Subscribe Register Login
Tuesday, November 21, 2017, 2:29 a.m.

ADVERTISEMENT

Top Picks - Arkansas Daily Deal

Irma weakens, but storm's death toll now at least 35

By The Associated Press

This article was originally published September 11, 2017 at 6:35 a.m. Updated September 11, 2017 at 6:36 p.m.

an-american-flag-is-torn-as-hurricane-irma-passes-through-naples-fla-sunday-sept-10-2017-ap-photodavid-goldman

An American flag is torn as Hurricane Irma passes through Naples, Fla., Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Click here for larger versions
Photos by The Associated Press

6 p.m.

The Civil Protection agency in Haiti has confirmed the first death from the country's brush with Hurricane Irma as the storm passed through the Caribbean.

A Civil Protection report issued Monday says the man died in the town of Mirebalais in the central plateau region of the country. Agency spokesman Guillaume Albert Moleon says the man died while attempting to cross a rain-swollen river in the rural area. The man was identified as Manesse Andreval, and his age was not available, but the spokesman says he appeared to be elderly.

The overall death toll from Hurricane Irma in the Caribbean is now at least 35, including 10 in Cuba.

[STORM TRACKER: Follow Irma’s projected path]

5:45 p.m.

A meteorologist says tropical storm-force winds were recorded at Atlanta's airport as the still-strong remnants of Irma lashed Georgia.

Keith Stellman with the National Weather Service says the airport on Monday experienced sustained winds of 45 mph with gusts up to 64 mph.

The National Weather Service issued its first-ever tropical storm warning for Atlanta on Sunday.

Stellman said Atlanta previously experienced tropical storm-force winds in 1995 when Hurricane Opal slammed into the Florida panhandle, surged up through Alabama and hit Atlanta as a tropical storm. But the weather service didn't issue tropical storm warnings for inland counties at that time, which is why Sunday was the first time Atlanta had a tropical storm warning.

5:42 p.m.

Florida officials are urging residents who might still be stuck on the second floors of flooded homes to call for help.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said during a briefing Monday afternoon that people shouldn't be trying to ride out the flooding that has followed Irma.

"This is not a one-day event," Curry said. "This is probably a weeklong event. We're going to have to see on a day-to-day basis."

Curry says he hopes the city will move to recovery mode soon, but for now, they're still in rescue mode.

National Weather Service meteorologist Angie Enyedi says flooding appears to have reached its maximum levels, but it could take several days for waters to recede to their normal levels.

Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams says they're still assessing damage to the beach bridges, and they'll let residents know when it's safe to return. He urged people not to line up at the bridges, because they'd only be blocking emergency vehicles.

5:40 p.m.

Officials in one Florida county say school principals had to take over running shelters when Red Cross staff members didn't show up following Hurricane Irma.

The Miami Herald quotes Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho as saying Monday that the opening of dozens of shelters ahead of Irma in the county was chaotic partly because the Red Cross "didn't show up" to manage operations. Schools served as most of Miami-Dade County's 42 shelters.

Red Cross officials say Miami-Dade had only asked it to operate eight shelters for the 2017 storm season. The not-for-profit says it went beyond that commitment. After Mayor Carlos Gimenez issued evacuation orders for more than 600,000 residents, the Red Cross says it agreed at the last minute to open four more shelters and help the county operate seven others.

5:35 p.m.

Florida emergency management officials estimate nearly 13 million residents — two-thirds of the state's population — remain without power.

The updated number came during a briefing on Monday evening at the state's emergency management center in Tallahassee.

Nearly a third of the outages are in South Florida.

5 p.m.

Authorities are reporting the first death in South Carolina related to Tropical Storm Irma.

Abbeville County Coroner Ronnie Ashley said 57-year-old Charles Saxon was cleaning limbs and debris outside his home in Calhoun Falls around 3 p.m. Monday when a limb fell on him.

Ashely said in a news release that Saxon died at the scene. An autopsy has been ordered.

