It's not unreasonable to say that most of the U.S. has been holding its breath as one of the strongest storms ever recorded makes its way towards Florida, and now the state is beginning to feel the full force of its wrath. Hurricane Irma has made landfall in the Florida Keys, and this photo shows you exactly the sort of devastation that it's still leaving in its path.
Residents of Key West and the other towns in the Florida Keys have had a lot of time to prepare, as Irma is a slow moving storm and it's been wreaking absolute havoc across the Caribbean for several days already. The Florida Keys have long been a likely first point of landfall, and Florida Gov. Rick Scott has been begging residents of the Keys to leave for several days now in no uncertain terms. He made it clear that anyone choosing not to evacuate to the relative safety of the mainland was taking their life into their own hands:
I care about everybody in the Keys. Your families care about you. I'm asking you to get out. You don't have much time to go. There's not going to be anybody that can save you. There might not even be anybody that can save you after the storm. We've already evacuated all the hospitals. So I'm asking every resident of the southern Florida Keys to leave and go to safety and do it right now. Do not wait.
Now that photos are beginning to trickle in, they're showing that Gov. Scott's warning was in no way overblown. So far, three people have lost their lives in the Keys, all in situations like you can see in the photo above. The storm's winds are so strong that they've caused people to lose control of their cars, and in this case, the wind actually wrapped a pickup truck around a tree. Other videos have shown the extent of the storm surge in the Keys, another extremely dangerous element of the storm. It's certainly not safe to be out when the streets are flooding with powerfully churning water, but the picture of the truck wrapped around the tree shows that even the areas of higher ground are still extremely dangerous in the middle of a Category 4 storm.
Even before the true hurricane force storm made landfall, the residents of the Florida Keys were already feeling the effects of it. Thousands of people there and elsewhere in South Florida were already without power as of Saturday night, with authorities unable to begin fixing the situation until Irma has fully passed, which is not expected to happen until early Monday. At that point, up to 9 million Florida residents may find themselves without power. Irma was upgraded to a Category 4 storm early on Sunday morning, meaning that it brings sustained winds of up to 130 miles per hour.
It does seem as though most of Florida has been preparing for the worst, perhaps scared into doing so by the photos that have been coming out of the Caribbean of the destruction that Irma has left in its path. The photos of Florida now are only showing the beginning — you'll have to wait until Irma has fully passed through before anyone can really start reckoning with the aftermath. The damage that hurricanes cause comes from the sustained winds, with structures and trees only falling or coming apart after hours of high level winds that they're simply not prepared to withstand.
So, whether you're watching this from a shelter in Florida or your home somewhere else in the world, hang tight for now. This photo shows a truly awful situation, but it's still only the beginning of the devastation that Irma is almost certain to cause in Florida.