’T FLY — “Three cranes at South Florida construction sites have snapped in Irma’s howling winds,” by Miami Herald’s David Smiley, Douglas Hanks, Joey Flechas and Nicholas Nehamas: Read more
SEND THE CALVARY — “Florida lawmakers to focus on feds for post-Irma relief,” by POLITICO Florida’s Matt Dixon: Members of Florida’s congressional delegation say they are looking ahead to make sure the federal government works closely with state and local government officials and provides Florida with all the resources needed to help it recover from one of the biggest hurricanes to strike the state. Read more
BREAKING POINT — “As Irma barrels into Florida, Washington takes a one-two punch” by POLITICO’s Lorraine Woellert: More than a decade of budget cutting and a rash of government job vacancies are taxing Washington’s ability to cope with a one-two punch of epic storms. The fiscal belt-tightening has coincided with an American migration to job-abundant coasts, where people are building bigger houses and taller condos while shunning flood insurance. Storms, fires and other disasters are hitting with more frequency and fury, forcing the federal government to cope with overlapping catastrophes. Over the weekend, federal first responders were decamping from the Hurricane Harvey havoc in Texas to head for Florida. Hurricane Irma is hitting the state just as rebuilding aid for last year’s Hurricane Matthew begins arriving from Washington. Read more
REQUEST GRANTED — “Scott requests federal disaster declaration,” by POLITICO Florida’s Bruce Ritchie: Read more
BY THE NUMBERS — “Irma recovery could require 11M meals, 24,000 tarps and more,” by AP’s Gary Fineout: “With the arrival of what is potentially one of the most devastating storms to ever hit Florida, officials have set aside 3.2 million liters (0.85 million gallons) of water, filled 67 trailers with meals, and amassed 24,000 tarps. They also have asked the federal government to kick in 11 million meals and millions more liters (gallons) of water, plus nearly 700 cases of baby supplies. When it is finally safe for emergency officials to fan out across the peninsula, they will find out whether that is enough. Hurricane Irma made landfall in the Florida Keys on Sunday morning with top sustained winds of 130 mph (215 kph). While the projected track showed Irma raking the state’s Gulf Coast, forecasters warned that the entire Florida peninsula — including the Miami metropolitan area of 6 million people — was in extreme danger from the monstrous storm, almost 400 miles (640 kilometers) wide. Nearly 7 million people in the Southeast were warned to get out of the storm’s path, including 6.4 million in Florida alone.” Read more
LIVES MORE IMPORTANT THAN MONEY — “Trump: U.S. a ‘bit lucky’ Irma veered from original course,” by AP’s Darlene Superville: Read more
WHY A SUNSHINE STATE? — “A requiem for Florida, the paradise that should never have been,” by Michael Grunwald in POLITICO Magazine: South Florida is an artificial civilization, engineered and air-conditioned to insulate its residents and tourists from the realities of its natural landscape. We call animal control when alligators wander into our backyards, and it doesn’t occur to us that we’ve wandered into the alligators’ backyard. Most residents of suburban communities carved out of Everglades swampland — Weston, Wellington, Miami Springs, Miami Lakes — are blissfully oblivious to the intricate water diversion strategies that their government officials use to keep them dry every day. Most South Floridians don’t think much about climate change, either, even though it’s creating more intense storms, even though the rising seas around Miami Beach now flood low-lying neighborhoods on sunny days during high tide. People tend not to think too much about existential threats to the places they live. They just live. Read more
GRIM LOOK AHEAD — “AP Exclusive: Toxic sites in likely path of Irma,” by AP’s Michael Biesecker and Jason Dearen: “Dozens of personnel from the Environmental Protection Agency worked to secure some of the nation’s most contaminated toxic waste sites as Hurricane Irma bore down on Florida. The agency said its employees evacuated personnel, secured equipment and safeguarded hazardous materials in anticipation of storm surges and heavy rains. The Associated Press surveyed six of the 54 Superfund sites in Florida before Irma’s arrival, all around Miami in low-lying, flood-prone areas. There was no apparent work going on at the sites AP visited this past week. The EPA said that if there was no activity, a site should be considered secured but would be closely monitored. The sites were in various stages of federally directed, long-term cleanup efforts. At the Miami-Dade Emergency Operations Center on Saturday, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said the EPA workers he’s spoken with seem “generally positive” about the prospects for toxic sites remaining secure in the coming hurricane. But “they can’t guarantee it 100 percent,” he told AP.” Read more
DEATH TO IRMA — “Florida man’s joke about shooting Irma gets taken seriously,” by AP’s Terry Spencer: “A Florida man says that his Facebook event inviting people to shoot at Hurricane Irma was a joke that got out of hand and that he never expected anyone to take his suggestion seriously. More than 50,000 people had signed up by Sunday after 22-year Ryon Edwards of Daytona Beach posted the invitation with the note, ‘YO SO THIS GOOFY LOOKING WINDY HEADASS NAMED IRMA SAID THEY PULLING UP ON US, LETS SHOW IRMA THAT WE SHOOT FIRST.’ Edwards told The Associated Press on Sunday in a Facebook message it ‘seems the joke may have gone over many people’s heads. I’ve got people in my inbox mad as hell because they think this is actually happening. I don’t know whether to laugh or sigh.’ Most, but not all, Facebook responders seemed to understand that Edwards was not serious, posting photos and comments making fun of Florida stereotypes, including pot-bellied men dressed only in their underwear holding handguns and rifles.” Read more