The National Weather Service says winds in the area were gusting to around 40 mph at the time Saxon was killed. Calhoun Falls is located 60 miles south of Greenville, S.C.

4:30 p.m.

Irma's eye has finally left Florida and exited the state as a weak tropical storm with 50 mph winds.

The National Hurricane Center says the storm's center is over southwestern Georgia, about 10 miles east of Albany. It is forecast to take a northwest turn Tuesday morning, moving into Alabama.

It is zipping north-northwest at 17 mph. It is still a 415-mile wide storm.

Some, but not all, storm warnings in Florida have been discontinued, but storm surge is still expected along western Florida and from around Daytona Beach to South Carolina. South Carolina, Alabama and north central Georgia are expected to get 3 to 6 inches of rain with spots hitting 10 inches. Northern Mississippi and southern Tennessee and parts of North Carolina are forecast to get 2 to 4 inches of rain.

4:05 p.m.

Officials say the 42-bridge roadway that connects the Florida Keys to each other and the mainland must be checked for safety before motorists can be allowed back onto the islands.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Monday that once officials are able to inspect, and to clear debris and sand from the Overseas Highway, it should be usable again.

4 p.m.

Officials are reporting a second death in Georgia related to Tropical Storm Irma.

Georgia Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman Catherine Howden said the death was confirmed Monday in Sandy Springs, north of Atlanta. She had no further details.

The storm is also being blamed for the death of a 62-year-old man in rural southwest Georgia. Worth County sheriff's spokeswoman Kannetha Clem said the man use a ladder to climb onto a shed Monday morning as sustained winds in the county exceeded 40 mph.

Clem says the man's wife called 911 saying he suffered a heart attack, and first responders found his body lodged between two beams on the shed's roof with debris on top of him.

The dead man's name was not immediately released.

3 p.m.

At least one of the Orlando, Fla., theme parks popular with tourists around the world has plans to reopen now that Hurricane Irma has moved out of the state.

Universal Orlando said Monday that all three of its parks will reopen at 9 a.m. Tuesday. Universal was closed down ahead of Irma.

Universal said its facility suffered relatively minor damage to fences, trees and building facades.

Disney World, Sea World and Busch Gardens Tampa Bay said Monday that they assessing damage and would announce their reopening plans later. All three theme parks said they never lost power. Sea World also said all of its animals are safe.

2:45 p.m.

As South Carolina's governor was issuing warnings about Tropical Storm Irma for the state's residents, the storm toppled a massive oak tree on an apartment building he owns.

Gov. Henry McMaster says the tree fell on a building he owns in Columbia around noon Monday.

McMaster says the college students living at the apartments are safe. The governor says "no one suspected it might fall," but the tree destroyed two apartments in the two-story building.

The Columbia Fire Department says the fallen tree has left up to eight people without a home, but no one was injured.

One displaced resident told WIS-TV the tree crashed through her apartment to the one below, taking furniture with it.

2:30 p.m.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott says the Navy has deployed the USS Iwo Jima, USS New York and the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln to help with search and rescue and "a lot of other things" in the state.

Scott says he flew over the Keys and saw a lot of flood damage and boats that had washed ashore.

He says there is "devastation" and he hopes everyone who stayed behind survived Irma. He said almost every mobile home park in the Keys had overturned homes.

Scott also flew over the west coast of Florida on Monday and said the damage was not as bad as he thought it would be.

2:27 p.m.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott says he flew over the Keys and saw a lot of flood damage and boats that had washed ashore.

He says there is "devastation" and he hopes everyone who stayed behind survived Irma. He said almost every mobile home park in the Keys had overturned homes.

Scott also flew over the west coast of Florida on Monday and said the damage was not as bad as he thought it would be.

2:25 p.m.

President Donald Trump's homeland security adviser says Irma is still a dangerous storm despite being downgraded to a tropical depression.

Tom Bossert says while Irma's category of strength may have been reduced, its combined effects might replicate that of a more powerful storm. Irma was once rated at Category 5 storm, the most powerful on record.

