Irma leaves widespread devastation, flooding in Florida — live updates

Irma took a parting shot at Florida on Monday, triggering severe flooding in the state’s northeast corner while authorities along the storm’s 400-mile path struggled to get aid to victims and take a full measure of the damage.

The monster hurricane that hit the Florida Keys on Sunday as a Category 4 storm was downgraded to tropical storm status as it finally pushed its way out of the state and into Georgia, where it caused more misery. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) said Irma would continue moving over Georgia on Monday night before reaching Alabama Tuesday morning.

At least 10 people have lost their lives from Florida to South Carolina during the storm, most of them in vehicle accidents, but only three deaths have been blamed on Irma directly so far. Authorities in Georgia said Monday that the storm killed at least two people in that state, while Abbeville County Coroner Ronnie Ashley in South Carolina said Tropical Storm Irma’s winds had killed a man in Calhoun Falls who was struck by a limb as he cleaned up debris outside this home.

  • Florida Keys compared to a “war zone” in wake of Hurricane Irma
  • “Get out NOW”: Jacksonville evacuations urged amid historic flooding
  • Mayor says Naples “dodged” Irma storm surge predictions

The storm left dozens more dead as it tore across the Caribbean.

Nearly 7 million people in the Southeast were warned to evacuate, including 6.4 million in Florida alone.

Follow along below for live updates on the storm. All times are Eastern unless otherwise noted.

5:28 a.m.: Irma weakens to “post-tropical cyclone”

Irma lost its “tropical characteristics” overnight, prompting the National Hurricane Center to downgrade the storm to “post-tropical cyclone” status.

In the Center’s 5 a.m. Eastern update, it said Irma would continue plodding across the southeastern states toward the northwest at about 10 mph, approaching the Tennessee Valley by Tuesday afternoon.

The National Hurricane Center said Irma was expected to continue weakening throughout the day. Current sustained wind speeds in the storm, as of 5 a.m., were about 15 mph and it was dropping “generally moderate rain.”

At 5 a.m., Irma was centered about 65 miles southwest of Atlanta, Goergia.

4:36 a.m. Sept. 12: Fear of a messy reverse migration

After one of the largest storm evacuation efforts in U.S. history, and with Irma advancing inland, a potential reverse migration from across the Southeast back into Florida is looming, and it will bring its own risks and possible horror stories.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott urged more than 6.5 million Florida residents — one out of four of his constituents — to leave their homes as the storm bore down.

Now, all those people need to get back home, raising new worries of jammed roadways amid uncertain gasoline supplies, empty grocery store shelves, standing water and widespread power outages that in heavily damaged areas could last for weeks.

Scott cautioned evacuees not to rush back home.

“Storm impacts can continue well after the center passes,” the governor said from his official Twitter account, asking residents to follow local officials’ advice on when to return. He later retweeted FEMA’s warning that Irma involves “disruptions to daily activities” long after it passes.

10:55 p.m.: Irma weakens to tropical depression

The National Hurricane Center says Irma has weakened into a tropical depression, according to its 11 p.m. ET advisory.

The storm, located about 5 miles west of Columbus, Georgia, is still bringing heavy rain to the U.S. Southeast on Monday night.

Irma is expected to drop 2 to 5 inches of rain across South Carolina and northern portions of Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi.

Irma’s top sustained winds are 35 mph, and it is moving northwest at 15 mph.

The hurricane center has discontinued all storm surge and tropical storm warnings.

8:36 p.m.: Aerial view of Key Largo shows Irma’s wrath

One of the hardest-hit places was the Florida Keys — the chain of low-lying islands off the southern tip of the Sunshine State. Officials said there is no electricity, no running water and no working sewage system in parts south of Key Largo, CBS News’ Elaine Quijano reports.

On Monday, an aerial view of devastation — the splintered homes and wind-tossed boats — was only matched by the scene on the ground. In the Lower Key areas, just 10 miles east of Irma’s landfall, the brute force of 130 mph winds and nearly 15 feet of storm surge easily destroyed Oceanside homes in Marathon and in Big Pine Key. Some homes were still smoldering from a fire that burned them to the ground.

Residents like Mike, a Marine reserve who was helping Houston recover from Harvey’s floods, came back to find destruction at his home.

