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Florida Power and Light has almost 17,000 people working on their team to bring Florida back to power, according to the company's Chief Communications Officer Rob Gould.

The restoration team is three times the size of their average crew and 25 percent more than the crew they established for Hurricane Matthew in 2016. 

"To help us get the lights back on and rebuild, we've assembled the largest restoration force, propositioned, not just in our company's history but in the United States," Gould said.

Winds from Hurricane Irma are pushing dangerous storm surge into areas along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts in South Florida. As of the 11 a.m. forecast from the National Weather Service, some parts of Southwest Florida could see storm surge in excess of nine feet. 

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Wilson Sayre / WLRN News

As Hurricane Irma continues, WLRN is is working with a team of journalism students, faculty and staff to identify social media dispatches that tell the story of the storm through the eyes of the people experiencing it.

Wilson Sayre / WLRN

Out at a tent village populated mostly by registered sex offenders on the edge of Miami and Hialeah, it appeared most had packed up their stuff Friday evening in the face of Hurricane Irma.

A few tents still stood a few hours before their 10:00 curfew, but most had bundled belongings underneath tarps or rolled in their disassembled tents.

But there’s a problem.

“There’s this dilemma of where can they go,” said Jill Levenson a professor at Barry University who studies the effectiveness of policy as it relates to sex offenders.

Facebook

Hurricane Irma made landfall in the Florida Keys Sunday morning and in response, Facebook has activated its safety check-in feature.

The feature allows people enduring the storm to mark themselves as safe so their friends and family can be updated on their situation. The feature can also be used as a way for people to request help.

Many are already using their check-ins to offer food or water to other Floridians.

Kate Stein / WLRN News

Some Palm Beach County residents who evacuated Hurricane Irma left everything behind, including pets. 

Palm Beach County’s animal control officers have been hustling to rescue abandoned animals.

Some of them were loose, some were in pens, some were tethered, according to Palm Beach County's Animal Care and  Control Director Dianne Sauve. She says officers rescued around 50 dogs and two cats over the past two days. 

Some animals were chained to trees and parked cars.

Officials say, with a potentially deadly hurricane on the way, it’s felony animal cruelty.

Associated Press

Barbuda was the first. A Category 5 Hurricane Irma swept the island with its powerful 185 mile per hour winds. One person died. The prime minister said 95 percent of the buildings were destroyed after the storm passed.

On Wednesday, Irma made history: It became one of the most powerful recorded storm in the Atlantic Ocean. It bulldozed the U.S. Virgin Islands, ripping roofs off houses in St. Barts and flooding St. Martin. By the time the hurricane left St. Martin and St. Barts, 11 people died. 

Wilson Sayre / WLRN News

While many people in shelters across South Florida are glued to televisions, anxiously waiting for Hurricane Irma to pass, there have been some happy moments as these shelters turn into mini communities.

Among stacks of blankets and air mattresses in the cafeteria at the Falcon Cove Middle School shelter in Weston, Hunter Fugh squirts icing from a tube onto a cake.

"It's chocolate flavored and it has chocolate frosting on the top. We’re eating cake because it’s my birthday," said now 6-year-old Hunter.

Wilson Sayre / WLRN News

The following is a collection of dispatches from WLRN reporters staying at shelters in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, which by 6 p.m. on Saturday were hosting almost 45,000 people (15,000 in Broward and more than 29,000 in Miami-Dade), as well as about 1,000 pets. 

Eric Gay / AP via Miami Herald

Two days ago – when Hurricane Irma was forecast to hit Miami directly as a Category 5 storm – Miami-Dade County was staring at a potential storm surge of 10 feet. Now that Irma’s path has shifted west to Florida’s Gulf coast, the surge is expected to be half that.

But Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez is warning that’s still enough to cause not just dangerous flooding but drowning – especially since South Florida may well experience the equivalent of Category 1 or 2 hurricane winds when Irma arrives early Sunday.

Walter Michot / Miami Herald

Downed power lines, standing water, damaged buildings--hurricanes continue to be dangerous well after the last rain band has moved on.    

Virginia Aponte / Courtesy

After killing more than 20 people across the Caribbean this week, Hurricane Irma ravaged Cuba’s northern coast Friday night and Saturday morning – and may hammer Havana before it moves into the Florida Straits headed for the Keys on Sunday.

“The television pictures we’re seeing from the middle coast are very bad,” Havana resident Carlos Caridad told WLRN Saturday afternoon. “Housing and building construction out there is not as good as it is here, and we’re seeing a lot of wrecked houses in places like Camagüey [province].”

David Santiago / Miami Herald

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez and other South Florida government leaders have an emphatic message for residents this afternoon: a hurricane is still visiting you tonight and tomorrow.

Joe Raedle / Getty Images via the Miami Herald

The Miami-Dade County shelter for people with special medical needs is full; pre-registration was required and about 2200 people are already in place.

County officials say if people with medical conditions did not pre-register for the special shelter, but are able to get to another shelter that’s not full, they should not be turned away from other shelters and should come prepared with necessary medication and equipment.

Residents who have a complex medical condition and need medical supervision, should call 311 for guidance, according to County Officials.

Associated Press

Just what type of help will the federal government and FEMA be able to provide for Hurricane Irma relief?

On Tuesday evening, President Donald Trump signed an emergency declaration for the 67 Florida counties. The declaration allows the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to deploy to the field, WLRN reported earlier this week.

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