Irma leaves widespread devastation, flooding in Florida

A house damaged after the wake of Hurricane Irma in Saint Johns County, Florida, 9/11/2017. (Photo: St. Johns County Fire Rescue )
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By: CBS News | Associated Press
September 12, 2017

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.

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.

7:30 a.m.: Residents allowed back into upper Florida Keys
Officials in the upper Florida Keys are allowing residents and business owners to return after Hurricane Irma. People were able to return to Monroe County as of 7 a.m. EDT Tuesday.

In a Facebook posting, Monroe County officials said a yellow re-entry sticker or proof of residency or business ownership will be required. County officials said a roadblock will be put around mile marker 74, where part of U.S. 1 was washed out by Hurricane Irma, which slammed into the state Sunday as a Category 4 storm. A road crew is expected to begin repairs Tuesday.

Officials warned returning residents that there are limited services available. Most areas are still without power and water and cellphone service is limited. Most gas stations in the Key Largo area are still closed. Crews are working to clear U.S. 1, the only road that runs north/south through the Florida Keys. County officials also said Mariners Hospital in Tavernier was expected to reopen Tuesday morning.

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, Georgia.

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 Worth County Coroner has identified the man as John Kline, 62.

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.

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.: Widespread power outages

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.

10:25 p.m.: 3rd construction crane falls to Irma's winds

A third construction crane has toppled in Florida in the powerful winds of Hurricane Irma.

Officials say it happened at a project on Fort Lauderdale beach during the storm Sunday.

Officials with developer The Related Group told the Sun-Sentinel the crane collapse caused no injuries and did not appear to damage anything else.

Two other cranes toppled earlier in Miami as Irma swirled up the state.

9:18 p.m.: Miami International Airport sustains "significant water damage"

Miami International Airport will be closed Monday after sustaining "significant water damage" on Sunday from Hurricane Irma's powerful gusts of nearly 100 mph, Miami-Dade Aviation Director Emilio González announced on Twitter.

The airport expects to begin operations with limited schedules on Tuesday.

MIA will be closed Monday, September 11 and will begin operations with limited schedules on Tuesday, September 12. Updates as available.

— Miami Int'l Airport (@iflymia) September 11, 2017

8:57 p.m.: 3.3 million Florida residents without power

More than 3.3 million homes and businesses have lost power in Florida as Hurricane Irma moves up the peninsula. The widespread outages stretch from the Florida Keys all the way into central Florida.

Florida Power & Light, the state's largest electric utility, said there were nearly 1 million customers without power in Miami-Dade County alone. The power outages are expected to increase as the storm edges further north.

There are nearly 7 million residential customers in the state.

8:26 p.m.: Manatees rescued after low tide in Sarasota Bay

Hurricane Irma pulled water from Sarasota Bay on Sunday afternoon and left several manatees stuck in knee-deep mud, CBS affiliate WTSP in Tampa reports.

A few residents in the area came to the rescue, placing them on large green tarp and pulling them more than 100 yards back into the water.

After becoming restless, Marcelo Clavijo checked out the bay near Whitfield where he noticed the manatees on the flats. "So we went for a ride and ended up saving two manatees," Clavijo posted on Facebook.

8:15 p.m.: Irma moves toward Fort Myers, Florida

The National Hurricane Center said in its 8 p.m. advisory that Hurricane Irma is moving northward near Fort Myers and that dangerous storm surges are expected in areas of onshore winds along the Florida west coast.

Irma is currently 15 miles east-northeast of Fort Myers, Florida and about 30 miles southeast of Port Charlotte, Florida.

Maximum sustained winds have decreased to 105 mph, according to NHC and is moving north at about 14 mph.

Irma's eye should move near or over the west coast of the Florida Peninsula through Monday morning, the center says. Irma should the move inland over northern Florida and southwestern Georgia on Monday afternoon.

