Over 6.6 million without power in US Southeast after Irma - utilities

Over 6.6 million without power in US Southeast after Irma - utilities

Irma hit Florida on Sunday morning as a risky Category 4 storm, the second highest level on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale.

At least 7 million homes and businesses were left without power in the southeastern United States-mostly in Florida, Reuters reported, citing state and local utilities.

Another hurricane, named Jose, has already strengthened to an "extremely risky category 4" storm, the National Hurricane Center said on Friday. People have asked what can we do, the first thing I tell them is pray, pray for everybody in Florida.

Governor Rick Scott said there was serious threat of "significant storm surge flooding" along the entire west coast of Florida. "It's awful, what we saw".

Despite the weakened hurricane, Masters suggested Irma will become among the five most costly hurricanes in the country's history - behind 2005's Hurricane Katrina, 2012's Sandy and this year's Hurricane Harvey that hit Texas and Louisiana. It's likely to come ashore Sunday. Florida is the nation's third largest state with almost 21 million residents.

An image of a flight radar map, as shared by an ABC News journalist on Twitter, shows planes largely avoiding Florida and south Georgia. That includes Hilton Head Island, the most populous of the islands with about 40,000 residents. It's a category 1 hurricane with winds of 75 miles per hour and, because of wind shear, may weaken to a tropical storm later Tuesday.

Irma battered the Florida Keys and wreaked havoc the length of the Florida peninsula.

A high wind watch was issued for parts of the Midlands, however according to the National Weather Service in Columbia, this should be treated as a tropical storm watch. Parts of the state could see storm surges as high as 15 feet, NBC reports, with some neighborhoods totally submerged. About 5,000 of the Keys' 30,000 permanent residents stayed to ride out the storm, Florida Keys spokesman Andy Newman said.

Last October, Hurricane Matthew knocked out 1.2 million FPL customers as it skirted Florida's east coast without making landfall.

In Florida, television news crews recorded looters and they were promptly arrested, those sheltered in a hotel were serenaded by actress Kirsten Bell, and even manatees stranded on mudflats are getting rescued by hardy volunteers.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida says the EPA personnel he's spoken with seem "generally positive" about the prospects for toxic sites remaining secure in the coming hurricane.

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