Bossert notes that Jacksonville, Fla., is experiencing some of the worst flooding it has seen in 100 years.

He says Tennessee and Kentucky, both targets as Irma moves to the U.S. interior, could experience inland flooding.

Bossert says his message to the millions of Floridians who evacuated before the storm hit is not to rush back home because conditions are still dangerous.

2:20 p.m.

Georgia officials say at least one person has been killed by Tropical Storm Irma.

Georgia Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman Catherine Howden said Monday that one storm-related death has been confirmed in Worth County, about 170 miles south of Atlanta. She had no further details.

The county is located in southwest Georgia, where Irma's center was churning northwestward toward Alabama on Monday afternoon. With tropical storm winds extending more than 400 miles from its center, Irma has caused damage across the state from trees falling on inland homes to flooding in neighborhoods on the Georgia coast.

The storm has also been blamed for one death in Florida. At least 36 people died in the storm's wake across the Caribbean.

2 p.m.

Communities along the Georgia coast are seeing extensive flooding from Tropical Storm Irma.

Irma's storm surge pushed water ashore at the high tide Monday afternoon, and heavy rainfall made the flooding even worse. On Tybee Island east of Savannah, Hollard Zellers saw waist-deep water in the street as he went to fetch a kayak.

About 3,000 people live on Tybee Island, which is Georgia's largest public beach. City manager Shawn Gillen said the waters seemed to be receding quickly, but most of the island appeared to have some level of flooding and water was in many homes.

Storm surge also sent floodwaters into downtown St. Marys just north of the Georgia-Florida line. St. Marys police Lt. Shannon Brock said piers and boat docks were heavily damaged and many boats sunk.

1:55 p.m.

A large sinkhole opened up at the edge of an apartment building in Orange County, Fla., swallowing air-conditioning units and bushes and a concrete slab. The sinkhole destabilized the building so seriously that firefighters evacuated dozens of residents amid the hurricane's winds and pouring rain.

Ronnie Ufie heard a loud bang and her 6-year-old grandson saw sparks shoot up behind the building, then their power flickered out.

Ernest Almonor, who lives next door to Ufie, ran outside but saw no fire and went back inside.

But firefighters arrived and told them they had to leave the building. Ufie, who cares for her two young grandsons, grabbed some coloring books and crayons and headed through the rain for a neighbor's house.

But most residents, around 25 people, ended up scrambling through the storm to hunker for the night in the complex's clubhouse.

1:50 p.m.

Dutch King Willem-Alexander has flown to St. Maarten to see firsthand the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Irma on the tiny Caribbean territory and express gratitude to relief workers struggling to deliver aid and start the process of rebuilding shattered communities.

Images broadcast by Dutch news outlets showed the king, wearing sunglasses and a khaki shirt with the sleeves rolled up, touring the badly damaged Princess Juliana International Airport. The airport, named for his grandmother, has become a vital hub for flights bringing in relief supplies as well as a gathering point for tourists and residents waiting to leave the island in the aftermath of last week's devastating direct hit by Irma.

Later Monday, the king was scheduled to visit the hospital in the capital, Philipsburg, and a school that is being used as a coordination center for distributing aid. Willem-Alexander also was expected to meet police and troops who have been struggling to maintain order on St. Maarten, where widespread looting broke out after Irma had passed.

St. Maarten is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands but has had broad autonomy since 2010.

After spending the night in St. Maarten, the king is flying Tuesday to two nearby Dutch islands, Saba and St. Eustatius, which also were hit by Irma but suffered less damage.

1:30 p.m.

State and federal environmental regulators have issued a blanket waiver for Florida electricity companies to violate clean air and water standards for the next two weeks.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced the decision in a letter issued Monday as Hurricane Irma blew through the state. The agency said the so-called No Action Assurance granted through Sept. 26 will provide Florida utility generators needed flexibility to maintain and restore electricity supplies.

