Irma weakens to tropical storm, but still packs a punch

Power outages from Hurricane Irma dropped to over 6.6 million in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Alabama by late Tuesday morning from nearly 6.8 million earlier in the day, according to local utilities.

Daylight brought an opportunity to assess the damage in South Florida, although the full extent of the devastation remains unclear.

"As of this afternoon, we have restored more than 350,000 outages in the midst of Hurricane Irma, primarily as a result of the $3 billion invested over the past decade to make our electric system stronger and smarter", the utility noted in its statement.

The islands of the Florida Keys and western parts of the state bore the brunt of the category-four hurricane.

Two people are reported dead in Georgia as a result of Tropical Storm Irma's heavy winds and rain.

Irma strengthened to a Category 4 storm as it closed in on the island chain known as the Florida Keys, the US National Hurricane Center said early Sunday. Last week it killed at least 37 people as it crossed the Caribbean.

A Key Largo restaurant and bar called Snappers - where Weir had interviewed people on Thursday as the storm was still days away - is now "completely gone", Weir said.

The first job rescue services will have to do is to test the integrity of the 42 bridges linking the Keys.

The storm gradually lost strength, weakening to a tropical storm on Monday morning as it moved towards southern Georgia, the National Hurricane Center said. Nonetheless, barrier islands like Marco Island, near Naples, reported rising flood water and a loss of electricity and drinking water, authorities said. "We feel the building swaying all the time", he said by phone to Reuters, relaying his view from the 35th floor of his apartment tower.

In a NOAA reconnaissance mission, a plane flew through the eye wall to gather data on the storm, recording winds of 139 miles per hour at sea level. President Donald Trump later approved the request.

Some residents refused to follow the evacuation order and were out on the streets Monday, walking dogs and evaluating the damage to their town.

Meanwhile, in Miami-Dade County police announced the arrest of 28 people for robbery and looting.

  • Gwendolyn Kim