Irma is expected to remain a hurricane through Monday morning -- and that hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 80 miles from the center -- and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 220 miles.

7:26 p.m.: Roof leaks as thousands shelter in Germain Arena

The Lee County Sheriff's Office says water began leaking through the roof at the Germain Arena shelter in Estero just as the eye of Hurricane Irma drew near.

Thousands of evacuees have crowded into the minor-league hockey stadium, which seats about 8,400 people and is being used as a shelter.

The sheriff's office said on Facebook that authorities are monitoring the problem and that the facility is stable.

7:20 p.m.: Miami-Dade schools to remain closed

Miami-Dade County Public Schools will remain closed until further notice, Superintendent Alberto Carvalho announced late Sunday.

"Due to uncertainty surrounding shelter closings & inability to inspect/make repairs, [Miami-Dade County Public Schools] remain closed [until] further notice," Carvalho said on the Facebook.

Earlier Sunday, Carvalho said further announcements would be made regarding "shelter closures, school site inspections and workforce readiness."

7:00 p.m.: Storm surge could damage 455,000 Tampa Bay homes

Hurricane Irma should be moving directly over the Tampa Bay area around 12 a.m. on Monday. Residents of the highly populated area are fearing the worst.

A report by CoreLogic, the global property data firm, found nearly 455,000 Tampa Bay homes could be damaged by storm surges, the most of any major U.S. metro area other than Miami and New York. Rebuilding those homes could cost $81 billion.

Tampa Bay is vulnerable because the bay acts as a funnel for storm surges, forcing water into narrow channels with nowhere else to go.

6:36 p.m.: Water levels rise in Naples, Florida

Water levels are rising rapidly in Naples, Florida, from Hurricane Irma's storm surge, the National Hurricane Center said Sunday evening. A federal tide gauge in Naples reported a 7 foot rise of water in just 90 minutes.

A wind gust of 142 mph was recorded at the Naples Municipal Airport as the storm kept its top sustained wind speed of 110 mph.
Irma has picked up forward speed and is moving inland at 14 mph and its eye is about 25 miles south southeast of Fort Myers.

5:30 p.m.: Trump approves disaster declaration for Florida

President Trump approved a major disaster declaration for Florida and ordered federal aid to help the state,

Residents and business owners who sustained losses in the designated counties can begin applying for assistance by registering online at or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for the hearing and speech impaired.

The federal government will also reimburse counties for emergency protective measures -- including evacuation and sheltering costs and much of the costs for debris removal.

5:15 p.m.: Irma approaches Naples, Florida, as Category 2 storm

The NHC said in its 5 p.m. advisory that Hurricane Irma is about 5 miles north of Naples, Florida, and about 30 miles south-southeast of Ft. Myers, Florida. The storm has maximum sustained winds near 110 mph, the center said.

Irma is moving toward the north near 14 mph and a north-northwestward motion with an increase in forward speed is expected by tonight, with that motion continuing through Monday.

On the forecast track, the eye of Irma should move near or over the west coast of the Florida Peninsula through Monday morning, according to the NHC. Irma should then move inland over northern Florida and southwestern Georgia Monday afternoon.

NHC says Irma is expected to remain a hurricane at least through Monday morning.

3:38 p.m.: More than 2.1 million without power in Florida

More than 2.1 million customers have lost power in Florida with Hurricane Irma striking the state. Florida Power & Light reported the numbers Sunday afternoon. The utility, which services much of south Florida, says more than 845,000 of those customers are in Miami-Dade County. Duke Energy, the dominant utility in the northern half of Florida, has about 13,000 outages with the outer bands of Irma sweeping across the region.

3:15 p.m.: Irma disrupts Congress' work schedule

Hurricane Irma is affecting the House of Representative's work schedule in Washington. A notice from the House majority leader's office says the House now doesn't plan to take any votes Monday because of "the large number of absences" as a result of the storm. The first votes of the week are expected Tuesday evening. The House leadership will keep tabs on the situation and announce updates as necessary.

