SANFORD, Florida — Hurricane Irma has left many parts of Florida in a shambles, underwater, and in the dark. Today residents are just beginning to see how much damage was done.
Ministries like Operation Blessing are on the scene to help storm-weary residents with food, water and other basic supplies, but it's going to be a monumental task.
The massive storm flooded streets and homes, uprooted trees and wrecked power lines. As many as 13 million people — two-thirds of Florida's population — have been left without electricity in the tropical heat. And officials warn it could take 10 days or more for power to be fully restored. About 110,000 remained in shelters across Florida.
From the Caribbean to the Carolinas, Irma has been blamed for at least 47 deaths overall, including seven in Florida, three in South Carolina, and two in Georgia. Many of the deaths in the U.S. have come during the storm's aftermath, with chainsaw accidents and downed power lines.
In Jacksonville, people received their first glimpse of historic storm surge after their city suffered some of Irma's worst flooding.
— City of Jacksonville (@CityofJax) September 11, 2017
Parts of Miami and Naples also experienced serious flooding of neighborhoods and streets.
"It's unbelievable," one stunned resident said.
Damage in the Florida Keys where Irma first made U.S. landfall was extensive. Houses were buried, and bridges closed. Residents tried unsuccessfully to return to their homes.
"We are very anxious and we're just all wanting to get home and see what's going on," Key Largo resident Meagan Levendale said.
In the Keys, drinking water has been cut off, all three of the islands' hospitals were closed, and the supply of gas was extremely limited.
"We are still without water, power, sewer, gas and cell service," said Lower Keys resident Leyla Nedin.
While officials did allow residents of the upper Keys to return early Tuesday morning, they urged others to stay away and not return yet to some parts of Florida, including Marco Island.
Marco Island Fire & Rescue Dept. Chief Mike Murphy explained, "We have no electric, we have no water on the island. We're just trying to put our water pressure up so those two components really create a lot of problems for our residents so we are encouraging people if you don't have to come back right now don't."
And while people in southern Florida were dealing with major destruction, as well as those in Jacksonville who were socked with floodwaters and storm surge, here in central Florida people are dealing with downed trees. And that means no electricity for millions of people.
Electric companies say two-thirds of the state lost power.
"No power, no internet. We're living like savages," one woman said.
Volunteer crews from across the country are now working overtime to restore electricity.
— City of Jacksonville (@CityofJax) September 12, 2017
Many Floridians are grateful for their help and also relieved because despite the flooding and the damages, they know the hurricane could have been much worse.
"It was not as bad as I really thought it was going to be," said Naples resident Mark Michael.
Before Irma moved in, CBN's Operation Blessing International moved out across north central Florida, providing relief for some of the tens of thousands of evacuees who traveled north seeking temporary safety in school shelters.
Many left their homes and possessions behind to the mercy of the hurricane, but took comfort in the help provided by OB.
Meanwhile, schools here can't reopen until everyone leaves the shelters. And some people are already starting to leave those shelters, so Operation Blessing Strike Force teams are now moving to minister in Jacksonville and other parts of Florida.
Monday an OB Strike Force truck delivered food, water and hygiene products to folks in Crystal River, Florida. OB President and CEO Bill Horan was there.
"Stores are closed, the electricity is off, there's no running water anywhere. Folks are desperate, they are wonderful Christian people, and here's our Operation Blessing 53-foot trailer," Horan said.
Bishop Ronnie Reed of Crystal River Church of God is grateful.
"It's important to get food because people are not able to cook, people are not able to provide for their families at this time and so for us to be able to provide these meals for these people it's going to be I think a very vital importance," Reed said.