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Hurricane Irma Hits Miami Causing Major Flooding

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

We are taking stock this morning out of damage from coast to coast in Florida. More than 60 percent of that state's electricity customers are without power. That's more than 6 million homes and businesses. One of the many people who lost power over the long night that's just ended is Sarah Turner (ph). She's in Bronson, Fla., taking shelter at her office as the storm moves north.

SARAH TURNER: Honestly, it's creepy because usually about this time, you see the sun coming up. You see people going to work. But I'm looking out the window right now, and I think I've seen maybe 10 cars since I got up an hour ago.

KELLY: Irma was downgraded this morning from a hurricane to a tropical storm. And forecasters expect it to weaken to a tropical depression by tomorrow. Let's check in with NPR's Greg Allen. He's in Miami.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Hello, Mary Louise.

KELLY: Give us the overview. You know, tell us what areas have been hit hardest by Irma and where may be next.

ALLEN: Well, you know, it really began - we saw Irma's impact yesterday, probably the greatest so far when she came ashore in the Florida Keys. It was a Category 4 storm at that point, hit the Florida Keys with 130-mile-per-hour winds. Of course, the biggest community down there is Key West. Since then, we don't know that much about that, but we have heard there's massive damage. In Miami, Irma came much to the west of us but is still the high winds, and the storm surge flooded downtown. We had construction cranes collapsed. It was much less intense than we originally had feared but still packed a punch.

Then Irma traveled up the West Coast, made landfall on Marco Island as a Category 3 storm. Roofs are off there. We know trees are down - seen some early pictures from Naples, Fla., where it went next, where it showed severe flooding in some neighborhoods. Officials there say, though, they didn't get the 15-foot storm surge they had feared. So they think they got off a little easier then they might have. And then Irma passed inland, went up Florida's peninsula, went inland of Tampa Bay. And it will head into Georgia later today.

KELLY: All right. So just tracking northward as the morning proceeds - let me turn you back to Key West. You said we don't have a lot of detail, but it does sound like that's the place that got hit the hardest. Do you have any more detail?

ALLEN: Yeah. Well, you know, we understand as many as 10,000 people stayed in Key West that were in the Florida Keys, the upper Keys as we call them. And since then, it's been cut off with little contact. There's no phone service, no cell service. Power is out. Even the water lines have been cut. So they don't have running water. The road is - at one point was - been washed out and covered with sand. But officials say the bridges are OK. And they will be going in later today with an assessment crew to see what's going on and provide some relief.

KELLY: And Miami, where you are, you were braced for the worst - sounds like maybe you didn't quite get that.

ALLEN: Yes. We got a lot of flooding downtown in our Brickell financial district. Those cranes are down. That storm surge was the biggest issue. But the biggest problem might be, for us, is power outages, with 3.5 million people without power across the state.

KELLY: NPR's Greg Allen with the latest there across the state of Florida. He was speaking from Miami. Thanks, Greg.

ALLEN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

As NPR's Miami correspondent, Greg Allen reports on the diverse issues and developments tied to the Southeast. He covers everything from breaking news to economic and political stories to arts and environmental stories. He moved into this role in 2006, after four years as NPR's Midwest correspondent.