3:10 p.m.: Second crane collapses in Miami

Miami City Manager Daniel Alfonso says a second tower crane has collapsed into a building under construction in the city's downtown area. Alfonso told The Associated Press that the crane collapsed in a large development with multiple towers being built by Grand Paraiso.

3:00 p.m.: Tornadoes reported

The the National Weather Service Miami-South Florida tweeted that a tornado had been reported at Fort Lauderdale International Airport:

Meanwhile, an apparent tornado spun off by Irma destroyed six mobile homes in Palm Bay, hundreds of miles away along the state's Atlantic coast.

1:55 p.m.: Utility says it will take weeks to restore power

Florida Power & Light says it will be weeks, not days, before electricity is fully restored because of the damage being done by Hurricane Irma.

Spokesman Rob Gould said Sunday that an estimated 3.4 million homes and businesses will lose power once the worst of Irma reaches the Florida mainland. He expects thousands of miles of poles and lines will need to be replaced, particularly on the Gulf coast. As of Sunday afternoon, about 1.5 million customers were without power.

1:10 p.m.: Trump receives briefing on Hurricane Irma

The White House says President Donald Trump has received a "comprehensive update" on Hurricane Irma. Mr. Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and several Cabinet members participated in the briefing from Camp David - the presidential retreat where Trump has spent the weekend monitoring the storm.

Other administration officials joined in from the White House or Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters in Washington. Pence and several Cabinet secretaries are planning to visit FEMA headquarters later Sunday.

1:00 p.m.: Irma's winds impede access to toppled crane site

High winds are impeding Miami authorities' ability to reach a construction crane toppled by Hurricane Irma. The crane fell onto a high-rise building that's under construction. It's in a bayfront area filled with hotels and high-rise condo and office buildings, near AmericanAirlines Arena.

Miami-Dade County Director of Communications Mike Hernandez said emergency personnel couldn't immediately respond to the scene because of high winds. Authorities urged people to avoid the area after the Sunday morning collapse. It wasn't clear if there were any injuries.

Miami City Manager Daniel Alfonso said the approximately two-dozen other cranes in the city are still upright and built to withstand significant wind gusts. The tower cranes working on construction sites throughout the city were a concern ahead of Irma. Moving the massive equipment, weighing up to 30,000 pounds, is a slow process that would have taken about two weeks, according to city officials.

12:30 p.m. Florida senator: Irma has potential to be "worst-case scenario"

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, said Sunday that for those living in Naples, Fort Myers, Sarasota and the Tampa Bay region, Hurricane Irma has the potential to be the "sort of worst-case scenario that meteorologists and emergency planners dread."

There is "virtually no part of Florida that is not going to be impacted by the storm," Rubio said on "Face the Nation."

11:25 a.m.: Trump confers with governors in Irma's path

President Donald Trump has spoken with the governors of Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee as Hurricane Irma moves north. All four states could be affected by the storm, which struck the Florida Keys on Sunday.

The White House says Mr. Trump spoke with the officials Sunday from the Camp David presidential retreat, where he was spending the weekend. Mr. Trump has been in regular contract with Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Sen. Marco Rubio over the past week. Chief of staff John Kelly spoke Sunday with Florida Sen. Bill Nelson.

10:20 a.m.: Atlanta gets 1st ever tropical storm warning

For the first time, a tropical storm warning has been issued for the city of Atlanta. The National Weather Service in Peachtree City, Georgia, said Sunday it was the first time such a warning had been issued for the metro Atlanta area. High wind warnings have been issued in previous storms. The warning means that tropical storm conditions are expected within the next 36 hours. Peak winds were expected to reach 30 to 40 mph with gusts of up to 55 mph.