“I got the walls up … going to have to rebuild it,” he told Qujano. “But hey, you live by the ocean … you got to take chances.”

8:18 p.m.: Officials urge residents stuck in their homes to call for help

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.

7:32 p.m.: Hundreds of thousands without power in Georgia

At least 930,000 residents were without power in Georgia as of Monday night, according to a map by Georgia Power showing outages across the state.

The company said it would send teams to work in affected areas once Irma leaves. Restoration efforts could take several days or weeks. “Extensive damage & extended power outages expected to continue due to high winds & fallen trees,” it tweeted Monday.

7:24 p.m.: Rescuers fan out across Florida to save victims

CBS News correspondent Adriana Diaz was in Orlo Vista, Florida, on Monday as residents were evacuated by rescue teams.

Barefoot children in blankets escaped waist-deep water with their only belongings in plastic bags. One puppy was found caged and alone in a house filling with water, Diaz reports.

Karland Gillens cheered at the site of first responders at his door. Fire and rescue officials tried to convince his parents to leave, but when they refused, crews marked the house as having three people still inside.

“I left because I know we needed food, we needed lights, it started getting hot in there. I was hoping to convince my mom to leave once I left,” Gillens told Diaz.

About 130 residents and their pets were rescued in Orange County in the aftermath of Irma, Diaz reports.

7:08 p.m.: Strong winds measured in Atlanta

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.

6:03 p.m.: Satellite photos show Caribbean islands turned brown by Irma

NASA’s Operational Land Imager captured pictures from space of some of the islands in the Caribbean hit hardest by Irma. The photos show the Virgin Islands turned brown by Irma’s winds and rains:

What caused the islands to change color? NASA notes that “lush green tropical vegetation can be ripped away by a storm’s strong winds, leaving the satellite with a view of more bare ground.” The agency also raises the possibility that salt spray whipped up by the hurricane can coat and desiccate leaves while they are still on the trees.”

5:47 p.m.: Trump approves emergency declaration for Alabama

President Trump declared an emergency in Alabama Monday evening as Irma moves across Georgia and makes its way to the northwest.

Mr. Trump’s declaration frees up federal resources for disaster relief and authorizes the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to coordinate emergency operations in the state.

The move also provides access to direct financial assistance, with the federal government picking up 75 percent of the cost.

Mr. Trump had already declared a state of emergency in Florida, Georgia and Puerto Rico.

5:08 p.m.: Second death reported in Georgia, officials say 

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.

5:02 p.m.: Irma continues crawl across Georgia as wind speeds decrease

Irma’s maximum sustained wind speeds have decreased to 50 mph as it continues its march across Georgia.

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) says in its latest advisory that Irma remains a tropical storm and will likely weaken to become a tropical depression Tuesday.

The storm’s center is about 10 miles east of Albany, Georgia, moving north-northwest at 17 mph. The NHC expects Irma to move toward the northwest Tuesday morning as it moves into Alabama.

4:50 p.m.: Disney World reopening Tuesday

Disney World theme parks will reopen tomorrow at 9 a.m. as planned, Disney said in a statement. The parks closed on Saturday ahead of Irma.

Universal Orlando also said Monday that all three of its parks will reopen Tuesday morning. Universal’s facilities suffered relatively minor damage to fences, trees and building facades.

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.

4:37 p.m.: Tree falls on apartment building owned by South Carolina governor

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.

3:56 p.m.: Authorities report 1st death in Georgia

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.

3:27 p.m.: Florida homes may lack power for weeks

President Trump’s homeland security adviser said power could be down in some Florida homes for weeks in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

Tom Bossert briefed reporters during Monday’s White House press briefing.

“I would caution people to be very patient here … we could have power down in homes for the coming weeks,” Bossert said.

Nearly 7.2 million homes and businesses were without power in multiple states.

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.

2:56 p.m.: White House holds Irma briefing

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Tom Bossert, President Trump’s homeland security adviser, are briefing reporters on the federal government’s response to Irma. Watch the briefing in the player above.

2:52 p.m.: Electric companies get pollution waivers

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.

2:28 p.m.: Irma continues to slowly weaken

Tropical Storm Irma continues to slowly weaken as it moved into southern Georgia with the National Hurricane Center discontinuing three more coastal warnings.

