Hurricane Irma live updates: Images of devastation emerge from Florida Keys as storm batters Georgia and South Carolina
Once a powerful hurricane, Irma is now officially a tropical depression.
In what it said was its last advisory on the storm, the National Hurricane Center announced the downgrade at 11 p.m. East Coast time. The storm was centered five miles south of Columbus, Ga., with maximum sustained winds of 35 mph, and moving northwest at 15 mph.
“All storm surge warnings and tropical storm warnings have been discontinued,” the advisory said.
Even so, the storm was continuing to assert its presence, with 2 to 5 inches of rain -- and as much as 8 inches in isolated pockets -- expected through Wednesday across South Carolina and northern portions of Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi into Tennessee and North Carolina.
Tropical Storm Irma has claimed a third life in Georgia.
The Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office says on its website that a woman died from injuries she suffered when a tree fell on a vehicle in a private driveway.
The Sheriff’s Office says deputies and firefighters tried to rescue the woman, but she died from her injuries.
The office said it was withholding the woman’s name until her family and friends had been notified.
The storm is also being blamed for the death of a man in his 50s who was killed when a tree fell on his house just north of Atlanta and for the death of a 62-year-old man in rural southwest Georgia who had a heart attack after he climbed onto a shed during heavy winds on Monday.
When students and faculty at Florida State University learned that they could leave their cars parked in the campus garage over the weekend, many breathed a sigh of relief.
After all, their cars could have been severely damaged by Hurricane Irma’s powerful winds and dangerous storm surge.
But that relief was short-lived for some. When they tried to park Friday, they found many of the spots in the covered campus garage were filled with sparkling new cars from Napleton Infiniti, a dealership in Tallahassee.
Angry students took to social media to complain.
Some also went to the dealership’s Yelp page, flooding it with negative comments.
“Shame on you Napleton Infinity of Tallahassee for taking up many FSU parking garage spots and preventing FSU students and its surrounding community from parking in one of the few options they have,” one Yelp reviewer wrote.
There were calls to boycott the dealership, including from people out of state who took up the students’ cause.
“Out of respect for the families who have lost everything during hurricane Irma, do NOT do business with this establishment,” a Yelp reviewer from Chicago wrote.
On Sunday evening, the university posted on Twitter that it had “addressed the matter” and that “the vehicles have been removed.”
Napleton Infinity of Tallahassee did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Hurricane Irma battered the Florida Keys over the weekend, but the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum in Key West, its staffers and its 54 six-toed cats were unharmed by the storm, the Orlando Sentinel reports.
Jacque Sands, general manager of the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, told the newspaper that the house was not severely damaged, and that the museum’s 10 employees and the dozens of polydactyl felines that populate the property were safe.
The museum’s staff made headlines after announcing that it wouldn’t heed orders to evacuate the Keys, thought to be particularly vulnerable to Irma’s wind and rain.
Mariel Hemingway, the actress and Ernest Hemingway’s granddaughter, had urged Sands to leave the house and seek safer shelter, the Telegraph reported.
“I think that you’re a wonderful and admirable person for trying to stay there and save the cats, and save the house, and all that stuff,” Hemingway told Sands. “But ultimately, it’s just a house. Save the cats. Get all the cats in the car and take off.”
Authorities are reporting the first death in South Carolina related to Tropical Storm Irma.
Abbeville County Coroner Ronnie Ashley said Charles Saxon, 57, was cleaning debris outside his home in Calhoun Falls about 3 p.m. Monday when a tree 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 about 40 mph at the time Saxon was killed. Calhoun Falls is 60 miles south of Greenville, S.C.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott says there is “devastation” in the Florida Keys, but the damage from Hurricane Irma was not as extensive on the state’s west coast as he had feared.
Scott told reporters that he flew over both areas on Monday and saw many overturned mobile homes and boats washed ashore in the Keys.
“My heart goes out to the people in the Keys,” he said at U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Miami. “It’s devastation, and I just hope everybody survived.”
As for the west coast of Florida, Scott said, “We clearly saw homes that were messed up, clearly saw roofs that were off.… But I thought we would see more damage.”
Going forward, he said the biggest threat would be from river flooding. Parts of the state are receiving torrential rains, which combined with the storm surge has caused historic flooding along the St. John’s River.
