TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - Hurricane Irma weakened into a still-dangerous tropical storm Monday as it pushed inland, triggering record flooding in Florida’s northeastern corner, while rescuers in its long, soggy wake struggled to reach victims and learn the full extent of the damage.
The storm engulfed nearly all of Florida, from the state’s southernmost point up to the Georgia line, from the Atlantic coast to the Gulf side. It swamped homes, uprooted massive trees, flooded streets, cast boats ashore, snapped miles of power lines and toppled construction cranes.
“How are we going to survive from here?” asked Gwen Bush, who waded through thigh-deep floodwaters outside her central Florida home to reach National Guard rescuers and get a ride to a shelter. “What’s going to happen now? I just don’t know.”
More than 6.5 million homes and businesses statewide lost power, and 220,000 people huddled in shelters. Officials warned it could take weeks for electricity to be restored to everyone.
One death in Florida, that of a man killed in an auto accident during the storm, was blamed on Irma. At least 36 people were left dead in the storm’s wake across the Caribbean.
By Monday morning, Irma - at one point the most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the open Atlantic, with winds up to 185 mph (298 kph) - was downgraded to a tropical storm. By early afternoon, it was pushing into Georgia with winds of 60 mph (97 kph).
Irma’s wrath in the Sunshine State extended some 400 miles.
In the Keys, where the storm roared ashore Sunday morning with winds of 130 mph (209 kph), video showed houses shoved from their foundations and boats tossed onto the pavement.
Emergency managers there declared “the Keys are not open for business” and warned that there was no fuel, electricity, running water or cell service and that supplies were low and anxiety high.