UPDATE: Irma has knocked out power to nearly 7.2 million homes and businesses as it churns through Florida on its way to Georgia. Most of the outages are in Florida, with customers suffering the most in the Naples area. Florida Power & Light CEO Eric Silagy called Irma’s 35-county swath of destruction the most extensive in the company’s history. Nearly 20,000 electrical workers are waiting to move into the affected area as soon as it’s safe. But efforts to restore power in some places could take several weeks. Damage reports from Georgia’s coastal areas aren’t as bad as was feared, with Savannah and nearby Tybee Island escaping serious destruction. Although the massive tropical storm continues to lose strength as it moves over land, torrential rainfall from Irma has sparked regional flooding. Officials in Jacksonville, Fla., warned residents near the St. Johns River to leave ahead of rising water. The local sheriff’s office asked stranded residents to hang white flags in front of their houses to alert rescue crews of their plight.
OUR EARLIER REPORT (8:25 a.m.): Irma continues to batter Florida on Monday morning with high winds and floodwaters, leaving nearly 4.5 million homes and businesses without power. Irma, which made landfall in the Florida Keys as a Category 4 hurricane Sunday morning, weakened to a tropical storm Monday morning with its center located 100 miles north of Tampa and maximum sustained winds at around 70 mph. Wind and rain from the outer bands of the huge storm now reach Georgia, where more than 100,000 have lost power. Tampa residents feared massive destruction from a direct hit from the powerful storm but Mayor Bob Buckhorn said it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. “What we feared the most was the surge,” he told MSNBC Monday morning, but he added a warning: “The surge is yet to be finished.” Florida authorities have not reported any deaths related to the storm. At least 24 people died when Irma passed through the Caribbean. The storm did topple at least three construction cranes in the Miami–Fort Lauderdale area. Over the next few days, forecasters expect Irma to move into Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, and beyond. A tropical storm warning was issued for the first time ever in Atlanta, where schools canceled classes.
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Mickey is executive editor of WORLD Digital.
Leigh lives in Houston with her husband and daughter. She is the news editor for The World and Everything in It and reports on education for WORLD Digital.