Foreign Buyers Drive Record $153 Billion of U.S. Residential Sales, Miami Top Market

Foreign Buyers Drive Record $153 Billion of U.S. Residential Sales, Miami Top Market

Dollar Volume Surges 49 Percent Annually, Florida, California, Texas Top Target States 

The National Association of Realtors is reporting that a substantial increase in sales dollar volume from Canadian buyers, foreign investment in U.S. residential real estate skyrocketed to a new record-high, as property transactions grew in each of the top five countries where buyers originated.

This is according to an annual survey of residential purchases from international buyers released this week by the National Association of Realtors, which also revealed that nearly half of all foreign sales were in three states: Florida, California and Texas.

NAR’s 2017 Profile of International Activity in U.S. Residential Real Estate, found that between April 2016 and March 2017, foreign buyers and recent immigrants purchased $153.0 billion of residential property, which is a 49 percent jump from 2016 ($102.6 billion) and surpasses 2015 ($103.9 billion) as the new survey high. Overall, 284,455 U.S. properties were bought by foreign buyers (up 32 percent from 2016), and purchases accounted for 10 percent of the dollar volume of existing-home sales (7 percent in 2016).

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Lawrence Yun

“The political and economic uncertainty both here and abroad did not deter foreigners from exponentially ramping up their purchases of U.S. property over the past year,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. “While the strengthening of the U.S. dollar in relation to other currencies and steadfast home-price growth made buying a home more expensive in many areas, foreigners increasingly acted on their beliefs that the U.S. is a safe and secure place to live, work and invest.”

Although China maintained its top position in sales dollar volume for the fourth straight year, the significant rise in foreign investment in the survey came from a massive hike in activity from Canadian buyers. After dipping in the 2016 survey to $8.9 billion in sales ($11.2 billion in 2015), transactions from Canadians this year totaled $19.0 billion – a new high for Canada.

Yun attributes this notable rise in activity to Canadians opting to buy property in U.S. markets that are expensive but still more affordable than in their native land. While much of the U.S. continues to see fast price growth, home price gains in many cities in Canada have been steeper, especially in Vancouver and Toronto.

“Inventory shortages continue to drive up U.S. home values, but prices in five countries, including Canada, experienced even quicker appreciation,” said Yun. “Some of the acceleration in foreign purchases over the past year appears to come from the combination of more affordable property choices in the U.S. and foreigners deciding to buy now knowing that any further weakening of their local currency against the dollar will make buying more expensive in the future.”

Foreign buyers typically paid $302,290, which was a 9.0 percent increase from the median sales price in the 2016 survey ($277,380) and above the sales price of all existing homes sold during the same period ($235,792). Approximately10 percent of foreign buyers paid over $1 million, and 44 percent of transactions were all-cash purchases (50 percent in 2016).

Foreign sales rise in top five countries; three states account for nearly half of all purchases

Buyers from China exceeded all countries by dollar volume of sales at $31.7 billion, which was up from last year’s survey ($27.3 billion) and topped 2015 ($28.6 billion) as the new survey high. Chinese buyers also purchased the most housing units for the third consecutive year (40,572; up from 29,195 in 2016).

Rounding out the top five, the sales dollar volume from buyers in Canada ($19.0 billion), the United Kingdom ($9.5 billion), Mexico ($9.3 billion) and India ($7.8 billion) all increased from their levels one year ago.

This year’s survey once again revealed that foreign buying activity is mostly confined to three states, as Florida (22 percent), California (12 percent) and Texas (12 percent) maintained their position as the top destinations for foreigners, followed by New Jersey and Arizona (each at 4 percent). Florida was the most popular state for Canadian buyers, Chinese buyers mostly chose California, and Texas was the preferred state for Mexican buyers.

Sales to resident foreigners and non-residents each reach new peak

The upswing in foreign investment came from both recent immigrants and non-resident foreign buyers as each increased substantially to new highs. Sales to foreigners residing in the U.S. reached $78.1 billion (up 32 percent from 2016) and non-resident foreign sales spiked to $74.9 billion (up 72 percent from 2016).

