Hurricane Irma downgraded: What’s next for the tropical storm?

CBS NEWS

MIAMI — Hurricane Irma weakened Monday to a still-dangerous tropical storm as it spread high winds and rain across the Southeast, one day after engulfing most of the Florida peninsula. Both of Florida’s coasts were pounded by storm surges, thousands of its residents remain in shelters and millions of homes and businesses around several states are without power.

What’s next?

Still hundreds of miles wide, the huge storm system is dumping very heavy rain into southern parts of Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama with Mississippi and Tennessee to follow. By Monday afternoon, the former Category 5 hurricane had top sustained winds of 60 mph as it continued weakening while heading into south Georgia. The storm’s core was centered about 2 p.m. EDT about 50 miles south-southeast of Albany, Georgia.

The damage

Irma wreaked havoc over nearly the entire Florida peninsula from the southernmost Keys to the Georgia line, from the Atlantic to the Gulf coasts.

It swamped homes, uprooted massive trees, flooded streets, cast boats ashore, snapped power lines and toppled construction cranes. Flooding triggered home evacuations in parts of Jacksonville, north Florida, and caused damage in the Orlando area at the center of the state.

The full breadth of the damage remains unclear, particularly in the hard-hit Keys, where communications and travel were still difficult. More than 7.2 million homes and businesses lost power across the region, including 6.5 million in Florida.

Death toll

One death in Georgia has been linked to Irma as of Monday afternoon, the Worth County Sheriff’s Office told CBS News.

Four people were killed across southern Florida in vehicle accidents, but counties have not yet determined whether they were a direct result of the storm.

At least 36 people were left dead in the storm’s wake across the Caribbean.

What’s happening in the Florida Keys?

The Navy is sending an aircraft carrier to Key West to provide emergency services. An update from Monroe County describes “an astounding recovery effort” taking place in the Florida Keys, where there was no water, power or cell phone service after the storm. The USS Lincoln aircraft carrier will be anchored off Key West to provide emergency services, and three other Navy vessels are en route. Officials said the National Guard has arrived in the island chain, and state transportation officials have cleared six of 42 bridges as safe for travel. However, roads remain closed because of debris.

White House Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert said in a Monday press briefing that residents would not be able to re-enter the Keys for weeks.

CBS Miami reporter David Sutta had difficulty describing the devastation across the Keys on Monday. “Best word I could say is war zone,” he said on Twitter. “People are walking to find family and friends. No one knows.” Sutta tweeted images across the string of islands that depicted destroyed mobile homes and wreckage from the storm.

Flight cancellations

Big airports in Florida remain closed, and flight cancellations are spreading along the track of Tropical Storm Irma outside Florida. More than 3,800 U.S. flights scheduled for Monday were canceled by late morning — and more than 9,000 since Saturday — according to tracking service FlightAware.

Delta Air Lines is scrapping 900 flights Monday, including many at its Atlanta hub. American Airlines said it won’t resume flights in Miami until at least Tuesday while canceling 300 flights in Charlotte, North Carolina, due to wind.

School closings

Florida Gov. Rick Scott ordered all schools in the state closed Monday, and CBS Miami reports schools in Miami-Dade and Broward County remain closed indefinitely. The schools first need to do a damage assessment and safety inspection, as well as cleanup after some schools acted as evacuation shelters. Schools and businesses were closed across Alabama as Irma moved inland. Many classrooms also were closed in Georgia as it was under a tropical storm warning much of Monday. Hotels across Alabama also filled up with evacuees from Florida.

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