Irma Begins To Batter Florida
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
And I'm Lulu Garcia-Navarro in Miami, Fla., a state that is now feeling the force of Hurricane Irma.
LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:
Lulu, you are in a safe, dry place. And we're thankful for that. Tell us where you are and what you're hearing.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I am broadcasting from the middle of the Miami Herald WLRN Newsroom. What you can hear around are the sounds of this newsroom in action as they report on this storm. And joining me this morning is my colleague from WLRN Terence Shepherd.
Good afternoon now.
TERENCE SHEPHERD, BYLINE: Hello, Lulu.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Terence, this storm has Tampa, the St. Petersburg area in its sights on Florida's west coast. But we are feeling it here in the east. There's some astonishing pictures of flooding from downtown Miami, a place that is the financial heart of Miami and Latin America.
SHEPHERD: That's right. Brickell Avenue is the capital of Latin America finance. All your major international banks are based there. It's a beautiful section of town. Lots of great restaurants. But right now, no one's eating anything except water.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. Some of the pictures look like they were several feet deep right on the main avenue there.
SHEPHERD: Sure. And the flooding happens under normal circumstances, whereas the heavy rain - there's a lot of flooding. This is one of the areas that the county mayor evacuated. So wise move on his part in hindsight because if you're stuck in this water, you will be stuck in your condo for a while.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: We'd also like an update, I guess, on the situation with the power in South Florida, which has been dramatically impacted by Irma.
SHEPHERD: Right now there's about a million people without power - a million customers. That's meters. So the number of people - just multiply by a couple of factors, and tons of people have no power. The story of the power situation here starts in 2005. We were struck by Hurricane Wilma. During Wilma, 4 million customers lost power. And power was out for one to two weeks. So in the past 10 years, Florida Power & Light has spent about $2 billion - that's billion with a B - to upgrade its systems to withstand hurricanes. But before Irma struck, FPL said, hey, expect to lose power. And it possibly could be out for weeks. Expect that we may need to rebuild the grid completely.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: And I think we have seen that they will, indeed, need to completely rebuild at least part of their system in the wake of this storm. That is the latest. Just briefly, as we're looking at the impacts of the storms, what else do we know in terms of the Florida Keys that really bore the brunt of this?
SHEPHERD: Storm surge in Key West, capital of Monroe County, storm surge in the central city. Our correspondent did not have flooding at her location. And she was waiting another hour before she ventured out to check on her own home.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: And so we don't know exactly the extent of the damage yet?
SHEPHERD: Not yet, but it'll become apparent in the next few hours.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. The storm is heading, of course, west to that coast there. And they did not know that this was headed their way. There's been a lot of last-minute preparations there.
SHEPHERD: Right. We prepare here on the southeastern coast because we're accustomed to hurricanes. Over there - Tampa, St. Pete - they're completely caught off-guard.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. That's Terence Shepherd from WLRN. Thank you so much.
SHEPHERD: Thank you, Lulu.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: We'll be checking in with you and your colleagues throughout the morning and afternoon.
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