“Although non-resident foreign purchases climbed over the past year, it appears much of the activity occurred during the second half of 2016,” said Yun. “Realtors in some markets are reporting that the effect of tighter regulations on capital outflows in China and weaker currencies in Canada and the U.K. have somewhat cooled non-resident foreign buyer interest in early 2017.”

Looking ahead, Yun believes the gradually expanding U.S. and global economies should keep foreign buyer demand at a robust level. However, it remains to be seen if both the shortage of homes for sale and economic and political headwinds end up curbing sales activity to foreigners.

“Stricter foreign government regulations and the current uncertainty on policy surrounding U.S. immigration and international trade policy could very well lead to a slowdown in foreign investment,” said Yun.



6 dead at Florida nursing home due to intense heat, loss of power after Irma

More than 100 people were evacuated from a Florida nursing home Wednesday after six people were reported dead at the Hollywood facility, whose residents were suffering from intense heat caused by a lack of electricity after deadly Hurricane Irma swept through.

Irma may have moved on from Florida, but lingering dangers caused by the storm, including carbon monoxide poisoning and heat-related incidents caused by a lack of air conditioning, remain in the Sunshine State, as millions wait for power to be restored.

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Officials in Hollywood said at least six people died and 115 people were evacuated from Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, located about 20 miles north of Miami.

“We’re conducting a criminal investigation inside,” Hollywood Police Chief Tom Sanchez said. “We believe at this time they may be related to the loss of power in the storm. We’re conducting a criminal investigation, not ruling anything out at this time.”

Sanchez said investigators believe the deaths were heat-related, adding it was a “sad event.”

Broward County Mayor Barbara Sharief confirmed three people were pronounced dead at the facility. City officials said three additional people later died at the hospital.

The Hollywood Police and Hollywood Fire Rescue received a call around 4 a.m. at the facility, and found “several patients in varying degrees of medical distress,” city officials said.

Sanchez said officers have been assigned to check 42 assisted living facilities and nursing homes in Hollywood to “make sure they are in sufficient care of the elderly.”


The nursing home did have a generator, but it is unclear if the generator was functional, WSVN reported.

Temperatures in Hollywood were expected to be around 86degrees on Wednesday — but feel about 10 degrees warmer.

A caseworker named Ed, who declined to give his last name, came to the facility Wednesday morning to check on his 80-year-old dementia patient. He told Fox News he isn’t sure yet if she’s one of the dead.

“I’m very concerned. I’m like a family member to her,” he said.

Meanwhile, in Central Florida, three people were found dead inside an Orlando home Tuesday from apparent carbon monoxide poisoning, officials said.

Orange County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Jeff Williams told The Associated Press a deputy responded to the the home following a 911 call from what sounded like a juvenile. The deputy was overcome by fumes while approaching the home and called for fire rescue.

Firefighters discovered two people dead inside the house, FOX35 Orlando reported. Another person, who tried to get out of the home, was found dead on the front lawn, while four others from inside the home were taken to a nearby hospital. Rescue workers found a portable gasoline generator running inside the home.

Further north in Daytona Beach, police said one person died and three others were being treated at a hospital Wednesday for carbon monoxide poisoning from an electric generator.

The Daytona Beach Fire Department said on Twitter a generator had been running inside the home.

A neighbor told FOX35 Orlando generators were not allowed in the community, and officials across Florida are warning people to keep generators outside homes.

Carbon monoxide from a generator is also suspected in the death of a man in Miami, while authorities say another dozen people were treated for carbon monoxide-related illnesses on Tuesday in Polk and Brevard counties.


One Miami-area apartment building was evacuated Tuesday after authorities determined a lack of power made it unsafe for elderly tenants, while officers arrived at another retirement community to help people stranded on upper floors who didn’t have access to working elevators.

Elsewhere, a South Florida townhouse that weathered the storm was gutted by fire when power was restored, which caused the stove to ignite items left on the cooktop.

The number of deaths blamed on Irma in Florida climbed to 13 with the carbon monoxide deaths, in addition to four in South Carolina and two in Georgia. At least 37 people were killed in the Caribbean.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do, but everybody’s going to come together,” Florida Gov. Rick Scott said. “We’re going to get this state rebuilt.”

