Hurricane Irma weakens after storm surges cut off Florida Keys
Hurricane could be downgraded to tropical storm as it continues batter US coast
Hurricane Irma is showing signs of weakening and could be downgraded to a tropical storm on Monday.
The National Hurricane Centre said the storm “should continue to lose strength and fall below hurricane intensity” during the day, as it continues its path northwards.
But forecasters have warned the threat to life still remains, as Florida continues to be battered by 160kph winds and torrential rain.
Powerful storm surges could also cause more devastating flooding across the state.
Overnight, Irma was downgraded to a category 2 storm, but continued to wreak havoc along the west coast.
Massive 3.1m storm surges overwhelmed roads and buildings, and cut off Florida Keys from the mainland.
Residents and holidaymakers were ordered to stay indoors until the storm had passed.
Up to 6.5 million people have been ordered to evacuate the area – one of the biggest evacuations in US history – as the storm engulfed the region.
Speaking on Sunday Florida’s governor Rick Scott said: “People ask what they can do for us. Pray for us. We need volunteers, nurses. I hope everybody will pray for us.”
Georgia and South Carolina are expected to face flooding later in the week as the storm continues north, with Tennessee and Alabama also likely to be affected though the power of the hurricane is expected to significantly subside.
Mr Caveney (28), who married Zoe (22) on August 5th, said: “I’ve never seen rain or wind like it in my life.
“With Orlando being in central Florida we aren’t getting it as bad as the coastal towns, but there are very strong winds and heavy rain battering down. We can hear the wind battering the door and trees outside.
“All the parks have been closed as of Saturday 7pm local time and won’t be opening again until Tuesday morning at the earliest.
“We are currently on curfew and have been told to stay in our hotel rooms. We were advised to purchase enough food and water in to keep us going through the weekend.
“We’re pretty calm about the whole thing — if a little apprehensive. It’s all frustrating with it being our honeymoon and obviously everyone back home is concerned too.”
‘Not as bad as they were forecasting ’
Andrew Trickett, from Shropshire in the UK, is on holiday in Orlando with his wife Sandy.
The 56-year-old said: “The wind is picking up here — it’s at 110kph and is going to get worse.
“There’s a curfew for the next 24 hours which is advisable as it would be very dangerous to be out there.
“It’s been scary but not as bad as they were forecasting earlier this week. We are lucky compared to people in the south west of Florida who’ve had to evacuate.”
James Stuart, who is on holiday in Orlando with his mum and brother, said they were “holed up helplessly” and that the weather was “unbelievable”.
The 37-year-old, who plays deaf football for Everton FC, said: “The wind is so powerful. The trees are moving so violently and it’s pouring down.”
House-to-house searches will begin in Florida Keys on Monday, looking for people who need help and assessing the damage.
So far, Irma has claimed at least 24 lives in its deadly path across the Atlantic, including five in the British Virgin Islands and one each on Anguilla and Barbuda, and left thousands of people homeless.
Boris Johnson has pledged to be there “in the long term” for British people whose Caribbean homes were ripped apart by the storm.
Brushing aside critics, the Foreign Secretary said there had been an “unprecedented” relief effort from the UK and that he had “no doubt” Britain would meet the challenges ahead.
Mr Johnson said, in addition to the £32 million already set aside following the disaster, the Government would be matching public donations to the Red Cross appeal.
Returning from the latest in a series of emergency Cobra meetings, Mr Johnson said: “This is just the beginning.
“A terrible thing has happened to British overseas territories.
“These are British people and we are here for the long term and we will come through with a recovery plan working with our partners in the region.
“We will come through with a recovery plan for those islands and make sure they get back on their feet again.”