Our Florida hurricane correspondent provides this brief update from Fort Myers and Cape Coral:
Irma passed very slightly to the east of Fort Myers, which was actually worse for the city, since it saw nothing but eyewall for several hours instead of getting a respite in the eye. Still there is little major damage – uprooted trees, a few houses damaged by falling trees, localized flooding, signs damaged or knocked down, widespread power outages (though LCEC has done a very effective job at restoring electricity to critical installations). The vicious storm surge everyone feared largely did not materialize; even Sanibel and Captiva suffered little significant damage. No doubt damage and fatalities would have been worse had a large surge occurred. Miami, Naples and the Keys suffered the most of what damage there was, and only the latter was really smashed. No reports of looting locally, and the cleanup is proceeding.
Six deaths are attributed to the storm. Three emergency responders were killed in car accidents, a fourth death was a civilian in a car accident, and a carbon monoxide poisoning from a Miami man who ran a generator in an enclosed space. Only one person was killed by the storm itself, a man on Shark Key (Monroe County) who failed or refused to evacuate or go to a storm shelter and was apparently drowned in his house.
There is not a single other reported death — not at the landfall site in Collier (Marco Island; Naples), not in Lee County, nor anywhere else in the state. As Irma was still a huge Cat 2 storm when it raked most of the peninsula, I attribute the good outcome to Florida’s preparation and its building codes – Florida is a much harder target than pretty much anywhere else in the country. The authorities responded magnificently, organized, efficient, and firm. And the vast majority of people acted rationally and cautiously. I think having Harvey hit two weeks earlier probably prompted even the most blasé Gators to prepare and/or evacuate and/or shelter.
One notable casualty: the 100 year old Banyan tree at the Edison estate. A shame.