Hurricane Irma continues to batter Florida coast despite weakening overnight

Keys Residents Eager to Return Home After Irma

"It's awful, what we saw", Scott said.

On the forecast track, the center of Irma will continue to move over southwestern Georgia Monday night and move into Alabama on Tuesday.

Jonathan Brubaker, 51, waited out the storm bunkered in a recently constructed house in Bradenton, on the state's west coast, with hurricane shutters drawn, flashlights and candles ready.

At its peak, the storm prompted evacuation orders for 6.5 million people in Florida, the largest evacuation in modern United States history.

Florida breathes sigh of relief Hurricane Irma, which has now been downgraded to Category 1, with maximum winds of 75 miles per hour, is now making its journey landwards, losing some of its deadly strength but retaining its vast size.

- 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 almost statewide. You know, you're going to get the wind and the rain on the east coast, but right now, it's impacting the Keys. How many people in the dangerously exposed, low-lying islands defied evacuation orders and stayed behind was unclear. Heavy rainfall also is possible, but the threat of flash flooding is low.

Irma's eye is expected to strike the Florida Keys, southwest Florida and the Tampa area, according to the National Hurricane Center. The National Hurricane Center reported that Irma will reach northern Florida earlier than expected and may also arrive in neighboring Georgia.

- Georgia was already feeling the effects of the storm, with more than 17,000 customers without power in Savannah. Tampa Bay could see surges of up to 5 to 8 feet.

Before and After Images Show Irma's Destruction
Before and After Images Show Irma's Destruction

"As soon as the wind shifts direction, the water will come back quickly and continue to move inland", CNN meteorologist Judson Jones said.

The islands of the Florida Keys and western parts of the state bore the brunt of the category-four hurricane. Authorities were set to begin house-to-house searches Monday to check on survivors. No injuries were reported in either case.

In the dark: According to state officials, more than 50,000 customers are without power in Monroe County, Florida, which includes the Keys. FEMA chief Brock Long has said some places won't have electricity for weeks.

Several major airports in Florida that halted passenger operations due to Irma began limited service on Tuesday, including Miami International, one of the busiest USA airports. The Department of Transportation said U.S. Highway 1 was closed in the Keys pending a complete assessment of the bridges.

- Disney World was forced to close, for only the sixth time in its 45-year history.

So far, Hurricane Irma has left 26 dead since it first made landfall on September 6 in the Caribbean islands.

"Pray, pray for everybody in Florida", Gov. Rick Scott said on "Fox News Sunday" as some 116,000 people statewide waited it out in shelters.

A tropical storm warning was issued for the first time ever in Atlanta, and school was cancelled in communities around the state.

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