HARI SREENIVASAN: Hello and thanks for joining us.
Hurricane Irma is affecting millions of Floridians after making landfall today in the United States. It struck Florida’s southern tip this morning before bearing down on the state’s west coast. At least 2.1 million homes and businesses in Florida have lost power. At least 127,000 Florida residents are in shelters, many in school gymnasiums around the state.
Florida Governor Rick Scott has activated all 7,000 members of the state national guard, with 30,000 guard soldiers from elsewhere poised to help out.
This evening, the cities of Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa-St. Pete, and Orlando are among those under a curfew, meaning all residents must stay indoors until further notice. NewsHour Weekend’s Megan Thompson has more.
MEGAN THOMPSON: After pounding Caribbean islands for days, Hurricane Irma made landfall shortly after 9 am in the Florida Keys as a Category 4 hurricane with sustained winds of 130-miles-and-hour. 30,000 people heeded the call to evacuate the keys, but an unknown number remained, riding out the storm at home. The National Hurricane Center warned of life-threatening storm surges there that could reach 10 feet.
Miami was spared a direct hit, but Irma drenched the city with rain, flooding parts of downtown. Winds nearing 100-miles-and-hour caused high-rise construction cranes to collapse. Miami-Dade police warned — officers won’t respond to emergency calls, because of the risk to their own safety. Forecasters say Irma is now tracking farther west than originally predicted, crawling up Florida’s Gulf Coast at about 8 miles an hour. Brock Long heads the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
BROCK LONG, FEMA: Storm surge has the highest potential to kill the most amount of people and cause the most money damage. My biggest concern is when people fail to heed a warning early from local government officials and then they make a last-minute ditch to try to get to a shelter or into a facility to withstand the winds and in some cases the water starts to rise, and they get trapped.
MEGAN THOMPSON: Vice President Mike Pence visited FEMA headquarters in Washington.
VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: Wherever Hurricane Irma goes, we’ll be there first. We’ll be there with resources and support, both to save lives and to help to recover and rebuild these states and these communities.
MEGAN THOMPSON: Today, from Camp David, President Trump spoke to the governors of states in Irma’s path: Florida, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee. He said he plans to go to Florida as soon as he can. He also declared a disaster declaration for Puerto Rico and increased the amount of federal aid for the U.S. Virgin Islands, where at least four people have died.
Elsewhere in the Caribbean, clean-up and rescue efforts continued. In Haiti, dozens of areas were flooded, and 10,000 people remained in shelters.
The Dutch prime minister announced that in St. Maarten, a Dutch territory, the death toll had risen to four. In the Cuban capital of Havana, people had to navigate the flooded streets by boat.
Forecasters said Hurricane Irma would continue up Florida’s western coast and move inland over the Florida panhandle and southwest Georgia. Atlanta was under its first-ever tropical storm warning.