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Irma Leaves Infrastructure Damage in Wake

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

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While the total damage Hurricane Irma inflicted on Florida has yet to be accounted for completely, reports of infrastructure damage are beginning to emerge, as the islands impacted by the storm last week continue to struggle with its aftermath.

Flooding Damage

The first damage to infrastructure in Florida was sustained where Irma made its landfall Saturday, at Key West and the southern tip of the state.

U.S. Route 1, the Overseas Highway, which connects the Florida Keys to the mainland, suffered extensive damage, with sections breaking off and drifting away during the storm. The Florida Department of Transportation told CNN that portions of the road seem to be damaged around Lower Matecumbe Key, and that some spots were still underwater or blocked by fallen poles as of Monday afternoon. 

The road remains closed until FDOT can evaluate it, cutting much of the Keys off from the rest of the state. As of Monday, some 10,000 people were believed to have remained on the Keys, unable to be reached or to escape via the roadway. The U.S. Navy was reported to be arranging aid via boat.

As the storm moved father north on Sunday, the damage didn't stop; storm surges on the eastern coast of the state wreaked havoc in cities like Jacksonville Beach, while Tampa and Orlando took nearly direct hits from Irma.

All bridges along the Intercoastal Waterway in St. Johns County, in the St. Augustine area on the northern Atlantic coast of the state, remained closed as of Monday due to flooding and storm surges; officials predicted they would be closed for days.

About 300,000 homes in the Orlando region were without power as of Monday, with no real timeline as to when things would be restored to working order, noted News 6. Severe flooding was also reported in the Orlo Vista neighborhood around 2 a.m. on Monday (Sept. 11), resulting in a rescue of 125 residents of the 138 homes in the area.

Tampa Bridge Closures

Once winds reached 40 mph on Saturday (Sept. 9), the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, which connects St. Petersburg to points south across Tampa Bay, was closed, according to the Miami Herald. The massive cable-stayed bridge remained closed for the duration of the hurricane, noted the Florida Highway Patrol.

The Gandy and Howard Frankland bridges, also in the Tampa Bay region, were also closed by troopers under similar conditions. Other bridges were also closed but were reopened later, noted First Coast News.

Weak Infrastructure

Even though much focus remains on what damage the United States mainland has suffered, Irma grazing Puerto Rico has brought a decades-old problem to light: the lack of maintenance on the island’s infrastructure.

As of Saturday (Sept. 9), 15 of the 69 hospitals on the island were running on generators, and 40 percent of residents did not have power, with 13 percent lacking water.

“It’s the lack of maintenance in our infrastructure,” Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said in an interview. He noted that, while he didn’t want to “point fingers,” there had been periods over the last decade with no infrastructure maintenance performed, leaving the island more susceptible to damage.

Earlier in the week, Irma nearly wiped out the tiny island of Barbuda completely, taking out what officials described as "90 percent" of the island's structures. Major damage was sustained on other islands, including St. Martin and Cuba, as well.


Tagged categories: Disasters; Health and safety; Infrastructure

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