The number of people without electricity in the steamy late-summer heat dropped to 9.5 million — just under half of Florida’s population. Utility officials warned it could take 10 days or more for power to be fully restored. About 110,000 people remained in shelters across the state.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Courtesy, Fox News

Hurricane Irma adds extra challenge to immigrants in Florida

Many of the areas devastated by Hurricane Irma have large immigrant populations. For those living in the United States without permission, seeking refuge at official shelters could have serious consequences.

Man and daughter run under bridge in Miami

Sister Ann Kendrick moved to Florida 46 years ago to offer support to the immigrant farm worker community. She has since co-founded the Hope CommUnity Center in Apopka, Orange County, where she continues to work with the now mostly Latino local community – many of whom arrived in the United States illegally. She spoke to DW about how Hurricane Irma’s arrival in Florida  proved to be extra challenging for these “undocumented” immigrants.

DW: How badly has your area been affected by Hurricane Irma?

Sister Ann Kendrick: Badly. There are a lot of trees in central Florida, and that’s the danger. They go over on houses and they go over on electrical lines, and on mobile homes – especially the older ones that weren’t built with adequate reinforcements. There was a mandatory evacuation of all the mobile homes in Orange County. We dodged a bullet though. It was terrible, but it wasn’t as bad as expected in some ways.

How has the local community that you work with reacted?

In the immigrant community people are just hard workers. The howling of the wind yesterday gave way to another sound, which was the chainsaws. A lot of these people are landscapers, yard guys, the people who go in to fix up your manicured garden – and they have equipment. So they were out helping people. Almost before the last cloud and raindrop and gust of wind were gone, people were working to rebuild, to repair. It’s beautiful, the resiliency!

Read more:Is climate change making hurricanes the new normal?

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Stunned by the destruction wrought by Hurricane Irma

Last week, the Sheriff of neighboring Polk County suggested that people would have to provide identification at hurricane shelters – apparently to prevent “sex offenders and predators” entering. Was this also alarming for undocumented residents who were preparing to evacuate their homes?

It’s not unexpected. This is a pretty racist place. People aren’t dancing around in their cone-hat outfits, but the attitudes haven’t changed that much. All these people do is they cloak whatever restrictive law they want to have with “it’s a security issue” – that gives you cover to exclude and threaten people.

A lot of our staff went around telling people go to the shelter. I was there most of the day, because I’m pretty well known in the immigrant community, to say “you can trust these people”. They just asked your name, you didn’t have to show any ID.

Sister Ann Kendrick Sister Ann Kendrick founded the Office for Farmworker Ministry with three other Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur

Were people worried that they might be asked for identification?

People were worried just because first responders were also visible around these places, there were police cars. This is a crowd that lives with fear every second. They’re afraid just getting in a car, because it means they’re driving without a license. Since 9/11 [when the federal government introduced heightened security measures for state-issued identification cards] they can’t renew their license.

Everything is a threat. They get in the car and the driver looks ahead and the kids sit in the back and look out of the back window to alert them in case they are being followed by police. They’re targeted. The police department says that there’s never any racial profiling, and I wouldn’t say all officers do it, but yeah there’s a few in our town who I’m sure trawl for Mexican-looking people, Latino-looking people.

Read more: Immigrants illegally in US grasp sanctuary city limits

So do you think some people in your area avoided seeking refuge from the hurricane at an official shelter because they were worried about the legal consequences?

I think people’s first preference was if they had family members or friends who had a more stable house, they went there. One of our staff members had 15 people in her house – plus four dogs and five doves in cages! They weren’t sure how it would be in the shelter, if they would be with people they could talk to, if people would be accepting. So they were afraid, but they were together. They shared their immigrant stories and their stories of living in this country. They ate. And they were a community.

