Sep 14, 2017, 4:23 AM ET

Irma death toll rises to 31 across 3 states


The death toll from Hurricane Irma in the United States continued to climb Thursday, with at least 31 dead across three states.

In Florida, 24 people have died in connection with the storm, including a weather-related car accident in the Florida Keys and the eight people who died after Irma knocked out air conditioning at a nursing home in Hollywood.

The latest death blamed on Irma was announced on Wednesday night by the Polk County Sheriff's Office, which said a 7-year-old died from carbon monoxide poisoning after a generator was used inside her home.

Officials in Monroe County, Florida, which includes the Keys, said today that seven others died in the county during Irma but it was unclear how many of the deaths were storm-related.

Four people died in South Carolina and three in Georgia, officials said.

The county said search-and-rescue teams are going door to door today in the hardest hit areas of the Keys and that military personnel are helping with the search.

SLIDESHOW: Photos: Irma leaves path of destruction

Patrica Morrow, a resident of Islamorada, a village made up of multiple islands that are a part of the Keys, works as a housekeeper and stayed on the Keys during the storm, taking refuge at her employer's Islamorada home.

"We knew that it was going to harder to come back home to see what we had left, so we felt safe here, to be honest," she said.

She described the storm as "surreal."

"The water [was] just taking everything out, there was sand everywhere, there were people's belongings just flowing down the canal ... I still can't believe the water that rushed through this island," she told ABC News. "The wind was just scary ... stuff that you just wouldn't imagine blowing away, was blowing away."

PHOTO: Waterfront homes stand exposed after being damaged by Hurricane Irma, Sept. 12, 2017 in Marathon, Fla.Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Waterfront homes stand exposed after being damaged by Hurricane Irma, Sept. 12, 2017 in Marathon, Fla.

"You can definitely feel when the eye of the Hurricane got over Marathon [a city on the Keys] because the winds got violent and the windows started shaking for a good 10 minutes. But the after that the wind didn't die down for the rest of the day," she said. "It was really scary. To think people stayed in homes that maybe weren't as sturdy as this one, it's scary. It's heart-wrenching."

"We lost some things, but we're alive," she said. "Our house, the structure is unstable now, but we're fortunate enough we have most of our belongings and memories. You can replace little things, but you can't replace life. It's going to take a while to get things back to normal."

As many as 25 percent of homes in the Keys were destroyed, Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long said Tuesday evening, and as many as 65 percent of homes suffered major damage.

PHOTO: Reynaldo Martinez surveys the debris deposited in his backyard after Hurricane Irma struck the Florida Keys in Marathon, Fla., Sept. 12, 2017.Erik S. Lesser/EPA
Reynaldo Martinez surveys the debris deposited in his backyard after Hurricane Irma struck the Florida Keys in Marathon, Fla., Sept. 12, 2017.

According to FEMA, 90 percent of homes in the Florida Keys suffered some damage.

Officials from Monroe County were quick to counter FEMA estimates on Tuesday night, saying no official estimates of damage percentages or costs have been made.

"Things look real damaged from the air, but when you clear the trees and all the debris, it's not much damage to the houses," Monroe County Commissioner Heather Carruthers said in a statement released by the county Tuesday night.

In a statement today the county said "Monroe County Inspectors have begun Damage Assessment inspections of the outside of private structures, beginning in Key Largo."

Keys residents are now returning to their homes, with the Florida Department of Transportation saying all 42 bridges along U.S. 1 -- the only road into and out of the Keys -- have been inspected and cleared.

The storm wiped out power to the Keys, but crews are quickly working to restore services.

Keys Energy Services, which covers the South end of Seven Mile Bridge to Key West, has restored power to about 7 percent of its customers, the county said today, and Florida Keys Electric Coop, which services the rest of the Keys, has about 30 percent of its service area restored.

PHOTO: Mike Gilbert hugs his daughter Brooke while looking at a destroyed three-story condominium building after Hurricane Irma struck the Florida Keys in Islamorada, Fla., Sept. 12, 2017. The Gilbert family owns a unit in the building.Erik S. Lesser/EPA
Mike Gilbert hugs his daughter Brooke while looking at a destroyed three-story condominium building after Hurricane Irma struck the Florida Keys in Islamorada, Fla., Sept. 12, 2017. The Gilbert family owns a unit in the building.

Sean Sims, a resident of Islamorada, told ABC News he evacuated for the storm and has since returned to his home, which has little damage. But for now, he said he is living in an RV because he doesn't have power or air conditioning.

But Sims, a 15-year resident, isn't worried about how other Keys residents will fare in the recovery process.

"We're not going to wait for anyone to come down here and do it for us -- Keys people are pretty resourceful. They're going to start cleaning up themselves and piecing together," he said. "They've been through [hurricanes] before. And this is one of the worst ones down here, but it will come back stronger than ever, just like it did for Homestead [the South Miami neighborhood devastated by Hurricane Andrew in 1992]."

ABC News' Rachel Scott contributed to this report.