Jacksonville may have been spared the most ferocious winds of Tropical Storm Irma, but the torrential rains and storm surge have swelled the St. Johns River to historically high levels and inundated low-lying areas of the city.
Tom Bossert, the White House homeland security advisor, called it some of the worst flooding to hit the city in 100 years.
“Get out NOW,” the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office warned people in evacuation zones. It advised those who needed help escaping flooded homes to visibly display something white – a shirt or a pillowcase.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott mentioned the gravity of the situation at his daily news briefing Monday.
“In Jacksonville,” he said, the “storm surge is 3 to 5 feet on top of more than a foot of rainfall, which is causing record and historical flooding along the St. Johns River.”
Scott said he spoke with Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and assured him that resources were being deployed.
The state has sent teams from the State Emergency Operation Center and the Fish and Wildlife Commission to aid with search and rescue operations.
Curry said at least 100 people in the San Marco area had been rescued by midday.
Adding to the problems is that Hurricane Jose, which is churning in the Atlantic, is pushing water toward the northern part of the state and preventing water from receding from Jacksonville.
“They’re not going to recede today,” Curry said. “This is not a one-day event. This is probably a weeklong event.”
The National Weather Service called the flooding “a particularly dangerous situation.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) tweeted words of encouragement to the city’s emergency responders. “Keep going, help is on the way,” he wrote.
The St. Johns River meanders through Florida for 310 miles, starting near Indian River County in the middle of the state and flowing north to Jacksonville, where it connects with the Atlantic.
French President Emmanuel Macron will visit the Caribbean on Tuesday in an effort to persuade locals on the Hurricane Irma-devastated islands of St. Martin and St. Barts that Paris has not abandoned them.
Macron, whose popularity has plummeted at home, is taking flak from political opponents and islanders on the French territories for what they consider to have been inadequate hurricane preparations and a slow response to the mass destruction of homes and infrastructure.
He was traveling to St. Martin, a Franco-Dutch island, on an overnight flight aboard an Airbus carrying aid and emergency supplies. During his whistle-stop visit, he is also expected to travel to St. Barts, a French territory 20 miles to the southeast.
Fourteen people were killed on St. Martin -- 10 on the French side of the island, four on the Dutch side -- after Irma struck on Wednesday. Damage to the island is estimated at more than $1.65 billion by the French state-run reinsurance body, the CCR, which specializes in natural disasters.
The death toll in Florida from Hurricane Irma grew by one Monday afternoon when a 51-year-old man in Winter Park, a suburb of Orlando, was found dead in the street after being electrocuted.
Officials in Georgia also confirmed two storm-related deaths, bringing the U.S. toll to at least eight, to go along with the 37 reported fatalities in the Caribbean.
Such tolls are difficult to determine because it is sometimes impossible to tell whether a death was the direct result of a storm.
At least four people died as a result of traffic accidents on Florida roads soaked by Irma.
A sheriff’s deputy and a corrections officer were killed in a two-car crash in Hardee County, southeast of Tampa, on Sunday morning.
A woman was killed in Orange County when the car she was driving struck a guard rail on Sunday.
And a man in Monroe County, near the Florida Keys, lost control of his truck, possibly because of high winds, and died.
In Miami-Dade County, a man died of carbon monoxide poisoning from his generator. This can happen if generators are used inside without proper ventilation.
Another storm-related fatality may have occurred in Shark Key, where a man was found dead in his home. But it’s not clear whether the death was related to first responders not being able to assist the man.
The Georgia Emergency Management Agency confirmed the storm-related deaths in Sandy Springs, a city north of Atlanta, and in Worth County, about 170 miles to the south. It provided no further details.
This post was updated with authorities confirming a second storm-related death in Georgia.
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. The 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 there was water 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 sank.
There is no gas at the RaceTrac gas station along Route 1 here, and the mini-market is shut down. The site is like a lot of other anonymous roadway establishments, featuring some palm trees, shrubbery and patches of grass across the road from a flooded thicket.
But the unremarkable petrol stop has become a terminus for stranded residents seeking to go back to their homes in the Florida Keys, as well as for dozens of journalists keen to survey the damage there in the wake of Hurricane Irma.
Florida authorities on Monday were stopping all southbound traffic here, a 20-minute drive or so from Key Largo. There is no other roadway south.
Frustration was mounting among those who want to go back home after obeying a mandatory evacuation order declared as Irma headed for Florida.