But that happened also in the shelter. People bonded with each other, they knew each other’s story. I mean, they had 48 hours in there. Our shelter was full by 5 or 6 pm the night before and the whole next day. And the shelter didn’t have beds or cots – it was just the gym floor. You had to bring everything, either a blow-up mattress or a quilt, or you just slept right on the floor. We got them three meals a day, but there were no bathing facilities. The night the storm hit, the generator kept the lights on but it didn’t keep the air conditioning going, so it got very hot, because it was in a gym with no ventilation.

Aside from seeking safety at shelters, do you think these people will also be less likely to seek other forms of help, such as potential medical aid or disaster relief funding?

I think they will not be inclined to apply for any disaster relief funding. But a lot of the families that I know, they’re all out today working in people’s yards, trying to make some money now.

You’ve been in the area for nearly 50 years. What does the immigrant community look like?

Back in 1971, before Disney World became the premier place in central Florida, before it was in the shadow of Cinderella’s castle, we worked with migrant farm workers – the people who came into the state to pick the oranges. We reached out to the migrant labor force, which back then was about 60 or 70 percent African American, but increasingly became more Latino. These same communities are now mostly doing other work. They’re working in the low-end of the construction industry, a lot of people work in horticulture or the tourist industry – hotels, motels, cleaning people’s houses. There’s just a lot of employment. It’s not necessarily high-end or well-paid, but there are job opportunities.

What sort of proportion of this community is undocumented?

It’s difficult to say, but it’s a lot. Since the election last November, they’re terrified – people who have been here a long time and lived under the radar.

Protesters hold up signs during a rally supporting Deferred Action for Childhood ArrivalsThe repeal of DACA prompted a spate of protests in the US

Last week the Trump administration announced that the DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] program, which granted temporary protection to certain groups of immigrants who arrived in the US as minors, will be rescinded. How will this affect the families that you know?

The removal of DACA has been a terrible blow. Those kids are the only ones in many households who can legally work and who can get a driver’s license. And so they have been able to get better jobs, because they can now work in places that give a bit more scrutiny to people’s identification and the documents that they need in order to legally work in this country. And they can drive – so they’re driving everyone. They’re sort of the adults in the family.

But this crowd is resilient. They’ve been through a lot.  These people still believe in community – and knowing each other and helping each other. It’s the same thing about the issue with papers: the people with documents are suffering together with the people that don’t have them. It’s a beautiful empathy and solidarity.



Hurricane Irma leaves millions without power in Florida as evacuees return home

Floridians are returning from their Irma-induced exodus on Tuesday to find wrecked homes, food shortages and widespread power outages — and now face a long and daunting road to recovery.

Around 15 million people remain without electricity across the state, according to Chris Krebs, Assistant Secretary for Infrastructure Protection at the Department of Homeland Security.

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“I do ask that everyone have patience,” Krebs said at a news conference Tuesday morning. “This is going to take some time to restore.”

Due to the extent of the damage caused by Irma, Krebs said “this will be a situation about rebuilding,” instead of simply repairing damaged power infrastructure.

Communication also remains an issue on some barrier islands, due to cellular disruptions, Krebs said.

Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke said nearly 22,000 federal personnel are in Florida to handle the “long and challenging road ahead.”

“A storm of this magnitude needs team effort,” she said.

Displaced residents and business owners from Key Largo, Tavernier and Islamorada were allowed to return for their first glimpse of the damage to their homes and offices on Tuesday morning.

Those people from the Lower Keys, however, faced a longer wait, with a roadblock in place where the highway to farther-away islands was washed out by the storm.


Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Tuesday the Florida Keys bridges appeared to escape serious damage from Irma, but more time is needed to finish inspections.

Gov. Rick Scott said officials continue to check the 42 Overseas Highway bridges that link the Florida Keys together. He said none appear seriously damaged but that “we’re not sure that on the bridges we should be putting on significant weight.”

Key West City Commissioner Sam Kaufman said late Monday two sections of U.S. 1 washed away from Irma will be repaired by the end of the week. The National Guard is expected to arrive in Key West to distribute water and food, which are at “critically low supplies,” according to Kaufman.

Hungry residents across the state are also looking for whatever restaurants and stores still have power to stock up on supplies, and whose food hasn’t spoiled due to a lack of refrigeration.

