(TAMPA, Fla.) — Irma, which tore a path of destruction across the Caribbean and through Florida, has left at least 12 people dead in the United States and about 6.7 million people without power in five states.
Though weakened, the storm is still bringing wind and rain to the Southeast, as evacuated Floridians sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic to head home and face the aftermath.
Irma was downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone Tuesday morning and is expected to bring heavy rain today to the Carolinas, Kentucky and Tennessee. Irma was located about 65 miles southwest of Atlanta this morning.
Upper Keys and Miami Beach residents permitted to return home
The Florida Keys have been cut off from the mainland for days since Irma made landfall on the low-lying islands Sunday morning as a Category 4 hurricane, bringing 130 mph winds and a storm surge of 10 feet. It was the first Category 4 landfall in Florida since 2004.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott said the storm left “devastation” on the Keys, which were under mandatory evacuation orders during Irma. At least one person died on the Keys.
Officials finally this morning opened entry into the Upper Keys for residents in Key Largo, Tavernier and Islamorada, up to mile marker 73, allowing residents to return home and see the damage for themselves.
Dozens of eager Keys residents parked their cars along U.S. 1 Monday, staying there through the night to make sure they could get onto the Keys when access was granted, ABC Miami affiliate WPLG-TV reported.
Sewage, power and water remain out on the Keys, Scott said today.
While the Keys were under mandatory evacuation orders as Irma neared, not everyone left. Florida Director of Emergency Management Bryan Koon estimates that about 10,000 people remained in the Keys during the storm, according to the Miami Herald.
Further north, Miami Beach residents were permitted to return this morning, too.
Clean up efforts were underway this morning on Miami Beach’s iconic Ocean Drive, which was covered in sand from the storm surge and wind. The area was littered with down trees and street signs, but appeared to escape without major structural damage.
Some business owners this morning removed boards from their windows, preparing to reopen.
Storm pummels Naples and Miami
After Irma left the Keys Sunday morning, it moved north, passing over Naples, which recorded a 142 mph wind gust. The city also saw nearly 12 inches of rain and a 7-foot storm surge. Farther north, wind gusts reached 94 mph in Lakeland and up to 90 mph in the Tampa Bay area.
In Miami, which saw winds up to 99 mph, resident Joe Kiener told ABC News he’s endured multiple hurricanes in the Caribbean but said he had never experienced a storm as brutal as Irma.
“I’ve been in Miami Beach for two years, which is prone to flooding, but this completely out of the norm,” Kiener said.
Kiener boarded up his house and is staying at a high-rise hotel in Miami. He said he had to move down to the lobby after his hotel room’s windows took a beating from the strong winds.
“The windows started cracking, and these are massive-impact windows. They were exposed 12 hours of continuous heavy winds. At one point in time, one of them started splintering and that’s when I lost my nerve and said, ‘I’m leaving,'” he said. “It psychs you out — it’s just the endless hallowing and pounding of the wind.”
Fatalities in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina
At least seven people, including a sheriff’s deputy, died of storm-related injuries in Florida as the massive hurricane barreled across the Sunshine State.
One person was killed in Monroe County, which includes the Florida Keys. The man was killed after he lost control of a truck that carried a generator as winds whipped at tropical-storm strength, officials said.
Two others, a sheriff’s deputy and a corrections officer, died from a two-car crash in the rain in Hardee County, which is about 60 miles inland from Sarasota, officials said.
In Winter Park, near Orlando, a man was electrocuted by a downed power line Monday morning, according to the Winter Park Police Department. He was pronounced dead at the scene after investigators found him lying in the street, police said.
Another person died from carbon monoxide poisoning from improper use of a generator in Miami-Dade County, the mayor said.
Another person died in Hillsborough County while cutting fallen tree branches.
Another fatality was from a car crash in Orange County in central Florida.
At least three people have died in Georgia as a result of the storm. In Sandy Springs, a man died while lying in bed after a large tree broke and fell on his home, Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul announced on Facebook.
In Forsyth County, a female passenger died after a downed tree struck her vehicle, the sheriff’s office said.
A third death was reported in Worth County.
In Abbeville County, South Carolina, a 57-year-old man was killed after a tree limb fell on him. He died at the scene.
At least 37 people died from Irma in the Caribbean, including at least 10 in Cuba.
Millions without power amid widespread evacuations
At least 6.7 million customers are without power in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Alabama this morning, including more than 5.6 million accounts in Florida alone.
Eric Silagy, president and CEO of Florida Power & Light, warned Monday that “people need to be prepared for some prolonged and extended outages.”
About 6.5 million Floridians were ordered to evacuate as Irma neared, and some residents of Georgia and South Carolina were under evacuation orders as well.
Some chose to go to shelters, others decided to hunker down at home to ride out the storm.
One Naples resident told ABC News she was turned away from two shelters before she and her 10-year-old son were finally accepted at one.
“We have a dog and there were not that many shelters that accepted dogs,” she said, adding, “We didn’t want to be that far away from our home.” While she and her son stay inside the shelter, her husband is hunkering down with their dog at home.
President Donald Trump approved a “major disaster” declaration in Florida on Sunday, authorizing “federal funding to flow directly to Floridians impacted by Hurricane Irma and reimburs[ing] local communities and the state government to aid in response and recovery from Hurricane Irma,” state officials said.
Scott said nearly 30 states had deployed personnel and resources to help with the response to Irma.
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