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Officials In Miami Beach Will Assess Irma's Wrath


It was a long night in Florida as Hurricane Irma worked its way up the state. And we've got some news to throw in here, which is that Hurricane Irma is no longer a hurricane. It's been downgraded to a tropical storm. That's according to the National Hurricane Center, which says Irma will keep on weakening slowly as it crosses the Florida Panhandle into Georgia today.


Candice Paez (ph) is a nurse at Tampa General Hospital. She signed up to be on an emergency hurricane team - team A. It was the 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift last night as Irma was rolling in.

CANDICE PAEZ: My friends Darnisha (ph), and Rhiannon (ph) and Amy (ph), we're all in a room together. And we woke up today, and we just took a minute to think about how we're going to handle this and what we're going to do. We're going to go into nurse mode, and we're going to protect our patients. And we're going to get through this.

GREENE: OK, let's bring in our colleague Lulu Garcia-Navarro. She is the host of NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday. She was broadcasting from her hometown, Miami, yesterday. She's still there and on the line this morning.

Hi, Lulu.


GREENE: So where are you? And what is Miami looking like?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah, I am actually outside. The area that I'm in flooded yesterday. Those waters are now going down, but they're still here. And there is wind damage, a lot of debris from trees. You know, Miami is a really leafy city. I can actually see one car in front of me that was crushed by a falling tree.

So Miamians (ph) are waking up right now and taking stock of what they lost. But I've been talking to family and friends, and many are just so relieved it's over. This storm, David, has been holding the whole state of Florida hostage for a week.

GREENE: Yeah, it certainly seemed that way. So, I mean, the city of Miami, a lot of people were saying this could be catastrophic. The storm seemed to shift a bit farther west, which seemed like it was a sense of relief, but it still sounds like there was quite an impact here.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah, there was. You know, South Florida escaped the worst, but escaped is a relative term. Emergency service workers have been out overnight assessing the damage to the city. During Irma, we saw flooding in some key areas - Miami Beach, that's the heart of the tourism industry; downtown Miami, that's the heart of the financial district. And authorities aren't allowing people back onto Miami Beach until Tuesday as they see exactly what has gone on.

Three building cranes in South Florida collapsed. It's believed at one, at least, snapped because a mini tornado hit it. There were no injuries or fatalities, thankfully. The big story, though, for most of South Florida, is the power. Nearly 90 percent of Florida power and lights - 1.1 million Miami-Dade customers lost power. And how long it'll take for some of them to get the power back remains to be seen.

And also, just for those wondering and maybe outside of the state thinking of getting back, the airport is indeed closed today. Miami Airport says its facilities did sustain water damage, but it expects to have limited service on Tuesday.

GREENE: And Lulu, the - it sounds like, if anyone in Florida took the hardest hit, it might've been the Keys. The hurricane came in at full strength. What do we know at this point about the situation there?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah, they're still assessing that. The middle Keys are the big concern right now. There is more damage than originally thought. I've seen an interview with the mayor of Islamorada - one of the Keys - and they called the damage pretty devastating with storm surge damage greater than expected. And there are disaster mortuary teams being sent out - so not good news.

GREENE: All right, we'll be waiting to hear more from there. NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro in Miami this morning. Thanks, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: 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.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro is the host of Weekend Edition Sunday and one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. She is infamous in the IT department of NPR for losing laptops to bullets, hurricanes, and bomb blasts.