The assurance letter will allow utilities to operate outside restrictions mandated by their permits, including potentially using dirtier fuels, running for longer hours or electively bypassing pollution-control equipment.

The Associated Press reported last week that air pollution levels spiked in the Houston area after a similar enforcement waiver was granted to petrochemical facilities ahead of Hurricane Harvey.

1 p.m.

Tropical Storm Irma has now knocked out power to around 190,000 customers in South Carolina.

Most of the outages Monday afternoon were reported by the Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina and South Carolina Electric and Gas.

Charleston County had about 60,000 power outages, while Beaufort County reported about 39,000 customers without electricity.

The rest of the outages are scattered across South Carolina as the winds from Irma spread across the state.

1 p.m.

Tropical Storm Harvey continues to weaken, now down to 60 mph, and three more coastal warnings have been discontinued.

The storm is 50 miles south-southeast of Albany, Ga., and is moving at 17 mph.

Forecasters expect it to become a tropical depression Tuesday.

12:55 p.m.

The National Weather Service has issued a flash-flood emergency for Charleston as heavy rains begin to move into areas already flooding by ocean surge from Tropical Storm Irma.

Forecasters say the flooding from the ocean about 1 mile inland to Calhoun Street is becoming life-threatening. No injuries have been reported yet.

The ocean level reached nearly 10 feet Monday, 4 feet above normal and the third highest reading in the past 80 years, only behind Hurricane Hugo and a 1940 hurricane.

Authorities say with the rain it could be several hours before the water recedes.

Several tornado warnings have also been issued around Charleston, but no major damage has been reported.

12:50 p.m.

The mayor of a South Carolina beach town under mandatory evacuation orders says seven people have been rescued from rising floodwaters.

Edisto Beach Mayor Jane Darby says a family of four was rescued from their car about noon Monday from a curve near the beach's pier. She says the family had "decided all of a sudden" they needed to leave.

They are among an estimated 70 people still in the town of 530 people, despite Gov. Henry McMaster's evacuation order Friday night.

Darby says emergency officials also rescued three news media employees.

Darby says Edisto Beach is "under water," with power lines and trees down. He says the town has suspended all emergency calls because "it's too dangerous."

12:45 p.m.

As the remnants of Hurricane Irma move out of Florida, work is underway to resupply the state with gasoline. Hurricane Irma caused a huge increase in gasoline demand as residents evacuated, topped of their tanks, and/or filled gas cans to power generators. This led to outages at various gas stations throughout Florida and neighboring states, and it could take a week for supply conditions to return to normal.

Suppliers face an uphill battle in the coming days, trying to keep gas stations supplied, as Florida evacuees return home in large numbers after the storm. Gas stations not located along major highways should have an easier time keeping supplies, as residents are no longer "panic pumping," since the storm is no longer a threat. Refueling gas stations along major evacuation routes will be a top priority, as it was before the storm. Motorists are still likely to find long lines, which could lead to temporary outages, due to the surge in demand.

"Florida evacuees should plan their return home very carefully," said Mark Jenkins, spokesman, AAA - The Auto Club Group. "First, ensure you know there are no major hazards at home or along your travel route. Expect congestion on the roadways, as the first few days after the storm will be the busiest. Pay close attention to traffic reports. Ensure you have a full tank of gas before you hit the road. Do not let your fuel gauge fall below a quarter tank before you start looking for a place to refuel. Bring a gas can in case you run out of fuel. It is not safe to drive with a full gas can inside an enclosed vehicle."

12:15 p.m.

The Navy is sending an aircraft carrier to Key West to provide emergency services.

An update from Monroe County describes "an astounding recovery effort" taking place in the Florida Keys.

The USS Lincoln aircraft carrier will be anchored off Key West to provide emergency services, and three other Navy vessels are en route.

Officials said the National Guard has arrived in the island chain, and state transportation officials have cleared six of 42 bridges as safe for travel. However, roads remain closed because of debris, and fuel is still a concern. There is no water, power or cell service in the Keys.

12:05 p.m.