Miami Beach residents were allowed to return their homes Tuesday to assess damage done by Irma, sparking heavy traffic by 7 a.m. at police blocks.

Among them were Lyle and Lydia Calhoun. The couple, originally from South Carolina, has a condo in the Biscayne Bay area and were eager to return home.

“We’ve been waiting for an hour,” Lydia told Fox News. “We’re tired, we’re dirty and we want to go home.”

A handful of businesses, including several Walgreens and 7-Elevens, had reopened with more stores expected to join throughout the day.

“Miami Beach will be up and running soon,” resident Scott Looker, who had taken his dog “Diggie Smalls” for a walk near the Port of Miami, told Fox News. “We’ve done it before and we’ll do it again.”

Lack of widespread working air conditioning comes at an inopportune time, as temperatures sit in the mid-80s and feel nearly 10 degrees warmer.

In Key West, Kaufman said the city is also desperately low on fuel, and is working with the military for emergency supplies.

Key West resident Laura Keeney was waiting in a Miami hotel until it was safe to return home, and she was anxious to hear more about her apartment complex. Her building manager told her there was flooding there, but further updates were hard to come by because power and cell phone service have been down on the island.

“They told me there is definitely water in the downstairs apartment, which is me,” Keeney told the Associated Press.

As sweltering tropical heat returned across the peninsula as Irma moved northward, people in the Tampa Bay area fired up generators or headed outdoors to sit outside to pass the time awaiting for their lights to come back on.

“It’s a luxury right? It’s a luxury. Big luxury,” Jennifer Blaskvitch told FOX 13 Tampa. “I know we pay for it but when it goes out, you expect it to be back quick. But, I understand the circumstances. It could have been a lot worse. So, you just have to be patient.”


Florida Power and Light said its working to restore power as quickly as possible, staging hundreds of trucks and crews from across the country at South Florida sites, WSVN reported.

“Even though we are restoring power, people need to be prepared for some prolonged and extended outages,” FPL President and CEO Eric Silagy said. “There are pockets of some real destruction.”’

The power company said Tuesday the East Coast of the state is estimated to have power restored by the end of weekend except in areas hit by tornados, flooding, and severe damage.

On the state’s West Coast, Florida Power said power is estimated to be restored by Sept. 22, except in areas hit by tornadoes, flooding, and severe damage.

The remnants of Irma were blowing through Alabama and Mississippi  on Tuesday after drenching Georgia.

Six deaths in Florida have been blamed on Irma, along with three in Georgia and one in South Carolina. At least 35 people were killed in the Caribbean.

Around the Tampa-St. Petersburg area, where Irma rolled through early Monday, damage appeared modest, and Florida Gov. Rick Scott said effects on the southwest coast, including in Naples and Fort Myers, was not as bad as feared.

Still, Scott predicted that recovery could take a long time in many areas.

“I know for our entire state, especially the Keys, it’s going to be a long road,” he said.

Fox News’ Barnini Chakraborty and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Courtesy, Fox News

Glass panels plummet from 85-story Miami building after Irma hits

Glass panels plunged from a high-rise building in Miami on Sunday, a clear sign of looming dangers after the brunt of Hurricane Irma slammed into South Florida.

At 85 stories tall, the building, called the Panorama Tower, is planned to be the city’s tallest building. Video showed six-foot glass panels falling from the side of the building, expected to be 843 feet tall, and crashing to the ground below.

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The building’s construction was expected to be completed by the end of this year, according to the Miami New Times — but that was before Hurricane Irma struck Florida.

The building’s falling glass panels were far from the only destruction Irma left inside the city.

The City of Miami joked on Twitter that it “Looks like #Irma made it snow in #Miami,” with a photo of white material covering the street. The tweet concludes: “Actually it’s insulation from a high rise under construction.”

Additionally, three cranes reportedly collapsed Sunday: two in downtown Miami, and one in Fort Lauderdale.

Fox News’ Bryan Llenas contributed to this report.

