Storm moves north past Florida, leaving a trail of debris, heavy downpours and power outages
Nearly two-thirds of Florida's 20 million residents were without power Monday after Tropical Storm Irma cut a destructive path through the state before churning north into Georgia.
Irma, which decimated the Caribbean as a top-tier Category 5 hurricane before losing strength after repeated landfalls in the continental U.S., was downgraded to a tropical storm Monday.
It was still dangerous, with high winds reaching up to 50 miles (80 kilometers) per hour, heavy downpours and tornado threats in Georgia's southwestern region, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Florida Governor Rick Scott said damage to the fourth-largest U.S. state was not as bad as previously predicted, but some areas had suffered extensive destruction, including the Florida Keys.
“I just hope everybody survived,” Scott said after flying over the archipelago Monday. “It’s horrible what we saw.”
The Department of Defense said in a statement Monday it has initiated response operations for the state of Florida while continuing such operations for the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
A total of 15,000 service members are supporting the relief operations, the department said.
Irma devastated the Caribbean, leaving entire islands uninhabitable and causing at least two dozen deaths before churning over Cuba and moving up to the continental U.S.
The hurricane triggered mass evacuations of historic proportions, with more than 6 million people asked to flee in Florida and neighboring states.
President Donald Trump on Sunday approved a major disaster designation for the state of Florida, making full federal assistance available for emergencies as well as when the eventual hard work of recovery begins.
The damage from Irma is estimated around $100 billion or 0.5 of a percentage point of U.S. GDP of $19 trillion.