Published: Wed, September 13, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

Irma Weakens to a Tropical Storm, But Danger Persists

Irma Weakens to a Tropical Storm, But Danger Persists

"This is going to be a frustrating event".

President Donald Trump has approved a major disaster declaration and emergency federal aid for Florida.

About 6.5 million homes in Florida, two thirds of the total, are without power after Hurricane Irma cut a deadly path through the USA state, officials say.

Most outages were in Florida Power & Light's service area in the southern and eastern parts of the state. While the city's mandatory evacuation orders were lifted on Tuesday, Jacksonville's mayor, Lenny Curry, warned that serious flooding continued.

"As little as six inches of moving water can knock you down", tweeted the state's governor Rick Scott following the downgrade.

Irma, meanwhile, was making its way north after making landfall on the southwestern coast of Florida.

"Obviously, power restoration is one of the biggest goals", he said.

State officials are raising the number of deaths in Florida from Hurricane Irma to 12 from the previous seven.

CNN meteorologist Judson Jones said the severity of the storm surge depended on which side of the storm Tampa was on.

The aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln arrived on Florida's east coast on Monday, and its helicopters were put to use assessing the damage to the Keys.

The storm is expected to move north Monday, heading toward Fort Myers and Tampa.

Insured property losses in Florida from Irma were expected to run from $20 billion to $40 billion, catastrophe modeling firm AIR Worldwide estimated.

People from the Lower Keys faced a longer wait with a roadblock in place where the highway to farther-away islands was washed out by the storm.

"It's terrible, what we saw", Scott said. We're going to need volunteers to help us distribute food. People have asked what can we do, the first thing I tell them is pray, pray for everybody in Florida. Road repairs were promised in the coming days.

A 55-year-old man died Monday in Tampa, Florida, while using a chainsaw in a tree during storm cleanup, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said.

Wind gusts of almost 50 miles per hour (80 kph) were reported in the mountains, and the Blue Ridge Parkway closed Monday afternoon because of high winds, which cut off access to Mount Mitchell State Park.

A man was found dead in Winter Garden, Florida, after being electrocuted by a downed power line, local police said. That risk extended to the coast of Georgia and parts of SC, the hurricane centre said.

"There is imminent danger of life-threatening storm surge flooding along much of the Florida west coast, including the Florida Keys, where a storm surge warning is in effect", the hurricane center said. Indian-Americans who own hotels have opened up their unreserved rooms and in many cases their banquet halls have been converted into makeshift dormitories for those who left their homes in Florida to escape from the wrath of the hurricane.

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