Courtesy, Fox News

Hurricane Irma Makes Second Landfall in Florida



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(MIAMI) — Hurricane Irma gave Florida a coast-to-coast pummeling with winds up to 130 mph Sunday, swamping homes and boats, knocking out power to millions and toppling massive construction cranes over the Miami skyline.

The 400-mile-wide (640-kilometer-wide) storm blew ashore in the mostly cleared-out Florida Keys, then marched up its western coast, its punishing winds extending clear across to Miami and West Palm Beach on the Atlantic side.

Irma was nearing the heavily populated Tampa-St. Petersburg area late Sunday, though in a much-weakened state. While it arrived in Florida a Category 4 hurricane, by nightfall it was down to a Category 2 with winds of 100 mph (160 kph). Meanwhile, more than 160,000 people waited in shelters statewide as Irma headed up the coast.

There were no immediate reports of deaths in Florida. In the Caribbean, at least 24 were people were killed during Irma’s destructive trek.

Bryan Koon, Florida’s emergency management director, said late Sunday that authorities had only scattered information about the storm’s toll, but he remained hopeful.

“I’ve not heard of catastrophic damage. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. It means it hasn’t gotten to us yet,” Koon said.

In the low-lying Keys, where a storm surge of over 10 feet (3 meters) was recorded, appliances and furniture were seen floating away, and Monroe County spokeswoman Cammy Clark said the ocean waters were filled with navigation hazards, including sunken boats. But the full extent of Irma’s wrath there was not clear.

The county administrator, Roman Gastesi, said crews would begin house-to-house searches Monday to check on survivors. And an airborne relief mission, led by C-130 military cargo planes, was gearing up to bring emergency supplies to the Keys.

Storm surge was a big concern. The National Hurricane Center said a federal tide gauge in Naples reported a 7-foot (more than 2-meter) rise in water levels in just 90 minutes late Sunday.

Many streets were flooded in downtown Miami and other cities.

In downtown Miami, two of the two dozen construction cranes looming over the skyline collapsed in the wind. A third crane was reported down in Fort Lauderdale. No injuries were reported.

A Miami woman who went into labor was guided through delivery by phone when authorities couldn’t reach her because of high winds and street flooding. Firefighters later took her to the hospital.

An apparent tornado spun off by Irma destroyed six mobile homes in Palm Bay, midway up the Atlantic coast. Flooding was reported along Interstate 4, which cuts across Florida’s midsection.

Curfews were imposed in Miami, Tampa, Fort Lauderdale and much of the rest of South Florida, and some arrests of violators were reported. Miami Beach barred outsiders from the island.

Fort Lauderdale police arrested nine people they said were caught on TV cameras looting sneakers and other items from a sporting goods store and a pawn shop during the hurricane.

More than 3.3 million homes and businesses across the state lost power, and utility officials said it will take weeks to restore electricity to everyone.

While Irma raked Florida’s Gulf Coast, forecasters warned that the entire state was in danger because of the sheer size of the storm.

In one of the largest U.S. evacuations, nearly 7 million people in the Southeast were warned to seek shelter elsewhere, including 6.4 million in Florida alone.

About 30,000 people heeded orders to leave the Keys as the storm closed in, but an untold number refused, in part because, to many storm-hardened residents, staying behind in the face of danger is a point of pride.

John Huston, who stayed in his Key Largo home, watched his yard flood even before the arrival of high tide.

“Small boats floating down the street next to furniture and refrigerators. Very noisy,” he said by text message. “Shingles are coming off.”

Irma made landfall just after 9 a.m. at Cudjoe Key, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) outside Key West. During the afternoon, it rounded Florida’s southwestern corner and hugged the coast closely as it pushed toward Naples, Sanibel, Fort Myers and, beyond that, Sarasota, at 14 mph (23 kph).

Forecasters warned some places could see a storm surge of up to 15 feet (5 meters) of water.

Gretchen Blee, who moved with her husband to Naples from Long Island, New York, after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 heavily damaged their beach home, took cover in a hotel room as Irma raged.

“I said, ‘Let’s go and live the good life in paradise’,” she said. “And here we are.”

Some 400 miles (640 kilometers) north of the Keys, people in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area started bracing for the onslaught. The Tampa Bay area, with a population of about 3 million, has not taken a direct hit from a major hurricane since 1921.