A dozen or so inhabitants of the Keys waited at the gas station, below a sweltering Florida sun, a day after the powerful stormed moved on. Joining them were a half dozen or so TV satellite trucks and other media vehicles.
“I’ve got a house full of food and water waiting for me back home, but they won’t let me through,” said Warren Stincer, a boat captain and carpenter from Key Largo who evacuated his home last week.
“I’m sorry I ever agreed to evacuate. Now I’m stuck here with no food and no water. My home is just 20 minutes down the road and I know the road is clear. I’m very disappointed with our officials.”
He had heard that his home wasn’t damaged in the storm.
“My house is fine, my boat is fine, the road is fine — everything’s OK,” said Stincer. “They just won’t let me back in.”
Joe Sanchez, spokesman for the Florida Highway Patrol, told reporters gathered here that the road would remain closed to all but emergency crews until authorities determined that it was safe.
Units of the Florida National Guard and other agencies have been dispatched to the Keys for the cleanup. Pickups ferrying bulldozers and other heavy equipment were being allowed through the police checkpoint.
“It’s a question of safety,” said Sanchez, addressing a gaggle of disappointed journalists. “There is debris in the roads. There is flooding. It’s just not safe yet.”
That was no consolation for Stincer and other residents of the Keys, including Odalis Padron, who was waiting on a grassy knoll at the edge of the gas station with her pet poodle, Taini. A tree and a rain umbrella provided some shade from the sweltering sun.
“People tell me the road is good, I don’t know why they won’t let us in,” said Padron, of Key West, expressing the general sense of frustration. “All we want to do is go home.”
About 10,400 U.S. service members are supporting relief operations in the Florida region. The U.S. military says it has coordinated the evacuation of 1,904 people since Friday.
The Air Force is pre-positioning search and rescue units in Florida in Key West, Homestead Air Reserve Base, Patrick Air Force Base and Orlando to support state, local and national authorities.
The Air Force flew in about 300 doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals over the weekend to help issue relief aid.
The aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln arrived off Florida’s east coast on Sunday night with 24 helicopters, and was prepared for operations in southern Florida and the Florida Keys on Monday morning. The amphibious assault ship Iwo Jima and amphibious transport dock ship New York also arrived.
The morning after Hurricane Irma rumbled through central Florida with howling winds and torrential rain, the region was working to clean up damage that mostly amounted to downed trees and power lines and some flooding.
There was hardly a neighborhood in this vast tourist corridor that did not have upended trees and no power. More than half a million people were without power.
Winds blowing at 30 to 40 mph were hampering the cleanup effort, although in many neighborhoods people were out with rakes and power saws.
“I’m so proud of the people of Orlando for taking Irma seriously,” the city’s mayor, Buddy Dyer, said at a news briefing. “This morning I was out in many of the neighborhoods in our city and was pleased to see neighbors out helping other neighbors clean up yard debris and clear trees from yards.”
Overall the damage was much less than it could have been. There were one reported storm-related death, a traffic fatality on a toll road on Sunday.
Seminole County, a collar county around Orlando, lifted its curfew at 11 a.m. Orange County still has a curfew in effect until 6 p.m.
The major theme parks of Disney World, Universal and SeaWorld are all going to try to open on Tuesday. SeaWorld reported that all its animals and personnel were safe.
Stormwaters flooded a neighborhood of 24 homes south of Pine Hills. But the National Guard, in some cases using boats because the water was too deep for their vehicles, rescued all the residents without any reported injuries. The waters were as deep as three feet, but have already started to recede, and residents are expected to return to their homes Monday to assess damage.
Other areas of low-lying Orange County also reported flooding, although no injuries were reported. Some parts of central Florida had as much as 10 inches of rain.
A large sinkhole was reported in east Orlando and a few small ones have also occurred, making some roads difficult to drive.
Many lift stations in Seminole County were damaged, and residents were asked to limit their use of showers, laundry and flushing toilets until the stations were fixed.
Some of the Floridians hardest hit by Irma live in a modest residential neighborhood near the river in Bonita Springs, where waist-deep polluted water flows through their houses.
But that isn’t keeping some of them from staying put. As a members of a rescue team cruise the flooded streets in a motorized raft, they say they are finding residents trapped in their homes who have no interest in leaving. The residents were determined to see the hurricane through in their homes, and now they are determined to stay in them until they are fully habitable again.
