More than 6.2 mn homes, businesses without electricity in Florida

More than 6.2 mn homes, businesses without electricity in Florida 

Some street flooding persists on Biscayne Boulevard after Hurricane Irma struck in Miami, Florida, USA, Sept. 11, 2017. EPA-EFE/ERIK S. LESSER

Miami, Sep 11 (efe-epa).- More than 6.2 million customers of electricity providers in Florida are without power due to Hurricane Irma, which on Monday weakened to a tropical storm as it moves to the far north of the state, authorities said.

The total number of customers without electricity is 6,210,042, or 62.18 percent of all homes, businesses and government and private-sector offices in the state, according to the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

In Miami-Dade County, Florida’s most heavily populated, more than 830,000 customers are without electricity, or 73 percent of the total, it added.

In Monroe County, which comprises the Florida Keys, where Irma made landfall Sunday morning as a Category 4 hurricane, 83 percent of customers are without electricity.

The state’s largest electric utility, Florida Power & Light, said on Twitter Monday that “18,000+ workers are restoring power – every hour of every day ? even as we assess full damage of #Irma.”

The lack of power is a major issue considering the high temperatures of the Florida summer. In one city on Florida’s west coast, Clearwater, the projected high on Monday is just 25 C (78 F). But normal temperatures will resume shortly, with the high on Thursday forecast to be 30 C.

Irma weakened Monday to a tropical storm, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said in its latest public advisory at 11 am (1500 GMT).

But the NHC warned of the continued threat of storm surge, saying that on both the Gulf coast of Florida and a stretch of Atlantic coast from northeastern Florida to the southern part of South Carolina water levels could reach up to 1.8 meters (six feet) above ground.

Before barreling into Florida, Irma, which at its peak strength was one of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes ever, left a trail of death and utter destruction in parts of the Caribbean, devastating small islands such as St. Martin and Barbuda (part of the country of Antigua and Barbuda) and the British Virgin Islands.

Nearly 40 people, including 10 in Cuba, were killed.

Three Irma-related fatalities have been confirmed thus far in Florida – all of whom perished in traffic accidents blamed on the adverse weather conditions – but the death toll could rise because authorities are only beginning to assess the hurricane’s impact in the Florida Keys.