A weakened but still deadly Irma lumbered north Monday, leaving unimaginable devastation behind as it lashed Georgia and South Carolina with vicious winds and stinging rain.
Downgraded to a tropical depression at 11 p.m. Monday, Irma still managed to uproot trees and whip up floodwaters on its march through Atlanta and into Charleston. The storm’s winds — stretching misery across 650 miles and touching nine states — proved to be the deadliest factor. At least three deaths were reported in Georgia and one in South Carolina, most from heavy tree limbs crushing victims.
The U.S. death toll stood at 10 early Tuesday. Six Florida residents died as the storm’s wrath pounded the state Sunday.
Irma shut down Atlanta’s airport and was still on track to inflict damage as it shifted northwest and headed to Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee. Communities there braced for an onslaught of bad weather and winds of up to 35 mph.
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More than 1.4 million people in Georgia were without power and another 200,000 in South Carolina suffered a similar fate.
In Florida, more than 6.5 million homes and businesses lost power and 220,000 people remained in shelters.
Airplanes were grounded, stranding thousands and keeping countless Floridians from returning home — although both Miami International Airport and Orlando International Airport targeted Tuesday for reopening.
Irma and Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall in Texas as a Category 4 storm Aug. 25, are estimated to cost a total of between $150 billion and $200 billion, ABC News reported, citing Moody’s Analytics.
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Authorities were trying to grasp the extent of the damage Monday.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott said there was “devastation” in the Florida Keys.
“I just hope everyone survived,” he said after a gut-wrenching flyover in a military aircraft.
Nearly every mobile home park in the Keys was overturned, he said. Splintered pieces of boats were on land. Water, sewer and electric utility services were knocked out.
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Jim Mooney, the mayor of Islamorada, guessed it would take six months for his Keys community to get “halfway back” to normal.
The storm “has been pretty devastating,” he told ABC’s WPLG.
“It’s going to be a shock to people who are used to seeing lush tropical settings of the Florida Keys.”
Tom and Joey Fago, a father and son who decided to ride out the storm on a boat at Marathon in the Keys, were reported missing by family on Facebook.
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Irma made its first U.S. landfall just after 9 a.m. on Sunday at Cudjoe Key. The Category 4 storm’s more powerful eastern side lashed the Upper and Middle Keys, where the destruction was reported to be the most severe. The storm moved over warm water after leaving the Keys and made a second landfall as a Category 3 storm on Marco Island, near Naples, a few hours later, around 3:30 p.m.
Irma remained so powerful that flood-trapped residents of Jacksonville were urged to wave a white flag for help.
“If you need to get out, put a white flag outside your house,” the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office tweeted. “A T-shirt, anything white. Search and rescue teams ready to deploy. Get out.”
Jacksonville residents along the St. Johns River were flooded by waters 4 to 6 feet above the normal high tide level.
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Mayor Lenny Curry urged locals to get to higher ground. City buses were used to evacuate residents. “Swift rescue” specialists in small boats cruised flooded neighborhoods.
“You need to be concerned,” the sheriff’s office warned.
In St. Johns County, just south of Jacksonville, the Fire Rescue Division reported “numerous homes” damaged by high winds. One collapsed into the ocean.
In New York, Gov. Cuomo ordered 10 Black Hawk helicopters and 55 soldiers from the New York Army National Guard’s 42nd Combat Aviation Brigade to Florida to help with the relief effort.
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The Navy dispatched the amphibious assault ship Iwo Jima, the amphibious transport dock New York and the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln to help with search and rescue and other relief efforts.
Scott said the damage along the Gulf Coast was not as bad as feared.
Lindsay Bruce, who rode out the storm in Naples, said the city dodged a bullet. The anticipation of Irma’s arrival was fortunately the worst part of her experience.
“Luckily we didn’t have to deal with the same monster everyone else did,” Bruce, 38, said.
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“The rain was moving sideways, so fast it was like a white blur,” she recalled, describing “howling winds.”
The storm caused only minor damage to roof tiles, flooding and fallen trees, she said.
The reaction was similar in Tampa. Irma struck the flood-prone city early Monday as a Category 2 hurricane.
Rescue crews continued to evacuate stranded residents, including at more than 120 homes in Orange County, which includes Orlando, because of flooding.
Miami also breathed a sigh of relief.
Residents of the Brickell neighborhood emerged from their apartment buildings to survey the damage from winds and widespread flooding that whipped through the financial district.
It seemed the neighborhood was spared the worst, despite Biscayne Bay sitting a mere 200 yards away from many high-rises.
Cuba, Barbuda, the British Virgin Islands and other Caribbean islands fared much worse. At least 36 people died in the area during the ferocious storm.
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