Irma’s maximum sustained winds were down to 60 mph as the storm was about 50 miles south-southeast of Albany, Georgia, and about 55 miles east of Tallahassee early Monday afternoon. It’s moving north-northwest at 17 mph.

Forecasters expect Irma’s center to continue moving over southwestern Georgia Monday and then into Alabama Tuesday morning and eventually western Tennessee.

Irma was also expected to become a tropical depression on Tuesday.

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.

1:41 p.m.: Elderly person dies during storm; family rescued in vehicle

An elderly person south of Jacksonville died overnight as Hurricane Irma lashed Florida, the police said.

St. Johns County Sheriff David Shoar said at a press conference Monday that the death happened while an elderly couple was trying to protect themselves from floodwaters.

“One of them suffered what we believe to be a heart attack, and of course that’s devastating for all of us,” Shoar said.

The sheriff also said that he other first responders helped rescue a family from a vehicle in the St. Augustine South area.

The family was trying to evacuate the area at about 2 a.m.

“It was very difficult to reach them at that dynamic moment because of the onslaught of water, the trees coming down,” Shoar said. “It was very, very dangerous, and I gotta tell you I get a little emotional thinking about it. I wish we all had body cameras on that, but I will tell you when you see cops and you see firefighters out there up to their necks in water trying to save our citizens it resonates.”

The sheriff said one family member was injured. No other details were provided.

Shoar urged people to stay off the roads Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

12:09 p.m.: People near Jacksonville river told to evacuate

Jacksonville, Florida, 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 the river is at historic flood levels and likely to get worse at high tide around 2 p.m.

On social media, 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.

11:35 a.m.: Irma gradually losing its punch over Florida

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.

11:05 a.m.: In Shanksville, Pence says “new citizen heroes” being forged in Irma’s wake

At a Pennsylvania memorial honoring passengers who attempted to regain control of a hijacked airliner during the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, Vice President Mike Pence said “new citizen heroes” were being forged in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

Pence said the nation’s hearts and prayers were with Americans in Florida and throughout the region who suffered loss from the storm.

“At this very hour, first responders and new citizen heroes are being forged among the people of Florida,” the vice president said at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville.

Pence reiterated support from him and President Trump for Irma’s victims.

“We are with you,” Pence said. “We will stay with you, and we will be with you every day after this tempest passes to restore, recover and rebuild.”

10:39 a.m.: Irma kills 10 in Cuba, state media says

Cuban state news media says 10 people died across the island as it was being battered by Hurricane Irma.

Most of them died in Havana, where chest-deep seawater pushed several blocks into densely populated neighborhoods.

State media says several of the deaths occurred in partial building collapses. Much of Cuba‘s housing stock is deteriorating.

10:18 a.m.: Trump calls Irma, Harvey “storms of catastrophic severity”

At a Pentagon ceremony remembering victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, President Trump began his remarks by saying that the nation’s prayers were with people in the path of the remnants of Hurricane Irma and those still suffering from Hurricane Harvey.

“These are storms of catastrophic severity, and we’re marshaling the full resources of the federal government to help our fellow Americans in Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Texas, Louisiana, Tennessee and all of those wonderful places and states in harm’s way,” Mr. Trump said.

The president said that Americans pull together when their fellow Americans are in need.

“When we face hardship, we emerge closer, stronger and more determined than ever,” Mr. Trump said.

Later in the morning, Vice President Mike Pence was expected to speak at a ceremony in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, near where one of the airliners hijacked in 2001 was downed as passengers tried to regain control of the plane from terrorists.

9:40 a.m.: As Irma hits U.S., Trump remembers 9/11 victims

President Trump and first lady Melania Trump have arrived at the Pentagon, where a ceremony was being held to remember the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

Shortly after arriving, Mr. Trump laid a wreath in honor of the victims killed at the Pentagon. The president and first lady earlier held a moment of silence at the White House.

Mr. Trump was expected to deliver remarks along with Defense Secretary James Mattis and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford. You can watch their remarks in the player above.

8:56 a.m.: Irma leaves nearly 4.5 million in the dark

Nearly 4.5 million homes and businesses across Florida have lost power as Irma moves over the state.

And utility officials say it will take weeks to restore electricity to everyone. Farther north, more than 100,000 are in the dark in Georgia.

