FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — After ravaging the Caribbean, Hurricane Irma passed through Florida Sunday, September 11 and Monday, September 12. It then continued through the Southeast. It landed as a Category 4 hurricane with 130 miles per hour winds and storm surges of 10 feet.
The death toll in the United States was 12 by Tuesday afternoon, including seven fatalities in Florida, while more than 5 million people in Florida remain without electricity. Fortunately, Florida Armenians seem to have survived the storm without serious damage or any casualties.
There were 15,856 Armenians living in Florida in 2010, according to the US Census Bureau. They are served by four churches, all affiliated with the Eastern Diocese: St. David Armenian Apostolic Church (Boca Raton), St. Mary Armenian Apostolic Church (Hollywood), St. Hagop Armenian Apostolic Church (Pinellas Park) and St. Haroutiun Armenian Apostolic Church (Orlando). There are also several mission parishes.
Around 10,000 of the Floridian Armenians live in Southern Florida, and 6,000 in the Tampa and St. Petersburg area, according to Floridian Taniel Koushakjian. Koushakjian, editor-in-chief of the Florida Armenians website, lives with his family in Boca Raton, but has taken refuge in the Hyatt Hotel in West Palm Beach.
Fr. Hovnan Demirjian of St. Hagop, in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area, stated that the church and the area it serves was not too badly affected. It lost some shingles, but there was no flooding or great damage. A good portion of his parishioners left, going out of state or to other parts of Florida. The people remaining in state who lived on the coast either went to neighbors or friends, and others stayed at home if they were not in an urgent evacuation zone.
Demirjian said, “No one was affected with more than downed trees in his yard, and there was no severe damage.” Some Armenians also have taken refuge in public shelters in various parts of the state.