Florida was right to prepare for the worst

Hide Caption Show Caption Gov. Deal shared this image on Twitter surveying damage in north Georgia

Hide Caption Show Caption Gov. Deal shared this image on Twitter surveying damage in north Georgia

MIAMI | After battering its way up Florida's Gulf Coast, Hurricane Irma was downgraded to a tropical storm Monday morning.

Some Florida residents started returning to their homes Tuesday in the aftermath of the widespread destruction spawned by Hurricane Irma, but officials warned the recovery would be frustrating and lengthy.

Damage was still being assessed in the Florida Keys: the island chain remained somewhat cut off from communication after highways into the area were rendered impassable by the storm.

Damaged sail boats are shown in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in the Florida Keys.

After the Keys, Irma crossed over warm waters and hit the USA mainland near the beach town of Marco Island. The ocean storm had been the strongest kind of hurricane - a Category 5 - as it moved through the Caribbean area last week.

Florida Power & Light (FPL), the state's largest electric utility, said more than 800,000 customers are without power in Miami-Dade County, alone.

A man was found dead in Winter Garden, Florida, after being electrocuted by a downed power line, local police said.

More than two million people were also left without power across the state, which is home to President Trump's famous resort, Mar-a-Lago, located in Palm Beach on the east side of the state. Chatham County, which includes Savannah, sustained massive flooding due to the storm, a surge of 4.7 feet and a high tide, known locally as a king tide.

While the projected track showed Irma raking the state's Gulf Coast, forecasters warned that the entire Florida peninsula - including the Miami metropolitan area of 6 million people - was in extreme danger from the monstrous storm, nearly 400 miles (640 kilometers) wide. "This is an extremely unsafe and life-threatening situation".

"It's going to take some time to let people back into their homes, particularly in the Florida Keys", said Brock Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami said the storm made landfall at 3:35 p.m.

Parts of Georgia lost power on Monday as Irma passed.

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster on Sunday night issued a mandatory evacuation for some barrier islands, CNN reported. It gradually weakened to a tropical storm by Monday morning. Schools in the state planned to close Monday. The previous flood record was 4 feet.

Irma comes just days after Hurricane Harvey dumped record-setting rain in Texas, causing unprecedented flooding, killing at least 60 people and leaving an estimated $180-billion in property damage in its wake.

The reproduction of the story/photograph in any form will be liable for legal action. We'll be digging out of Irma damage for years, too.

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