Irma downgraded but troubles remain

Floridians awoke Monday no longer with a hurricane overhead, but more than 6.2 million homes and businesses did not have power and flooding concerns continued nearly statewide.

And the relief effort from Hurricane Irma --- now a tropical storm --- was just beginning.

In requesting federal disaster relief Sunday, Gov. Rick Scott said the state had already spent $75 million on Irma. President Donald Trump later approved the request.

Scott drove from Pensacola to Mobile, Ala., Monday morning to catch a flight aboard a U.S. Coast Guard C-130 for an aerial tour of the Florida Keys, according to his office. The plan is to drop off damage assessment teams in Key West before traveling to Opa-locka in the afternoon.

Scott also announced that once the Department of Transportation clears road access to Port Everglades and Port Tampa, the Florida Highway Patrol will start to escort fuel trucks to gas stations.

State government offices are closed, as are public schools and state college and universities.

Irma, after making landfall Sunday in the Florida Keys and Southwest Florida as a major storm, was downgraded to a tropical storm, with 70 mph winds as it went up the Gulf Coast into North Florida.

“Hurricane Irma downgraded to tropical storm, continues to weaken as the center moves along the northwestern coast of the Florida peninsula,” the state Division of Emergency Management posted on its website early Monday.

For a bit of positive news, the state agency added, “Hurricane Jose does not pose a threat to Florida ...”

Irma, however, continued to be a threat as it crossed the northern part of the state and because of lingering storm surges along both coasts.

Storm surge warnings were in place for Tampa Bay, from the South Santee River in South Carolina to the Flagler/Volusia County line on the Atlantic Coast and from Cape Sable northward to the Ochlockonee River on the Gulf of Mexico.

At 9 a.m., more than 200,000 people were in 587 shelters across the state.

Also, more than 70 percent of the customers of the two largest electric utilities in Florida were without power, according to the State Emergency Response Team.

Florida Power & Light, the largest utility in the state, reported 3.6 million customer accounts were out. Most of the outages were in Southeast Florida.

St. Petersburg-based Duke Energy, with nearly 1.8 customer accounts, was working to restore power to 1.2 million customers.
Tampa Electric reported more than 300,000 accounts had been knocked offline.

More than 800,000 were without power in Miami-Dade County. Palm Beach County had more than 500,000 offline.

Nearly 400,000 were out in Pinellas County.

Collier, Lee, Volusia, Brevard and Hillsborough counties each had more than 200,000 customers in the dark.

Meanwhile, flooding appears widespread.

Scott tweeted that Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission law-enforcement officers were dispatched to Northeast Florida over flooding concerns.

“We will continue to work with (Jacksonville) Mayor @lennycurry to make sure everyone is safe,” Scott tweeted about 9 a.m.

In Mayport, a surge of 5.5 feet was reported. Jacksonville reported flash flooding in the downtown area. A storm surge of 3 feet was reported along the St. Johns River near the Interstate 295 Bridge.


Information provided by The News Service of Florida.