USA TODAY - Hurricane Irma was downgraded to a tropical storm early Monday after it barreled into Florida on Sunday, crashing through the Florida Keys before making a second landfall near Naples on the Gulf Coast and setting a course for Georgia.
It flooded streets, snapped construction cranes and left 58% of Florida electricity customers without power — about 5.8 million accounts — according to Florida's State Emergency Response Team. Meanwhile, more than 100,000 customers in Georgia also were without power Monday.
At least 5 deaths in Florida were attributed to Irma, according to ABC News. The storm also killed at least 20 people in the Caribbean since roaring out of the Atlantic Ocean and chewing through a string of islands.
Where is Hurricane Irma now?
At 2 p.m. ET on Monday, the center of the storm was about 50 miles southeast of Albany, Ga., the National Hurricane Center in Miami said. Irma is moving to the northwest at 17 mph with sustained winds of 60 mph.
Irma is expected to weaken further as it continues moving across southern Georgia, the center said. It's set to enter eastern Alabama on Tuesday morning, and should turn into a tropical depression that day.
How strong was Irma at landfall?
The storm hit Cudjoe Key at Category 4 strength, as predicted, with ferocious 130 mph sustained winds and blasts of even greater violence. Locations where a Category 4 eye wall hit will see "power outages that will last weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months," the hurricane center said. It made landfall again Sunday afternoon on Marco Island, south of Naples, as a Category 3 storm.
How bad can the storm surge be?
Storm surge, the wall of sea water that roars ashore as a hurricane makes landfall can be "dangerous" and "life-threatening" for people who don't evacuate. Some areas may experience 15 feet of sea water pushed ashore from Irma, the hurricane center said. Storm-surge warnings were issued all the way from the Keys to north of Tampa.
What about rain, wind and tornadoes?
Irma brought all these into play as it delivered a savage blow to nearly the entire state of Florida. Two tornadoes touched down on the east central part of the state, destroying six mobile homes in Palm Bay. The colossal flooding seen during Harvey may not be Irma's primary threat, but some parts of Florida could see as much as 20 inches of rain.
How many people evacuated?
In one of the biggest evacuations ever ordered in the U.S., about 6.3 million people in Florida — more than one quarter of the state’s population — were told to clear out from threatened areas and another 540,000 were directed to move away from the Georgia coast. In Florida, at least 54,000 people took refuge in the more than 320 shelters located in every county outside the highly vulnerable Keys.
How many flights have been canceled?
FlightRadar24 tracking maps late Sunday revealed that there was not a single flight in the sky over the Sunshine State, which usually boasts a bustling airspace befitting of a tourism mecca. It was a far cry from the pre-Irma exodus that occurred in the days leading up to the monster storm's arrival in Florida. On Thursday, the Federal Aviation Administration told The New York Times that its air traffic control center in Miami, which handles only flights over the southern half of Florida and the Caribbean, had managed 8,107 flights compared to about 2,000 the week before.
How could Irma impact Florida's economy?
Hurricane Irma is expected to pose at least a temporary setback to Florida's sizzling economy as it takes aim at the heart of the nation’s citrus production and batters its robust tourism industry. But if the storm causes extensive damage that discourages incoming retirees and tempers runaway population growth, the economic effects could be more substantial, analysts say.
Will Irma harm Florida's citrus crops?
Florida is the nation’s top citrus producer and also leads in sugarcane, tomatoes, watermelons and fresh market cucumbers, according to state government data. Farmers have drained fields of excess water, secured equipment and ensured that water pumps work in the event of flooding, said Lisa Lochridge, spokeswoman for the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association. The most immediate worry is the vast orange crop in central and south Florida. Risks to the crop increased since forecasts altered the storm’s projected path westward, says Chris Hyde, agricultural meteorologist at MDA Weather Services.
How will Irma impact other states?
Florida has borne the brunt of the storm, but states from Georgia to Indiana will experience Irma's effects in the days ahead. After Florida, Georgia is forecast to suffer the most. Tropical storm-force winds of up to 60 mph are possible across the state into early Tuesday morning. Rainfall amounts of up to 20 inches could lead to flash flooding, especially in southern parts of Georgia. Other states will experience heavy rain, tropical-storm force winds, rip currents, and other weather that could cause some flooding, downed trees and power outages.
Contributing: Doyle Rice, Bart Jansen, Alan Gomez, Gregory Korte, Caryn Shaffer, Joseph Bauccum, Matthew Diebel and The Associated Press
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