“I’ve been here with other storms, other hurricanes. But this one scares me,” Sally Carlson said as she snapped photos of the waves crashing against boats in St. Petersburg. “Let’s just say a prayer we hope we make it through.”

Along the Gulf Coast, two manatees became stranded after Hurricane Irma sucked the water out of Sarasota Bay, in Florida’s Manatee County. Several people posted photos of the mammals on Facebook amid reports rescuers were able to later drag them to deeper water.

After leaving Florida, a weakened Irma is expected to push into Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and beyond. A tropical storm warning was issued for the first time ever in Atlanta, some 200 miles (320 kilometers) from the sea.

President Donald Trump approved a disaster declaration for Florida, opening the way for federal aid.

“Once this system passes through, it’s going to be a race to save lives and sustain lives,” Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Brock Long said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Florida’s governor activated all 7,000 members of the Florida National Guard, and 10,000 guardsmen from elsewhere were being deployed.

Irma at one time was the most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the open Atlantic, a Category 5 with a peak wind speed of 185 mph (300 kph), and its approach set off alarm in Florida.

For days, forecasters had warned Irma was taking dead aim at the Miami area and the rest of the state’s Atlantic coast. But then Irma made a more pronounced westward shift — the result of what meteorologists said was an atmospheric tug-of-war between weather systems that nudged Irma’s crucial right turn into Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Courtesy, TIME

Florida Is No Stranger to Hurricanes, but This Is Different


Rain fell in Jacksonville Beach, Fla., on Sunday ahead of Hurricane Irma’s arrival.CreditJohnny Milano for The New York Times

ORLANDO, Fla. — Bracing for hurricanes is almost a summer tradition here: the steady, clanking sound of wood banged to windows, the endless lines for bottled water and fuel, the pilgrimages to fortified shelters.

But Irma, which struck Florida’s coastline twice and then tore through the state with a fury, is anything but a run-of-the-mill hurricane. It was wider than the peninsula itself. There was hardly anywhere in the state to escape its blustery wrath.

Certainly not in the tiny islands of the Keys, which found themselves nearly under water on Sunday after Irma zeroed in on Cudjoe Key, Fla., just after 9 a.m.

Not in the shimmering high-rises of Miami, where hurricane winds partially knocked down two construction cranes. Not in and around the tourist havens of Orlando and Tampa, where theme parks were shuttered.

Even the most northern pockets in Tallahassee, the capital, and the small towns along the Florida-Georgia line, were cowering with the rest of the state for a thorough pummeling from tropical-force winds.

To try to escape Irma, Floridians scattered across the state on clogged interstates. They slept on cots inside high schools, on narrow beds in roadside motels, on friends’ couches and wherever they could reach on a tank of gas. The question for everyone was whether to go, and then where to go, to best outlast the winds.

Irma’s ruinous march was, for a while, aimed directly at South Florida, prompting much of the population, with memories of Hurricane Andrew and fresh scenes from Hurricane Harvey, to flee to the north and west. But by Saturday morning, the storm had shifted west. And suddenly, Naples, Fort Myers and Tampa, a collection of Gulf Coast cities particularly vulnerable to storm surge, found themselves in harm’s way. For days, that part of the state had been considered for some a safe haven; all of a sudden it was the bull’s eye.

“I feel like the storm is chasing us,” said Antonella Giannantonio, 51, who wasted no time last week packing her family, including her octogenarian parents, into two cars, then driving from North Miami Beach to Naples, then Tampa.

Projected path






Tropical Storm Irma

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Atlantic Ocean


St. Petersburg

Fort Myers

Gulf of Mexico



Ft. Lauderdale




Key Largo

Florida Keys

Key West

Cudjoe Key

Wearing a Navy cap, Florida’s governor, Rick Scott, stood before a bank of microphones as the storm crept closer, sounding the alarm in brutally direct sound bites: Evacuate. Leave now. Get out. His plain-spoken words and Irma’s promise of devastation forced one of the largest evacuations this country has seen.

