Hurricane Irma Still a Monster of Wind, Rain as It Pushes North

UPDATE: Irma has been downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm, with winds of 70 mph, the National Hurricane Center said Monday morning. The storm is expected to further weaken as it continues to move inland.

FLORIDA — Hurricane Irma dropped to a Category 1 storm early Monday after it tore through southwest Florida and left more than 4 million customers without power.

Irma was downgraded as it moved over the western Florida peninsula, the National Hurricane Center said. By 5 a.m. ET, it had sustained winds of 75 mph with its center 60 miles north of Tampa.

Despite its weakening as it passes over land, Irma remains a monster pushing strong winds and flooding in the Southeast, forecasters warned.

The hurricane hit southwest Florida on Sunday, downing power lines, uprooting trees and turning streets into rivers. It battered Florida’s lower half, leaving a trail of tornadoes and storm-surge flooding as its core slowly moved inland.

The massive storm triggered evacuation orders for 5.6 million people before it made two landfalls in the state Sunday.

The first one was over the Florida Keys, which Irma hit as a Category 4 hurricane. The second one, in Marco Island, was a Category 3 that left the island without water and power, authorities said.

The latest developments:

— One person was found dead in Orange County in a single-car accident linked to the storm, police said without providing details.

— Strong winds and flash flooding are still a threat as Irma spins into north Florida and toward Georgia over the next 24 hours.

— Irma’s center will move near the northwestern coast of the Florida peninsula Monday morning and into southern Georgia in the afternoon, and through southwestern Georgia and eastern Alabama tonight and Tuesday, the center said.

— Affected states include Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina and North Carolina.

— Georgia was already feeling the effects of the storm, with more than 17,000 customers without power in Savannah.

— Strong winds blowing from the northeast pushed water out of shallow parts of bays and harbors in cities like Tampa and Port Charlotte.

“As soon as the wind shifts direction, the water will come back quickly and continue to move inland,” CNN meteorologist Judson Jones said.

 A storm surge warning is discontinued for the Florida Keys and some parts of the Florida coast.

— Two tornadoes touched down in Brevard County, destroying mobile homes in their path, officials said. No injuries have been reported.

— Nearly 4 million customers are without power across Florida, according to utility companies. FEMA chief Brock Long said some places won’t have electricity for weeks.

— In Venice, the water plant was shut down after it was damaged by the storm.

— Miami streets turned into raging rivers as floodwaters surged, and the city’s airport is closed because of significant water damage.

— There are boil water orders in effect for parts of Broward County, and Miami-Dade County schools are closed until further notice.

— In Miami-Dade County, police said they arrested 28 people for burglary and looting.

— Disney World was forced to close, for only the sixth time in its 45-year history.

 At least 26 deaths have been blamed on Irma in the Caribbean islands, where it hit before barreling toward Florida.

Millions face ripping winds

Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Irma’s wrath is unprecedented, warning that storm surges could be deadly. “You can’t survive these storm surges,” he said.

In Florida and southern Georgia, more than 8 million people face hurricane-force winds topping 74 mph, said Ryan Maue of WeatherBell Analytics.

Track Hurricane Irma’s path

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster issued a mandatory evacuation for some barrier islands.

The National Weather Service in Atlanta issued a tropical storm watch for the area Monday and Tuesday. Schools in the state planned to close Monday.

In Alabama, some city school districts including Birmingham, Huntsville and Auburn planned to close Monday and in some cases Tuesday.

Before it weakened and headed to the United States, Irma hit Cuba’s Ciego de Avila province late Friday as a Category 5 hurricane.

This is the first year on record that the continental United States has had two Category 4 hurricane landfalls in the same year.

Last month, Hurricane Harvey devastated much of coastal Texas and killed more than 70 people.

10 comments

  • Givemeabreak

    This over hyping of storms has been going on since Katrina. Not every storm is a Katrina but the news channels and the politicians treat every storm as such. Look how much gas is up and how many goods were sold to people who didn’t need to spend money. How much did the news channels make from their advertisers this weekend while their ratings were through the roof? Now the politicians will get their photo opp like they did something great other than lifting a pen to sign a disaster declaration. The first responders and the American taxpayer are the ones doing all the work while the politicians take the credit.
    They all have agendas and none of the agendas have anything to do what is best for us. Fear is the greatest motivater. We are all way too easily manipulated and they know it. One nation controlled by the media.

  • science over faith

    Media sensation? Agreed to some degree. But consider the opposite. Moreover consider how amazing the science and technology is that they were able to predict the track of this storm so well more than a week out. So what if there was no warning, no “media show” and this monster storm just quickly appeared from the calm (as hurricanes do). There would be an incalculable loss of life. The real problem is the massive overbuilding in areas that are at sea level — this will only get worse as the oceans continue to rise so quickly and get warmer.

    • Wisen up!

      Are you kidding me? The forecasters had no clue of Irma’s path until the day before it hit. Heck, on Saturday then still didn’t even know if was going to take the Atlantic ocean path or the Gulf of Mexico path.

      • Look in the Mirror

        Sorry but wrong. The inclusion of the Florida peninsula was made nearly a week out. The exact landfall point is absolutely irrelevant in a storm of this magnitude.

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