The former hurricane remained an enormous, 668km wide storm as its centre moved on from Florida on Monday afternoon, giving its still-formidable gusts and drenching rains a far reach.
As crews labored to fix the lone highway connecting the Keys, residents of some of the islands closest to Florida's mainland were allowed to return and get their first look at the devastation.
More than 4 million customers in Florida and other states hit by Hurricane Irma remain without electricity, complicating efforts to recover from the huge and intense storm. More than 5 million Floridians were without power this morning. Even with slow weakening likely to continue as the storm passes over land, Irma remains very serious and life-threatening.
"People are concerned about the Tampa Bay region because they have not gotten the warnings, really only started to be amplified Friday night for them", Mr. Rubio said Sunday on the CBS's "Face the Nation". I just hope everybody has evacuated and gotten to safety.
It could rival any storm in Florida's history, Governor Rick Scott said.
The situation in the Sunshine State was trying the patience of people who rode out the storm and those who came home to find widespread devastation and access to their neighborhoods limited at times. "This is a deadly storm, and our state has never seen anything like it". The mass evacuations have sent throngs onto jammed highways heading north and created a severe gas shortage in some parts the state.
The storm will make its way to somewhere between the Mid-Atlantic states and Bermuda by Monday, until a weather system directs it somewhere, Duffey said, adding that meteorologists are largely unsure of where it will go from there.
Irma's threat prompted Tampa officials to order a 6 p.m. curfew for Sunday evening.
Fort Myers sits north of where Hurricane Irma made landfall over the weekend, though the area did suffer some damage. The Boston-based firm said Tampa Bay acts as a "large funnel" for surges, forcing water into narrow channels and bayous with nowhere else to go.
President Donald Trump tweeted links for Florida residents looking for information.
In the low-lying Keys, where a storm surge of over 10 feet (3 meters) 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.
Irma weakens; officials urge patience for evacuees eager to return home
After wreaking havoc on Florida , Irma knocked out power in Georgia , Alabama , South Carolina and North Carolina . The National Weather Service in Atlanta issued a tropical storm watch for the area Monday and Tuesday.
Gaston Browne, the prime minister of the twin-island nation, said 95 per cent of the buildings on Barbuda had been reduced to rubble.
Almost the entire Florida coastline remained under hurricane watches and warnings, and the latest projections could shift again, sparing or savaging other parts of the state.
Charlotte can expect to feel the storm's impact Monday and Tuesday, with gusty winds and heavy rain expected.
Earlier in the week, Irma tore through parts of the Caribbean, including the U.S. Virgin Islands and Cuba, killing at least 24 people and leaving officials scrambling Sunday to bring aid to shattered islands.
What's with all these hurricane forecast models?
Brock Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said the storm's trajectory along Florida's west coast was a "worst-case scenario". Florida Hospital, a health provider in the state, announced its plans to reopen many of its facilities that were impacted by Irma on Tuesday or Wednesday. Polk County was the closest to Central Florida that Irma's center came, Combs said. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster issued a mandatory evacuation for some barrier islands, while Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal expanded the state of emergency to include 94 counties.
Currently, all Florida ports are closed while some in North and SC are open with restrictions.
The full extent of the damage is still unknown.
Barbuda, Anguilla, St. Martin/St. Maarten and St. Barts were under a tropical storm warning for Jose, which was passing north of those islands Saturday.
Irma is expected to reach Key West, Fla., around 2 a.m. Sunday.
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