Irma knocks out power to 7 million homes, businesses


Monday 11 p.m. update:

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN/AP) — Nearly 7.2 million homes and businesses are without power in multiple states as now Tropical Depression Irma moves through the Southeast.

CLICK TO VIEW MORE PHOTOS OF IRMA DAMAGE

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.

Meanwhile Monday night, the once-monster Category 5 hurricane became Tropical Depression Irma and was centered in west-central Georgia near the Alabama state line.

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.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott says he flew over the Keys and saw a lot of flood damage and boats that had washed ashore.

He says there is “devastation” and he hopes everyone who stayed behind survived Irma. He said almost every mobile home park in the Keys had overturned homes.

Scott also flew over the west coast of Florida on Monday and said the damage was not as bad as he thought it would be.

Communities along the Georgia coast are seeing extensive flooding from Tropical Storm Irma.

PHOTOS: Damage in Florida from Hurricane Irma

Irma’s storm surge pushed water ashore at the high tide Monday afternoon, and heavy rainfall made the flooding even worse. On Tybee Island east of Savannah, Hollard Zellers saw waist-deep water in the street as he went to fetch a kayak.

About 3,000 people live on Tybee Island, which is Georgia’s largest public beach. City manager Shawn Gillen said the waters seemed to be receding quickly, but most of the island appeared to have some level of flooding and water was in many homes.

Storm surge also sent floodwaters into downtown St. Marys just north of the Georgia-Florida line. St. Marys police Lt. Shannon Brock said piers and boat docks were heavily damaged and many boats sunk.

At 8 a.m. Monday, the National Weather Service downgraded Irma to a tropical storm, but warned the storm is still producing gusts of near-hurricane-force winds.

The storms sustained winds had dropped to about 65 mph by 11 a.m.

Irma as the storm hits Naples. CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE

MORE COVERAGE: Irma stories, video and more in Hurricane Central

At 11 a.m., the center of Irma was about 70 miles east of Tallahassee. The storm was moving north-northwest at 17 mph.

The storm is expected to cross into Georgia on Monday, authorities said.

PHOTOS: Damage in Florida from Hurricane Irma

Irma is expected to become a tropical depression on Tuesday as it continues north and west.

Hurricane Irma officially made landfall on Cudjoe Key in the Lower Florida Keys at 9:10 a.m. Sunday as a Category 4 storm. Earlier Sunday morning, Irma had 130 mph winds.

Damage in Marco Island. Photo by Marco Island Police. CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE

Irma made landfall for a second time on Sunday at Marco Island. Just as Hurricane Irma made landfall on Marco Island with 120 mph winds, the entire island lost power, according to reports. Around 3 p.m., the Marco Island Police Department measured a wind gust at 130 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

CLICK FOR IRMA MAPS

Tens of thousands of people huddled in shelters watched for updates.

RELATED: LIVE video coverage of Hurricane Irma from WFLA in Tampa

Irma was at one time the most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the open Atlantic with a peak wind speed of 185 mph last week.

It left more than 20 people dead across the Caribbean and as it moved north over the Gulf of Mexico’s bathtub-warm water of nearly 90 degrees, it was expected to regain strength.

MOBILE USERS: Click here for Irma maps and images

Irma is still forecast to move away from North Carolina.

The confidence in the forecast track into Monday and Tuesday is very high for Irma to move up through Georgia and then become a depression in Alabama before passing into Tennessee on Wednesday.

This means impacts will be low for central North Carolina.

The Blue Ridge Parkway is closed due to high winds in the western part of the state. Chimney Rock and Mt. Mitchell state parks are also closed until further notice, North Carolina State Parks said.

Cumberland County schools officials have canceled all after school activities Monday due to Irma-related weather.

Cumberland, Hoke, Moore and Robeson counties are included in a Wind Advisory that goes into effect at noon on Monday. The highest wind gusts will be felt southwest of the Triangle. Winds will not reach tropical strength in central North Carolina, but it will be breezy with gusts possibly as high as 30 to 35 mph.

Citing concerns about high winds from the outer edges of the storm as it sits over Florida, Robeson County schools announced that students would be released early on Monday to allow them to be home before the highest winds hit.

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