News - Irma death toll rises to 31 across 3 states

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  • Atlanta Girl

    I learned a valuable lesson when our house burned down as a kid - as long as you & loved ones safe, it is all just "stuff". I have one pic from my childhood - it doesn't matter. With loved ones, you will always have the memories.

  • Nick

    I am not trying to be difficult nor critical, but people were told for days to stock up on survival needs, why then is everyone acting like they need relief from the aid trucks. One guy in a video in the British VI had his six pack of beer but needed water and food, what was he thinking before the storm that beer is a survival food group? What did others do put their week of supplies on the kitchen table and now that is gone with the roof. The problem is people do not realize they need two weeks of supplies and to burry it in the ground such that it can be accessed from the surface of everything and s gone on the surface.

  • SearingTruth

    "We were taught that horror is commonplace."

  • SearingTruth

    "The poor and powerless suffer and die without care or consequence.

    As we ponder their worth."

  • Louella Olvido Yoas

    My husband and I enjoy following the many exploits of Hillary and Bill Clinton. Both of these seasoned politicians have milked the system for all its worth and they even have a "Clinton Foundation" to launder their ill gotten million.
    The system works! Just ask Bernie Sanders or Chelsea Clinton about how they reaped million for just being there

  • AceKool2

    Should the Keys ever been a place to build? This will happen again. Insurance will be costly if you can get it. Low areas near the ocean will always have a greater risk of being destroyed.

  • Erik Ludwig

    Was shocked to see the opening photo of destruction in the video was a place i used to own on 92nd st ocean in marathon.
    not even a board left.

  • oblivion328

    So much for the claims from callous conservatives that this was a "nothingburger."

  • Btheladyinred

    Honestly, I don't want to sound insensitive, but the death toll is very low considering all the damage.

  • don

    ""we knew it was going to hard"" You forgot the be. More award winning journalism from ABC.

  • Bryan Legare

    The United States Virgin Islands, which has suffered several fatalities from IRMA is apart of the UNITED STATES. You article, which states "United Sates Death Toll Rises to 23" directly ignores these areas, as the author only counts people from Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.

  • Sugarloaf Strong

    "it's not much damage to the houses" said Heather Carruthers. Seriously? Easy for her to say from her home in Key West that lost a shutter. Maybe she should assess the damage in the middle keys before making such a careless statement. Sad from a Monroe County Commissioner.

  • John Michael Davis

    I had no idea there were so many mobile homes in that area. That is the last place I would put in a mobile home. But, maybe they buy mobile homes because their cheaper to replace than a traditional home. ???

  • TexasVulcan

    The Keys are a fabulous place to be. I have been there and it was just great. Not sure I'd want to live there. Though, now I am not so sure I want to live in Houston...

  • Rubber Banned

    It's curious that the leader of Key West is also saying that the damage is nowhere near as vast as this report indicates, even where Irma made landfall in the keys, which supports the claims in this article by the Monroe County Commissioner. Why the disparity? Is FEMA trying to leverage a regional disaster for money?


    Building a house in the keys should not be allowed period and if you do build one and it gets destroyed by a hurricane the owner should bore the full cost of repairs and replacement not the insurance company and not the tax payers period. My family and inlaws just survived Harvey and really feel for everyone but building in the keys is begging for your home to be hurricane food.

  • Planet Earth

    Seems like Florida as a whole was spared, as the significant damage seems to be isolated down in the Keys. I barely can find any news out of Orlando, which tells me it's probably mostly shrub cleanup which won't show up on the news. But despite many people staying behind all over Florida, there's no footage of air and boat rescues, which suggests the water never got high enough to be life threatening. Around my family in Jax it was thigh high out in the lower street, but receded pretty much completely by the next day.

  • Larry1566

    Sorry for any death from Irma, but I think car crash deaths(that don't happen during storm) and carbon monoxide poisoning should be separated from actual storm deaths. Sounds callous but I can not understand how in this age of information available people still sun generators in the dwelling. But still sad.

  • FriendsDontLetFriendsVoteRepub

    “We are not going to destroy our economy, make America a harder place to create jobs, in order to pursue a policy that will do nothing, nothing to change our climate, to change our weather.” — Marco Rubio 9/2015

  • colloguy

    FEMA appears to have made a statement on damage with no real work done to backup it's estimates, potentially to try and justify their budget.

  • justinthyme3

    Most of the outages in Broward county [Fort Lauderdale, about 70 miles north of the keys] have been fixed.

  • ohyes2011

    I feel bad for those who lost homes and even worse for the poor who probably lost everything.

  • John Wayne

    Typical abc report. NEWS FLASH! 90% of the homes in Clearwater were damaged, 90% of the homes in Tampa were damaged. I could go on, what was the level of damage?

  • bubs

    when i look at the map of cudjoe key and see all the homes built right next to the ocean it makes me SMH. How does all that get approved these days? I hope everyone is ok.

  • John Hurley

    Trump sports $19.9 trillion in US national debt. How can he afford to create tax breaks?? Trump further confuses the point by conniving against higher prices for gasoline. Petroleum Corporations gain the advantages of revenue reports to Investors, charitable donations, new hires of Workers, and tax payments to the Federal Government, if pump prices move into the $3 a gallon range.