MILLIONS WITHOUT POWER High winds snapped power lines and left about 5.8 million Florida homes and businesses without power, data from the state showed numerous evacuation orders extended until at least Monday due in part to flooding, massive power outages and downed electric lines, leaving residents unable to return to their homes to survey any damage. TV news video of damage in Naples, a city on the Gulf coast about 125 miles (200 km) northwest of Miami, showed buildings ripped apart by winds and streets flooded by rain and storm surges.
Irma, the most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean, has been downgraded to a tropical depression as it advanced through the southeastern United States, the National Hurricane Centre (NHC) announced.
Miami International Airport, one of the busiest in the country, halted passenger flights through at least on Monday.
In the dark: According to state officials, more than 50,000 customers are without power in Monroe County, Florida, which includes the Keys.
According to Florida's Division of Emergency Management some 5.6 million residents have been ordered to evacuate - almost a quarter of the state population.
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"A few businesses in Naples" downtown area, used sandbags against the doors in order to keep water out, while some boarded up the windows in preparation of Hurricane Irma.
Senterfitt told a teleconference a large airborne relief operation was being prepared by the Air Force and Air National Guard to take help to the chain of islands, which are linked by a dramatic series of bridges and causeways from Key Largo nearly 100 miles (160 km) southwest to the picturesque town of Key West.
The state's largest city, Miami, was spared the brunt of the storm but was still battered. He also described downed power lines and other debris. Miami Beach barred outsiders from the island. The Upstate and the southern Mountains of North Carolina and northeast Georgia are under a high wind watch and heavy rain remains in the forecast.
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 eye of Irma passed over Barbuda, a tiny Caribbean island of about 1,800 people, on Wednesday, destroying telecommunication systems and cell towers.
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"Irma is moving toward the north-northwest near 18 miles per hour (30 km/h) and this motion is expected to continue through Tuesday", the NHC said in its 05:00am Eastern update.
While the projected track showed Irma raking the state's Gulf Coast, forecasters warned that the entire state - including the Miami metropolitan area of 6 million people - was in danger because of the sheer size of the storm. Some 200,000 were housed in shelters during the storm, according to federal officials.
In the central province of Villa Clara, storm surge caused coastal waters to rise more than 500 meters inland, Xinhua news agency reported.
Hurricane Irma weakened as it pummeled Florida - but the storm still packed a powerful punch, spawning torrential downpours, tornadoes and flash floods.
The flooding in north Florida was happening as Irma was downgraded to a tropical storm, moving north toward Georgia.
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"Take action now to protect your life", the National Weather Service in Key West advised.