9:45 a.m.: More than 1 million lose power

Florida utility officials say more than 1 million customers have lost power as Hurricane Irma hits the state. Florida Power & Light Company said that nearly 1.1 million customers statewide were without power Sunday morning. About 574,000 of those outages were in Miami-Dade County, while there were 360,000 in Broward and nearly 136,000 in Palm Beach County.

9:30 a.m.: Irma makes landfall

Hurricane Irma has made landfall on Cudjoe Key in the lower Florida Keys. The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said the storm's center made landfall at 9:10 a.m. Its top sustained winds are 130 mph.

8:15 a.m.: Hurricane Irma's center poised to blow across Florida Keys, forecasters say

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said in a public advisory that the center of the storm remained offshore but was going to make landfall soon. The storm was centered about 20 miles east of Key West, and it was moving north-northwest at 8 mph.

The storm had maximum sustained winds of 130 mph. The National Weather Service reported wind gusts of 90 mph near its Key West office. After hitting the Florida Keys, Irma was forecast to move up the state's Gulf Coast later Sunday.

8:05 a.m.: Tornado warnings issued

The National Weather Service in Miami has issued tornado warnings for a wide swath of Monroe, Miami-Dade and Broward counties in South Florida.

Officials say the band of rain and tornado producing cells is moving quickly. There have been no reports of tornadoes touching down.

Authorities are urging people to stay inside until the storm passes.

"Due to extreme sustained winds rescue teams are no longer able to respond. Stay inside and Stay safe until the storm has passed," the City of Miami Beach tweeted.

In a Facebook post early Sunday, Key West Police urged people who stayed for the hurricane to remain where they took shelter until the storm had passed completely. They also urged people not to go outside when the eye of the storm is over there area, a time period when conditions can seem deceptively calm.

6:55 a.m.: St. Petersburg now in Irma's crosshairs

With Hurricane Irma churning toward the Florida Key's and the southernmost tip of the mainland on Sunday morning, Florida Power & Light said more than 250,000 homes and businesses were already without power by 6:30 a.m. in Miami-Dade county -- an hour before the storm was even expected to make landfall. Another 97,370 outages were reported in Broward.

The outages were blamed largely on high winds snapping power lines and taking out transformers.

12:40 a.m., Sept. 10: National Hurricane Center tweaks forecast

The National Hurricane Center's latest tweak to Irma's forecasted track has the storm hugging the Florida's west coast off Fort Myers, but possibly not making landfall there before moving back to the Gulf of Mexico. By moving the likely track a few crucial miles west, the storm would be able to regain strength over water before its deadliest winds hit St. Petersburg and Clearwater, rather than the more populated Tampa.

After that, the storm is now expected to skirt the coast again a bit north of Horseshoe Beach, then finally go inland around Fish Creek, northwest of Ocala, with a hurricane-force wind field well over 100 miles wide.

Irma's forward motion slowed to 6 mph as the storm stuttered off the coast of Cuba. Forecasters say it could still increase in strength, but their forecast didn't show it.

11:55 p.m.: South Florida county pulls deputies off roads

The Broward County sheriff's office tweeted late Saturday that with wind gusts measuring 45 mph, they are pulling deputies off the road until conditions are safer.

Fort Lauderdale is located in Broward County.

11 p.m.: Irma is taking its time leaving Cuba

Hurricane Irma is moving slowly away from the north coast of Cuba as hurricane-force winds were recorded in the Florida Keys, the National Hurricane Center said.

A turn toward the north-northwest with an increase in forward speed is expected through late Monday. The center of Irma is expected to pass through the Keys Sunday morning and then move near or along the west coast of Florida Sunday afternoon through Monday morning. Irma should then move inland over the Florida panhandle and southwestern Georgia Monday afternoon.

Dangerous storm surges are expected in Florida, with surges of 10 to 15 feet from Cape Sable to Captiva.

More than 170,000 homes and businesses in Florida are without power, Florida Power and Light said. More than half the outages are in the Miami-Dade area.