Floridians return to shattered homes as Irma crosses into Georgia

FLORIDA CITY/MARCO ISLAND, Fla., Sept 11 (Reuters) - Shocked Florida residents returned to their shattered homes on Monday as the weakened Hurricane Irma pushed inland, flooding cities in the northeastern part of the state and leaving millions without power.

Downgraded to a tropical storm early on Monday, Irma had ranked as one of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes recorded. It cut power to millions of people and ripped roofs off homes as it hit a wide swath of Florida on Sunday and Monday and moved into neighboring states.

Authorities said the storm had killed 39 people in the Caribbean and one in Florida, a man found dead in a pickup truck that had crashed into a tree in high winds on the Florida Keys over the weekend.

27 PHOTOS
Hurricane Irma spreads destruction across Florida
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Hurricane Irma spreads destruction across Florida
A man died when his pickup truck crashed into a tree in the Florida Keys during Hurricane Irma in Florida, U.S. in this handout photo obtained by Reuters September 10, 2017. Monroe County Sheriff� Department/Handout via REUTERS REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.??
The crumbled canopy of a gas station damaged by Hurricane Irma is seen in Bonita Springs, Florida, U.S., September 10, 2017. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston
Flood water from Hurricane Irma surround a damaged mobile home in Bonita Springs, Florida, U.S., September 10, 2017. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston
The crumbled canopy of a gas station damaged by Hurricane Irma is seen in Bonita Springs, Florida, U.S., September 10, 2017. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston
A collapsed construction crane is seen in Downtown Miami as Hurricane Irma arrives at south Florida, September 10, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A local resident walks across a flooded street in downtown Miami as Hurricane Irma arrives at south Florida, U.S. September 10, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A boat rack storage facility lays destroyed after Hurricane Irma blew though Hollywood, Florida, U.S., September 10, 2017. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
A smoke shop lays destroyed after Hurricane Irma blew though Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S., September 10, 2017. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Thomas Sanz clears a fallen branch as Hurricane Irma passes Miami, Florida, U.S. September 10, 2017. REUTERS/Stephen Yang
Mailboxes down caused by Hurricane Irma's strong winds and rain in The Vineyards in Monarch Lakes in West Miramar Sunday afternoon, Sept. 10, 2017. As the hurricane moved north up the Gulf coast, it brought violent weather to South Florida. (Taimy Alvarez/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
Palm Bay officer Dustin Terkoski walks over debris from a two-story home at Palm Point Subdivision in Brevard County after a tornado touched down on Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017. (Red Huber, Orlando Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
Brickell Avenue in Miami, Fla. was flooded after Hurricane Irma on Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017. (Mike Stocker/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
The Vineyards in Monarch Lake resident Syed Ali takes pictures of down tree limbs in his neighbor's front yard after Hurricane Irma left the Miramar community, sparing it from major damage other than down trees, branches and mailboxes on Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017. 'Thank God it didn't fall on either of our houses,' said Ali. (Taimy Alvarez/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
Brickell Avenue in Miami, Fla. was flooded after Hurricane Irma on Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017. (Mike Stocker/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
Flooding in the Brickell neighborhood as Hurricane Irma passes Miami, Florida, U.S. September 10, 2017. REUTERS/Stephen Yang
Flooding in the Brickell neighborhood as Hurricane Irma passes Miami, Florida, U.S. September 10, 2017. REUTERS/Stephen Yang
Flooding near the Hard Rock Stadium as Hurricane Irma passes Miami, Florida, U.S. September 10, 2017. REUTERS/Stephen Yang
Flooding in the Brickell neighborhood as Hurricane Irma passes Miami, Florida, U.S. September 10, 2017. REUTERS/Stephen Yang
Flooding in the Brickell neighborhood as Hurricane Irma passes Miami, Florida, U.S. September 10, 2017. REUTERS/Stephen Yang
Fallen trees and flooded streets from Hurricane Irma are pictured in Marco Island, Florida, U.S. in this handout photo obtained by Reuters September 10, 2017. Marco Island Police Department/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.??
Flooding in the Brickell neighborhood as Hurricane Irma passes Miami, Florida, U.S. September 10, 2017. REUTERS/Stephen Yang
Boats are seen at a marina in Coconut Grove as Hurricane Irma arrives at south Florida, in Miami, Florida, U.S., September 10, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Boats are seen at a marina in Coconut Grove as Hurricane Irma arrives at south Florida, in Miami, Florida, U.S., September 10, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
A partially submerged car is seen at a flooded area in Coconut Grove as Hurricane Irma arrives at south Florida, in Miami, Florida, U.S., September 10, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Boats are seen at a marina in Coconut Grove as Hurricane Irma arrives at south Florida, in Miami, Florida, U.S., September 10, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Palm trees blow in the winds of hurricane Irma in Bonita Springs, Florida, northeast of Naples, on September 10, 2017. Hurricane Irma regained strength to a Category 4 storm early as it began pummeling Florida and threatening landfall within hours. / AFP PHOTO / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
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With sustained winds of up to 60 mph (100 kph), Irma had crossed into Georgia and was located about 47 miles (76 km)northeast of the Florida state capital Tallahassee, the National Hurricane Center said at 2 p.m. ET (1800 GMT).

