WASHINGTON – From its southernmost islands to its northernmost cities, Florida woke to catastrophic damage on Monday, after a hurricane sawed through the state bringing with it devastating storm surge and winds.
The tropical cyclone, named Irma by the National Hurricane Center, left much of the Florida Keys in ruins, flooded downtown Miami and Jacksonville, and left roughly one-third of residents in the country’s fourth most populous state without power.
Landfall weakened Irma’s core, now set to break apart over the American South. But the storm, one of the strongest ever recorded to form in the Atlantic, caused billions of dollars in damage across Florida – home to some 20 million people – and has prompted a massive federal response after US President Donald Trump declared a statewide emergency there.
Local and national leadership within the Jewish Federations of North America have taken it upon themselves to account for members of their communities who were adversely impacted by Irma. The organization’s national chair was in touch with chapter heads on the western coast of the state on Monday, where Irma’s eye made landfall and inflicted the greatest damage.
That area includes the city of Naples, home to many American Jews.
“For a vulnerable population, for the elderly, there’s reach-out to them beforehand and check-ins with them afterward,” Jacob Solomon, president of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, told The Jerusalem Post
. “Our agency in Federation has a pretty good handle on the elderly. We know this drill and we’ve done this before.”
Miami avoided the brunt of the storm, and Solomon noted little structural damage in the community beyond power outages and the spread of debris. A 30-foot statue of an outstretched hand representing the city’s Holocaust memorial still stands.
“We had sufficient time to prepare,” Solomon said, “but I feel bad for the people in southwest Florida who had less time.”
Miami’s airport will remain closed through Monday, but local officials said to expect a speedy recovery.
Florida Coast Guard makes rescue during Hurricane Irma
In a ceremony at the Pentagon in remembrance of the victims of the September 11, 2001, attacks, Trump vowed a full response to Irma, as well as continued federal support for victims of www.jpost.com/International/Hurricane-Harvey-batters-Texas-as-Category-4-hurricane-makes-landfall-503431
Hurricane Harvey, which flooded Texas.
“These are storms of catastrophic severity, and we are marshaling the full resources of the federal government to help our fellow Americans,” Trump said. “When Americans are in need, Americans pull together, and we are one country.”
As it traveled through the center of the state early on Monday, Irma brought gusts greater than 140 kph (87 mph) and torrential rain to areas around Orlando – one of the most popular areas for tourism in Florida because of its cluster of theme parks – the National Weather Service said. Earlier, in the Keys, the storm had produced gusts of 260 kph (approximately 160 mph).
In Eastern Shores, a neighborhood located on a peninsula of North Miami Beach, power has been down since Saturday.
“We all live on the water,” a resident of the area, Ruth Abeckjerr Williams, told the Post on the phone while she was sitting in her car for its air-conditioning. “There are five to 10 feet (1.5 to 3 meters) of water in our street. There are some streets you can’t go by because the power poles fell down, so it would be dangerous.”
While she said her family was “super lucky” that their house did not sustain major damage, her neighbor’s home’s skylight broke and water has filled the house.
“I was here for Hurricane Andrew,” she said. “This was worse than Andrew, a lot worse, and it’s going to take a while before the city gets back to normal, because there’s a lot of damage everywhere.”
Unlike many residents of the area and despite being in an evacuation zone, Williams and her family stayed put for Irma’s arrival.
“By the time we figured we needed to leave, we couldn’t get out. Driving was a nightmare because the roads were packed and there was no gas,” she said. “We didn’t want to leave and get stuck. We felt the safest place to be was home.”Danielle Ziri and Reuters contributed to this report.
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