Schools and businesses were closed across Alabama as Tropical Storm Irma moved inland.

The National Weather Service placed most of the eastern half of the state under a tropical storm warning. The remainder of the state was under a wind advisory.

The Alabama Emergency Management Agency said strong winds and gusts up to 50 mph were expected through early Tuesday.

The center of the storm was expected to cross from Florida into Georgia Monday afternoon.

Hotels across Alabama also filled up with evacuees from Florida.

The Alabama governor's office on Monday estimated that 250,000 evacuees made their way into the state. The Red Cross opened two shelters in the state, one in Montgomery and one in Baldwin County.


1:00 p.m.

Ocean water pushed onshore from Tropical Storm Irma is coming over the Battery in downtown Charleston, South Carolina.

Dozens of streets near the water in Charleston were flooded and water levels at the gauge downtown were 9.4 feet (2.9 meters) at high tide around 12:30 p.m. Monday.

That is nearly at the same level as Hurricane Matthew last October.

Forecasters say the ocean may rise a little more, but they don't expect a surge anywhere near the 12.5 feet (3.8 meters) recorded when Hurricane Hugo came ashore just north of Charleston in 1989.

Street flooding isn't unusual in Charleston, which also sees flooding during Nor'easters and other storms.

The next high tide is early Tuesday morning, when forecasters expect water levels from Irma to be much lower.

11:30 a.m.

Nearly 7.2 million homes and businesses are without power in multiple states as Tropical Storm Irma moves through the Southeast.

The vast majority were in Florida. The state's emergency management officials said the storm cut power to more than 6.5 million account holders across the state as of Monday afternoon.

Eric Silagy, the CEO of Florida Power & Light, said Irma caused the most widespread damage in the company's history. It affected all 35 counties in the utility's territory, which is most of the state's Atlantic coast and the Gulf coast south of Tampa. The most extensive damage was likely in the Naples area, but a full assessment was ongoing. He said 19,500 electric workers have been deployed in the restoration effort.

Still, he said, it will take days for many people to be restored and, in some cases where the damage was extensive, weeks.

Meanwhile, Duke Energy reported Monday morning that more than 860,000 of the homes and businesses it serves in Florida were without power.

Georgia reported more than 570,000 homes and businesses without electricity, and there were 80,000 in South Carolina.

10:55 a.m.

A resident riding out Tropical Storm Irma on Georgia's largest public beach says some homes have been damaged but the destruction isn't as bad as he feared.

Chip Clayton was driving the roads Monday as Irma's winds and rainfall lashed Tybee Island, home to more than 3,000 people east of Savannah. Clayton said at least three homes had parts of their roofs or porches torn away and some roads were flooded. Ocean waters had begun washing away chunks of the protective dunes along the beach.

But Clayton said "for the most part, everything's fine. ... We thought it would be a lot worse."

Chatham County emergency management director Dennis Jones, whose area includes Savannah and Tybee Island, said Monday that Irma's impacts should ease up by Monday evening.

10:40 a.m.

Jacksonville, Fla., authorities are telling residents near the St. Johns river to leave quickly as floodwaters rise.

The Jacksonville sheriff's office warned people in evacuation zones A and B along the St. Johns River to "Get out NOW."

They say river is at historic flood levels and likely to get worse at high tide around 2 p.m.

On its Facebook page, the sheriff's office told those who need help evacuating to "put a white flag in front of your house. A t-shirt, anything white."

Rescue teams were ready to deploy.

10:20 a.m.

Tropical Storm Irma is gradually losing its strength as it sloshes through northern Florida with the National Hurricane Center discontinuing four storm surge and tropical storm warnings.

Irma's maximum sustained winds were down to 65 mph as the storm was about 70 miles east of Tallahassee late Monday morning. It's moving north northwest at 17 mph.

Forecasters expect Irma's center to move into southwestern Georgia later Monday and then into Alabama Tuesday morning and eventually western Tennessee.

