Wilma rushes toward Florida

December 25, 2019

first_img Tornadoes spun off ahead off Wilma had already damaged a restaurant in Cocoa Beach and an orchid nursery on Merritt Island, near Kennedy Space Center. Water was running in the streets of Key West. “I cannot emphasize enough to the folks that live in the Florida Keys: A hurricane is coming,” Gov. Jeb Bush told state residents Sunday afternoon. The entire southern Florida peninsula has been under a hurricane warning since Saturday, with an estimated 160,000 residents told to evacuate, but many in the low-lying Keys island chain stayed. Fewer than 10 percent of the Keys’ 78,000 residents evacuated, Monroe County Sheriff Richard Roth said. “I’m disappointed, but I understand it,” Roth said. “They’re tired of leaving because of the limited damage they sustained during the last three hurricanes.” Wilma was Florida’s eighth hurricane since August 2004 and the fourth evacuation of the Keys this year. But Wilma had already proved its damaging potential as it battered the Mexican coastline with howling winds and torrential rains, killing at least three people. Thirteen others died in Jamaica and Haiti, and four bodies were found off Cozumel, though it wasn’t clear if they were killed by the storm. In Florida, the National Guard was on alert, and state and federal officials had trucks of ice and food ready to deploy. The Federal Emergency Management Agency was poised to send in dozens of military helicopters and 13.2 million ready-to-eat meals if needed. Gov. Bush also wrote his brother, President George W. Bush, asking that Florida be granted a major disaster declaration for 14 counties. Many of the areas bracing for Wilma were hit by hurricanes in the past two years. At 2 a.m. EDT today, Wilma was centered about 70 miles west-northwest of Key West, 95 miles southwest of Naples and moving northeast at about 18 mph. Sustained winds of 67 mph, with gusts of 75 mph, were measured in Key West. It was markedly different than conditions Sunday morning in the Keys, when sunshine beckoned boaters onto the water and many residents went about their normal routines. “We were born and raised with storms, so we never leave,” Ann Ferguson said from her front porch in Key West. “What happens, happens. If you believe in the Lord, you don’t have no fear.” Some 100 Key West parishioners attended Mass at a Catholic church where a grotto built in the 1920s is said to provide protection from dangerous storms. Ray Price took his usual stroll down Duval Street to check out the ocean. “Another day in paradise,” Price said. Some people shared that attitude on the mainland. At a park for recreational vehicles in Fort Myers Beach, Leonard Hasbrouck stood bare-chested as a fire truck rolled by blaring a warning. “Mandatory evacuation,” a firefighter shouted into a loudspeaker. “You are hereby ordered to leave your residence by the board of county commissioners of Lee County, Fla.” “They came by yesterday,” Hasbrouck said. “I told them, ‘I’m not going to ask you to rescue me.”‘ George Delgado of Miami was still covering the windows of his house with plywood Sunday. He said he waited until the last minute to make sure the hours of work were necessary. “I was hoping it would turn some other way,” Delgado said. In Palm Beach County, a 12-year-old girl was in critical condition after her skull was fractured as she and her mother tried to help a neighbor install hurricane shutters, sheriff’s spokesman Paul Miller said. At least four tornadoes and a waterspout were spotted as the massive storm system moved in, and half the state’s population was under a tornado watch this morning. On Florida’s Gulf Coast, evacuation orders covered barrier islands and coastal areas in Collier and Lee counties, such as Fort Myers Beach, Marco Island, Sanibel and parts of Naples. Visitors crossing the bridge into Marco Island were greeted by an electric sign that flashed, “EVACUATE, EVACUATE.” More than 22,600 people were in shelters across the state, including roughly 850 people at the Germain Arena near Fort Myers, where evacuees pitched tents and placed mats on the ice rink where a minor-league hockey team plays. Cots and sleeping bags lined hallways outside the rink. David Bright sat nearby on a chair, a Bible beside him. He’s old enough to remember plenty of other hurricanes, including destructive Donna in 1960. “I’m just doing a lot of praying that things will work out,” he said. “I’m born and raised right here in Fort Myers, Fla., and just know you don’t play with them.” 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Weekcenter_img KEY WEST, Fla. – Rain pounded Key West early today as Hurricane Wilma accelerated toward storm-weary Florida, threatening residents with 115-mph winds, tornadoes and a surge of seawater that could flood the Keys and the state’s southwest coast. The Category 3 hurricane was expected to weaken slightly before making landfall around dawn in the state’s southwest corner, likely near Naples and Marco Island, National Hurricane Center Director Max Mayfield said. He warned that the storm surge in the area south of Marco Island could reach 17 feet. “This is a very dangerous hurricane,” Mayfield said. “People need to stay hunkered down.” Once ashore, the fast-moving hurricane was expected to slice northeast across the state at up to 25 mph, with the Atlantic Coast likely to get winds nearly as strong as those hitting the Gulf Coast. last_img

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