Some found their way onto plastic boats. Others pushed away debris such as nearly fully submerged garbage cans bobbing along the streets.
It could be a week before the massive pond of sewage-tainted storm water engulfing their properties recedes.
“They are happy stuck in their houses. They are saying, ‘We have enough food and water, we are going to be fine,’” said Lt. Manny Hernandez of the Bonita Springs Fire Control & Rescue District.
The rescuers have been knocking on every door in the neighborhood as they float by. Some residents take up the offer and leave their homes, but others say, no, thank you.
Hernandez said he figured there were about a dozen people in homes inundated with waste-deep water. How many of them called for a rescue once the storm passed? Zero, he said.
The neighborhood is a wreck right now, and there are others like it nearby. Yet locals are surprised to see how few communities look that way. Forecasters predicted many, many more homes would be destroyed.
Even right across the beach in downtown Naples, where devastation was forecast, tony beach homes endured the storm with just a few scrapes and no serious water damage.
“The damage hasn’t been as bad as I expected,” said Hernandez as he waited for the rescue raft to get back from its rounds.
Even though Hurricane Irma has passed through central Florida, Orlando’s theme parks — including all four at Walt Disney World — may not reopen until Tuesday.
All major attractions were closed Sunday and Monday as the storm worked its way up the length of the state.
Tropical-storm-force winds are expected to linger well into the afternoon, and Orlando is under a curfew until 6 p.m. Monday.
“We are beginning an initial assessment of our property,” a Disney World spokeswoman said Monday morning. “While we experienced high winds and rain, we maintained power throughout the storm.”
Disney decided on Friday it would close Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom parks for two days. Its Disney Springs shopping and entertainment complex is also closed. The company’s hotels stayed open to guests.
Disney closures are rare. This one is the fifth since the Florida resort opened in 1971.
Nearly 7.2 million homes and businesses are without power in multiple states as Tropical Storm Irma moves through the Southeast.
The vast majority are in Florida. The state’s emergency management officials said the storm had cut power to more than 6.5 million account holders across the state as of Monday afternoon.
Eric Silagy, chief executive 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.
This post has been updated with more than 7 million homes and businesses without power in multiple states
Terry Thompson moved into his home in the Riverwood Estates Mobile Home Park in Naples two weeks ago. Remarkably, it was still there on Monday.
“There’s a lot of cleanup,” the 65-year-old Air Force veteran said as he assessed the situation around his home. Though it was intact, his neighbor’s carport had flown off and smacked into his wife’s car. Siding had blown off the house. Water still covered many of the streets. Debris was everywhere.
Thompson said he rode out the storm with his dog in the mobile home.
“It was wild. ... The house was lifting and moving and shifting. All sorts of things were going on,” he said.
John Jenkins, 52, also lives in a brand new mobile home in Riverwood Estates. The street in front of the house was still underwater Monday morning, but his house was standing and mostly intact — which couldn’t be said for all his neighbors’ homes.
During the storm, he said, he went our twice and had to take aluminum sheets that were prying loose from his neighbor’s carport and get them out of the path of his house.
“It was quite interesting,” he said. “Their carport was peeling apart and coming at our house. ... I was worried about all the debris.”
A friend drove by and Jenkins reached in the driver’s side window and gave him a hug. “I love you,” he said. He asked if the friend was OK. The friend reported that his house was fine.
The stakes were particularly high for Jenkins, who couldn’t get the bank to fund a loan for his home. “I put everything I got in the world into [buying] it,” he said.
Florida awakened to a debris-pocked panorama, with millions lacking electricity in steamy heat as Irma — now downgraded to a tropical storm — took a parting swipe at a band of north Florida and aimed for Georgia.
As the storm passed, the danger lingered: Storm surges jeopardized cities along Florida’s Gulf and Atlantic coasts, and the National Hurricane Center said Irma was still producing some hurricane-force wind gusts after spinning off tornadoes in the state’s central core.
Although the storm’s raging winds and punishing rains lent it an apocalyptic feel as it unfolded, initial damage assessments appeared significant and widespread, but short of catastrophic.
By 8 a.m. Monday, the storm, still remarkably wide in its radius, had moved about 105 miles north of Tampa, which along with St. Petersburg was spared a direct hit the night before, with the storm passing to their east through inland counties.
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