As Hurricane Irma hit the Florida Keys this morning as a steady Category 4 storm, one of the strongest Hurricanes recorded in the Atlantic basin, four have been killed by the storm, raising the storm’s death toll to a total of 26 since its first strike in the Caribbean. Shelters, nearly at capacity, struggle to provide for and withstand the pressures of Florida’s large sick and elderly population.

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US President Donald Trump spoke today (Sunday) with the governors of Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee as Hurricane Irma finally hit Florida, continuing on its northwestern path upward. Four people have been killed on US soil by the storm in addition to the 22 people who lost their lives when the storm passed through the Caribbean. Emergency authorities are struggling under the strain of thousands of elderly and sick people who have filled the shelters in Florida.

As previously reported by JOL, Hurricane Irma, one of the most powerful storms measured in the Atlantic Ocean, is currently a Category 4 storm that’s not expected to weaken any time soon. As of this morning the storm made landfall in the Florida Keys and continues to crawl up the state.

In Florida, more than a million people have lost power as 130 mph winds struck the coast, likely to cause severe flooding along the shoreline. Hurricane Irma has led to one of the largest evacuations in US history and is expected to cause damages of at least $1 billion to one of the most populated states in the US.

Irma makes US landfall

Irma makes US landfall Photo Credit: Reuters/Channel 2 News

Yet, there are thousands who could not afford to evacuate and instead have filled emergency shelters set up by responding authorities. Given Florida’s status as a preferred retirement destination for Americans, thousands of sick and elderly Floridians have flocked to the shelters, posing a real challenge for emergency managers and authorities. Their ability to provide assistance to those in need is expected to have a direct impact on the number of casualties and deaths resulting from the storm.

Shelters at capacity struggle to meet needs

Shelters at capacity struggle to meet needs Photo Credit: Reuters/Channel 2 News

Demand for shelters in Florida far outweighs supply. A couple, aged 86 and 78-years old, said they had been rejected from three different shelters set up in schools and had to wait hours to be received in the Germain Arena Stadium shelter. For now, the shelter, which already has taken in 5,000 people is almost at capacity and expected to be closed to other evacuees by Sunday evening.

Outside, Florida residents are in real danger as 5-meter waves are expected to crash on the beach. The National Hurricane Center warned that severe storm surges pose an immediate danger to life on the west coast of Florida and in the Keys.