Northern Florida and southern Georgia should keep getting soaked, with rain totals eventually accumulating to 8 to 15 inches. Isolated parts of central Georgia, eastern Alabama and southern South Carolina may get up to 10 inches of rain.

9:55 a.m.

Officials say at least one tornado has been reported in coastal Georgia as strong winds and drenching rains from Tropical Storm Irma hammer the state.

Glynn County emergency officials had no immediate reports of tornado damage. They said in news release Monday that residents who didn't evacuate need to shelter in place. They said causeways linking St. Simons Island and Sea Island to the mainland are closed because of flooding, and other roads are flooded as well.

Gov. Nathan Deal has declared a state of emergency for all of Georgia. Irma's center was forecast to cross the Georgia-Florida line Monday afternoon but tropical storm winds were extending more than 400 miles.

The National Weather Service placed most of Georgia under a tropical storm warning.

9:20 a.m.

Tropical storm Irma is drenching the Georgia coast, and forecasters say flooding is a serious threat.

Downtown Savannah was getting soaked Monday morning, with winds just strong enough to rustle treetops and shake small branches onto the roads. Impacts from the storm were expected throughout the day.

The National Weather Service said the threat of storm surge had decreased Monday along Georgia's 100 miles of coast, but flooding rains could still cause swollen rivers, streams and creeks to overflow.

Irma was forecast to cross the Georgia-Florida line Monday afternoon. Though downgraded to a tropical storm, its winds reached up to 415 miles from the center.

Georgia Power said more than 125,000 customers were without powers across Georgia's six coastal counties.

9:00 a.m.

Firefighters on one of South Carolina's largest barrier islands are now staying inside until the worst weather from Tropical Storm Irma passes.

Hilton Head Island said on Twitter that it suspended emergency operations at 9 a.m. Monday until the winds and storm surge subside. They say they will only go on calls if a supervisor allows them because conditions are too dangerous.

The island of 42,000 people is under an evacuation order. Forecasters warn wind gusts around 60 mph and storm surge of up to 6 feet are possible later Monday.

Similar storm surge and winds gusts are possible up to coast to Charleston too.

8:30 a.m.

People are being rescued from flooded homes Monday morning south of Jacksonville, Fla., as Tropical Storm Irma pounds the state with rain and wind.

John Ward, the emergency operations manager of Clay County, says crews have pulled 46 people from flooded homes by early Monday and an undetermined number are still stranded as the area's creeks and ponds are getting record flooding.

Ward says between 400 and 500 homes received severe flood damage but there have been no serious injuries or deaths.

Irma weakened to a tropical storm Monday morning, a day after hitting the state as a powerful Category 4 hurricane.

EARLIER:

TAMPA, Florida — A weakened but still dangerous Irma pushed inland Monday as it hammered Florida with winds that created hazards for rescuers and flooding that set a record in one city.

Irma was downgraded to a tropical storm over Florida, but it still had winds near hurricane force. Its outer bands were also blowing into Georgia, where the storm's center was expected to arrive later in the day. With rough conditions persisting across Florida, many communities in Irma's wake feared what destruction would be revealed as daylight allowed authorities to canvass neighborhoods.

Storm surge flooding in downtown Jacksonville exceeded a record set during a 1964 hurricane by at least 1 foot, according to the National Weather Service. A river gauge downtown in the Atlantic Coast city measured 3 feet above flood stage.

"Move to higher ground now," the weather service warned people near the St. Johns River.

To the south, winds knocked a utility pole and power lines onto a sheriff's cruiser late Sunday in Polk County, illustrating the dangerous conditions for emergency personnel. A deputy and a paramedic, who had just escorted an elderly patient to safety, were trapped for two hours until a crew could free them. Both were unhurt.

And more than 120 homes were being evacuated early Monday in Orange County, just outside the city of Orlando, as floodwaters started to pour in. Firefighters and the National Guard were going door-to-door and using boats to ferry families to safety. A few miles away, 30 others had to be evacuated when a 60-foot sinkhole opened up under an apartment building. No injuries were reported in either case.