Much of eastern Alabama and coastal South Carolina are under tropical storm warnings as Irma pummels Florida, weakening on its march northward.

8:13 a.m.: Irma weakens to tropical storm

Irma has weakened to a tropical storm as it moves over Florida toward southern Georgia.

The storm’s maximum sustained winds decreased Monday morning to near 70 mph. The U.S. National Hurricane Center says it’s expected to weaken to a tropical depression by Tuesday afternoon.

Irma is centered about 105 miles north-northwest of Tampa, Florida, and is moving north-northwest near 18 mph.

7:10 a.m.: Irma hits air travel hard

Hurricane Irma is wreaking havoc on air transport around Florida and the Caribbean. According to the FlightAware website, a total of 13,136 flights to and from airports in Florida and the Caribbean have been cancelled this month, with 9,483 cancellations in Florida alone.

Many of south and central Florida’s airports, including the massive international hub in Miami, were closed early Monday to all but military and emergency flights. Other airports closed, according to FlightAware, were:

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said Monday morning that while the city hadn’t escaped Hurricane Irma’s wrath, the situation wasn’t as bad as they had feared. Speaking on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Buckhorn said “What we thought was going to be a punch in the face was a glancing blow.”

Buckhorn did say there were a lot of downed power lines and debris, and he expected power to be out for some sections of Tampa for at least a couple more days.

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

6:14 a.m.: Category 1 Irma climbs Florida coast 

A Hurricane Warning was still in effect as of 5 a.m. Eastern time on Monday morning for Sebastian Inlet on Florida’s northwest coast to Fernandina Beach, and from Anclote River to Indian Pass.

Further south, Tampa Bay and surrounding areas were still under a Storm Surge Warning.

A lingering Tropical Storm Warning in the Florida Keys was finally lifted on Monday morning, as it was in many other areas in the hard-hit southern part of the state.

5:19 a.m.: House-to-house searches today in Florida Keys 

Bryan Koon, Florida’s emergency management director, said late Sunday that authorities had only scattered information about Hurricane Irma storm’s toll in the state.

“I’ve not heard of catastrophic damage. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. It means it hasn’t gotten to us yet,” Koon said.

In the low-lying Keys, where a storm surge of over 10 feet was recorded, appliances and furniture were seen floating away, and Monroe County spokeswoman Cammy Clark said the ocean waters were filled with navigation hazards, including sunken boats.

The county administrator, Roman Gastesi, said crews would begin house-to-house searches Monday morning to check on survivors. And an airborne relief mission, led by C-130 military cargo planes, was gearing up to bring emergency supplies to the Keys.

2:38 a.m., Sept. 11: Irma downgraded to Category 1 near Tampa

Irma weakened to a Category 1 storm as the massive hurricane zeroed in on the Tampa Bay region early Monday after hammering much of Florida with roof-ripping winds, gushing floodwaters and widespread power outages.

The hurricane’s maximum sustained winds weakened to 85 mph with additional weakening expected.

As of 2 a.m. EDT, the storm was centered about 25 miles northeast of Tampa and moving north-northwest near 15 mph.

More than 160,000 people waited in shelters statewide early on Monday morning.

11 p.m.: Hurricane Irma nears Tampa as Category 2 storm

Hurricane Irma remains a dangerous Category 2 hurricane despite weakening a bit more to 100 mph. It’s now bearing down on the Tampa-St. Petersburg region.

NHC released its latest advisory to report that Irma’s eye is about 50 miles southeast of Tampa and moving at a fast clip of 14 mph. Still a large hurricane, its tropical storm force winds extend out 415 miles.

Forecasters say they expert Irma’s center to stay inland over Florida and then move into Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee.

They also expect Irma to weaken further into a tropical storm over far northern Florida or southern Georgia on Monday as it speeds up its forward motion. The hurricane center says the storm is still life-threatening with dangerous storm surge, wind and heavy rains.

10:52 p.m.: University of Tampa students hunker down in dorms

CBS News correspondent Don Champion spoke with students from the University of Tampa who decided to stay in their dormitories throughout Hurricane Irma because the facilities were rated for Category 5 storms and they felt very safe.

Gusts have been reported up to 50 mph and officials are expecting a storm surge for up to 6 feet. This is a city that is very flood prone so city officials are warning folks that the threat from Irma is far from over, Champion reports.