CAUGHT ON CAMERA — “Looters caught by Local 10 cameras arrested by Fort Lauderdale police,” by WPLG-10 Executive Producer Jeff Tavss: “Fort Lauderdale police arrested 9 people caught by Local 10 cameras looting Fort Lauderdale business despite the dangerous winds and heavy rain from Hurricane Irma. Local 10 cameras caught a group breaking into the Simon’s Sportswear on Sunrise Blvd. and Powerline Road. The group of about 8-9 people broke through the front window and were seen walking in and then walking out with stolen items. The group then began looting a Footlocker and CashAmerica Pawn Store in the same area. Hours later, the Fort Lauderdale Police Department tweeted that they had caught the criminals. “Going to prison over a pair of sneakers is a fairly bad life choice,” said Fort Lauderdale police chief Rick Maglione. “Stay home and look after your loved once and be thankful they are all safe.” Read more
CAN’T DELIVER — “Floridians say online retailers let them down ahead of Irma,” by AP’s Adriana Gomez Licon: “Maya Kogul was in California when Hurricane Irma began twirling toward Florida. She knew stores would run out of key supplies before she got back to her downtown Miami home earlier this week, so she placed an order for three cases of water through a Nestle water delivery company. She waited and waited, but the order didn’t come. More than 50 Floridians told The Associated Press that they did not receive flashlights, battery-operated radios, boxed milk, water bottles and first-aid kits after placing orders on Amazon.com and Nestle’s ReadyRefresh. Amazon spokeswoman Amanda Ip said that deliveries were experiencing delays because of the weather conditions. ReadyRefresh posted an apology Friday on Twitter for service disruptions and delivery delays.” Read more
BEYOND FLORIDA — “Hurricane Irma leaves a trail of destruction across the Caribbean,” by Miami Herald’s Jacqueline Charles: “Unconfirmed reports suggest that a significant portion of South Caicos — in the Turks and Caicos Islands — has been damaged or destroyed. If accurate, that would mean much of the working population who depend on the fishing industry will be affected. Along with the island’s Belongers, as they are called, a sizable Haitian and Dominican population work in the fishing industry, sending money to families back home. Many also live in wooden homes that are most vulnerable to a storm. South Caicos along with the capital of Grand Turk were struck by Hurricane Ike in 2008. Some residents just got back in their homes, and fishermen who lost their boats during that hurricane still hadn’t fully recovered when Irma struck.” Read more
— “Hurricane Irma traffic: They tried to flee, but had to go back home,” by The Tampa Bay Times’ Caitlin Johnston: Read more
SHUT DOWN — “Trump Org closes Mar-a-Lago as Hurricane Irma approaches,” POLITICO’s Nolan D. McCaskill: President Donald Trump’s properties in Florida have closed as Hurricane Irma nears landfall. “Our teams at our four properties in Florida are taking all of the proper precautions and are following local and Florida State Advisories very closely to help ensure that everyone is kept safe and secure,” a spokesperson for the Trump Organization said in a statement Friday.
The Mar-a-Lago Club, Trump International Golf Club in Palm Beach and Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter have been closed, the spokesperson said. Read more.
… IRMA READER …
— Scott says Trump approves Florida disaster declaration. Read more
— Former presidents add Florida relief to their efforts. Read more
— Rubio rides out Hurricane Irma at home in Florida. Read more
— House, Senate offices to remain closed through Tuesday. Read more
— Rubio tells HHS to prepare for post-hurricane Zika cases. Read more
— White House waives Jones Act to speed Florida fuel shipments. Read more
— Rubio asks Department of Energy to “do everything in its power” to make gas available. Read more
— Corcoran to lawmakers: Be ready for special session on Irma aftermath. Read more
— Latvala questions state strategy ahead of Hurricane Irma. Read more
… IN NON-IRMA NEWS …
KEEP DREAMING — “Democrats threaten December shutdown if DREAMers aren’t protected,” by POLITICO’s Heather Caygle and Elana Schor: House Democrats are prepared to threaten a government shutdown in December unless Congress adopts protections for DREAMers, a senior member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus said Friday. Hours after Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) voted for a three-month government funding deal that he had lambasted his party’s leaders for striking with President Donald Trump, he suggested that top Democrats are prepared to take a stronger stand once that deal expires. Gutiérrez said Democratic leaders ceded leverage they could have used to help undocumented immigrants who came to the country as children. “We will shut it down or let Republicans keep it open with their own votes,” Gutiérrez told DREAMers and immigration activists gathered on Capitol Hill Friday. He and every other House Democrat had just voted for the funding package that also includes aid for Hurricane Harvey victims. Read more
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