In Redington Shores west of Tampa, attorney Carl Roberts spent a sleepless night riding out Irma in his 17th floor beachfront condo. After losing power late Sunday, he made it through the worst of the storm shaken but unhurt.

"The hurricane winds lashed the shutters violently, throughout the night," he wrote in a text message, "making sleep impossible."

As morning broke, he couldn't open the electric shutters to see outside.

"It's so dark in here," he said.

Nearly 4.5 million homes and businesses across Florida lost power, and utility officials said it will take weeks to restore electricity to everyone. More than 100,000 were in the dark in Georgia.

Irma's center was about 105 miles north of Tampa when forecasters announced it had weakened to a tropical storm. However, they warned its maximum sustained winds were 70 mph, with higher gusts.

The monster storm, which arrived in Florida as a Category 4 hurricane, has toppled at least three constructions cranes — two over downtown Miami and one in Fort Lauderdale.

People in the heavily populated Tampa-St. Petersburg area had feared a first direct hit from a major hurricane since 1921, but the storm weakened to a Category 2 as it approached.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said the situation was not as bad as it could have been, but warned residents that dangerous storm surge continued. He also described downed power lines and other debris.

"What we feared the most was the surge," he said Monday on MSNBC. "The surge is yet to be finished."

Meanwhile, rescue efforts ramped up in the evacuated neighborhood near Orlando as Guardsmen in helmets and fatigues rolled through standing water in a high-clearance vehicle. Firefighters rescued a puppy from one of the homes there and leashed the anxious dog to the front of one of their trucks to give it water and snacks.

As the sun rose in Orlando, many tried to survey the damage, but authorities warned that conditions remain dangerous and asked people not to venture outside because of a curfew.

No deaths in Florida were immediately linked to the storm. In the Caribbean, at least 24 were people were killed during Irma's destructive trek across exclusive islands known as the vacation playground for the rich.

In one of the largest U.S. evacuations, nearly 7 million people in the Southeast were warned to seek shelter, including 6.4 million in Florida alone.

More than 200,000 people waited in shelters across Florida.

At Germain Arena, where thousands sought refuge south of Fort Myers, people sat amid puddles on the concrete floor Monday morning. Officials said the arena remained in one piece, but wind-driven water leaked in at the height of the storm.

"Irma went over and we were all like, 'Oh good, we survived.' And then all of a sudden some of the panels came off the roof, I guess, and we started getting water pouring down in different places," said 61-year-old Mary Fitzgerald. "It was was like, 'Oh my God, what is going to happen?'"

Bryan Koon, Florida's emergency management director, said late Sunday that authorities had only scattered information about damage, but feared worse reports could come in Monday.

In the low-lying Keys, appliances and furniture were seen floating away. Authorities were set to begin house-to-house searches Monday to check on survivors.

About 30,000 people heeded orders to leave the Keys as the storm closed in, but an untold number refused.

John Huston, who stayed in his Key Largo home, watched his yard flood.

"Small boats floating down the street next to furniture and refrigerators. Very noisy," he said by text message. "Shingles are coming off."

Next, Irma is expected to push into Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee. A tropical storm warning was issued for the first time ever in Atlanta, and school was canceled in communities around the state.

Irma once was the most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the open Atlantic, a Category 5 with a peak wind speed of 185 mph. For days, forecasters warned Irma was taking dead aim at Florida. Irma made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane Sunday morning at Cudjoe Key, not far from Key West. It then rounded Florida's southwestern corner and hugged the coast closely as it pushed north.

ADVERTISEMENT

Comments on: Irma weakens, but storm's death toll now at least 35

To report abuse or misuse of this area please hit the "Suggest Removal" link in the comment to alert our online managers. Read our Terms of Use policy.

Subscribe Register Login

You must login to make comments.

ADVERTISEMENT

SHOPPING

loading...

ADVERTISEMENT

Top Picks - Arkansas Daily Deal
Arkansas Online