Irma’s Wake: Power outages across Alabama, evacuees’ futures uncertain

September 12, 2017

By Samuel Mattison
Alabama Political Reporter

As Tropical Depression Irma exits Alabama, it leaves behind a bruised state with power outages, downed trees and Florida evacuees uncertain of their future.

The storm caused tropical-like winds across Eastern Alabama Monday as it moved northwestward from its landfall in Southern Florida Sunday morning.

It made landfall as a category 4 hurricane and weakened until it was a tropical storm in the panhandle of Florida. As the center of the storm crossed into Alabama around the Phenix City area, it was downgraded again to a tropical depression.

Sustained winds of 25-35 mph caused substantial power loss across the eastern part of Alabama and work crews couldn’t reach some affected areas due to the severe wind caused by Irma.

Crews from the utility company Alabama Power worked through the night to restore power as Irma moved to North Alabama as a weakened tropical depression.

As of midnight Tuesday, tens of thousands of Alabamians—mainly in East Alabama—are still without power. Alabama Power said they will give an update at 5:00 a.m. on Tuesday.

The National Weather Service in Birmingham said several reports of damage came from Eastern Alabama counties regarding downed trees from severe wind.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey declared a state of emergency and mobilized the Alabama National Guard before Irma hit. She also activated the Emergency Operations Center in Clanton, Alabama, to monitor Irma as it hit Alabama.

President Donald Trump granted Alabama emergency status Sunday.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will now coordinate with local officials in relief efforts across the state. FEMA already had a team down in Alabama with resources to assist with disaster relief.

Irma’s landfall in Southern Florida hit the area hard, and the exact extent of the damage won’t be known till later this week when officials assess the damage.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott said the main priority for the first 72 hours is to conduct search-and-rescue missions, law enforcement security and stabilizing areas affected by Irma.

Florida’ Department of Emergency Management said that 6.5 million Floridians were in mandatory evacuation zones, and many more could have left voluntarily.

The evacuation caused congested roads over the weekend and more heavy traffic could go southward as evacuees make their way back to Florida.

Multiple media outlets reported that as many as 250,000 evacuees could currently be lodging in Alabama.

While some may leave this week, road closures and flooded areas in Florida may give them second pause. Florida newspaper The Miami Herald reported that Gov. Scott told evacuees to not come home yet in a news briefing after the hurricane passed.

“Don’t think just because this thing passed you can run home,” Scott said according to The Herald. “We’ve got downed power lines across the state. Roads that are impassable all over this state. We have debris all over this state.”

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