On Sunday, as Irma’s winds left millions of Floridians in the dark, Mr. Scott’s message was even more sobering, as if there might be little else to say: “Pray.”

In Key West, a place so vulnerable that the authorities had said to remain was the most foolhardy of moves, Richard Peter Matson stayed anyway, and slept little as Irma neared. Even with a Category 4 storm bearing down on his home, he defended his decision to stay put, despite what he described as a challenging night. “I kept tossing, turning,” said Mr. Matson, an 81-year-old artist. “Things kept smashing and banging,” he said.

When the winds moved on, the Key West holdout stepped outside to briefly inspect his street, now strewn with debris and branches, broken shutters and windows. He saw a downed cable and remembered the voices of friends who had warned him he’d be electrocuted if he stayed behind.


Water receded from Tampa Bay as Hurricane Irma approached on Sunday. CreditBrian Blanco/Getty Images

If there is an opposite of a storm-chaser, it would be Brian Plate, a Key West boat captain who spent the past few days on the run. Mr. Plate, 36, took a cat and a friend and hit the road at about 2:30 a.m. Thursday, headed for St. Petersburg, a seemingly safe 400 miles away. Two hours into the seven-hour ride, he was so tired that he pulled over to take a nap. He awoke the next morning to grim news: Irma, then a Category 5 storm, was now headed for St. Petersburg.

He hit the road again, and about eight hours later, pulled into a friend’s farm in Sale City, Ga., carrying 100 pounds of rice and beans, plenty of tortillas, a generator and a portable stove. He learned there that the storm is headed for Georgia, too — but he is done running.

“My nerves are completely shot,” he said, expressing worry for his friends who stayed “down there.”

After ramming Key West, Irma marched north on Sunday, eventually coming ashore again at Marco Island, Fla., near Naples, around 3:30 p.m. In Miami, which escaped a direct hit, the storm nonetheless intensified enough to make a solid five-story hotel vibrate. Rain fell hard, the wind howled, and the daytime sky grew dark. In many places, water made the pavement go away, flooding areas across South Florida, from Fort Lauderdale to Miami and Miami Beach.


Streets in Miami flooded as Hurricane Irma approached on Sunday. CreditEric Thayer for The New York Times

Behind the Element hotel by the Miami International Airport, a lake overflowed, sending water into the parking lot and up to the sandbags protecting the lobby.

The guests were a mix of residents of surrounding neighborhoods, stranded airline passengers and crew, and cruise-ship travelers who were brought back to port early and left to ride out the storm. Among the crowd was Ana Matia, who lives in the Brickell neighborhood of Miami. She felt safe in her building, she said, but worried about being cut off with her daughter, Alejandra, 5, for days on end. So they decamped to the hotel. Ms. Matia had friends who fled west, only to hear about the storm’s trajectory and flee back east again.

Four days before Irma hit, the Stovall family left their Coconut Grove cottage for St. Petersburg to escape the worst of the storm. John and Colleen Stovall; their son, Chaille; and their two cats made the 270-mile journey.

Mrs. Stovall, 57, the producing artistic director of Shakespeare Miami, who also lived through Hurricane Andrew, rescued her grandmother’s silver, some jewelry and her own beloved 2nd edition of The Norton Shakespeare.

“We are feeling a little snakebit,” Mrs. Stovall, said while a crew worked furiously to cover the 80 windows of her brother-in-law’s three-story house in a historic St. Petersburg neighborhood, six blocks from the bay. “We are eating breakfast, and my brother-in-law says: ‘I have good news and bad news. The good news is, your house won’t be destroyed. The bad news is, it’s coming for us.’ ”

Before Irma, Randy Rogers and Chuck Anderson, retirees, neighbors and fishing buddies, were accustomed to taking their identical 22-foot Hurricane deck boats out on the Caloosahatchee River in Fort Myers in pursuit of sea trout, redfish and snook.

As Irma’s driving rain swept across the windows of the hotel where they took refuge on Sunday, the two men wondered what would be left of that life after the storm. Even if the water somehow spared their homes and boats, Mr. Rogers said, the wind probably would not.

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