In Miami's Little Haiti neighborhood, people returned to the wreckage of trailers shredded by the storm after the city escaped the worst of Irma's winds but experienced heavy flooding.

Melida Hernandez, 67, who had ridden out the storm at a nearby church, found her home split down the middle by a tree.

"I wanted to cry, but this is what it is, this is life," Hernandez said.

High winds snapped power lines and left about 7.3 million homes and businesses without power in Florida and elsewhere in the U.S. Southeast, state officials and utilities said. They said it could take weeks to complete repairs.

Miami International Airport, one of the busiest in the country, halted passenger flights through at least Monday.

Police in Miami-Dade County said they had made 29 arrests for looting and burglary. Fort Lauderdale police said they had arrested 19 people for looting.

Some residents who had evacuated the Florida Keys archipelago, where Irma roared ashore on Sunday with winds up to 130 mph (209 kph), grew angry as they tried to return to their homes on Monday.

A few dozen people argued with police who turned them away from the first of a series of bridges leading to the island chain, which officials warned still lacked power, water and cellphone service.

White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert said it might be weeks before many residents of the Keys were able to return. "The Keys are going to take a while," Bossert told a regular White House briefing. "I would expect that the Keys are not fit for re-entry for regular citizenry for weeks."  

Irma hit Florida after powering through the Caribbean as a rare Category 5 hurricane. It killed 39 people there, including 10 in Cuba, which was battered over the weekend by ferocious winds and 36-foot (11-meter) waves.

16 PHOTOS
Impact of Hurricane Irma on Caribbean islands
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Impact of Hurricane Irma on Caribbean islands
People pick up debris as Hurricane Irma howled past Puerto Rico after thrashing several smaller Caribbean islands, in Fajardo, Puerto Rico September 6, 2017. REUTERS/Alvin Baez
An aerial photography taken and released by the Dutch department of Defense on September 6, 2017 shows the damage of Hurricane Irma in Philipsburg, on the Dutch Caribbean island of Sint Maarten. Hurricane Irma sowed a trail of deadly devastation through the Caribbean on Wednesday, reducing to rubble the tropical islands of Barbuda and St Martin. / AFP PHOTO / ANP / Gerben VAN ES / Netherlands OUT / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT 'AFP PHOTO / DUTCH DEFENSE MINISTRY/GERBEN VAN ES' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - NO ARCHIVES - NO SALE- DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS (Photo credit should read GERBEN VAN ES/AFP/Getty Images)
Hurricane Irma, ranked as one of the most powerful Atlantic storms in a century, churns across the Atlantic Ocean past Puerto Rico over Dominican Republic in this NASA GOES satellite image taken at 1715 EDT (2115 GMT) on September 6, 2017. Courtesy NASA/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY
Fallen trees block a street as Hurricane Irma howls past Puerto Rico after thrashing several smaller Caribbean islands, in Fajardo, Puerto Rico September 6, 2017. REUTERS/Alvin Baez
A man reacts in the winds and rain as Hurricane Irma slammed across islands in the northern Caribbean on Wednesday, in Luquillo, Puerto Rico September 6, 2017. REUTERS/Alvin Baez TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
An aerial photography taken and released by the Dutch department of Defense on September 6, 2017 shows the damage of Hurricane Irma in Philipsburg, on the Dutch Caribbean island of Sint Maarten. Hurricane Irma sowed a trail of deadly devastation through the Caribbean on Wednesday, reducing to rubble the tropical islands of Barbuda and St Martin. / AFP PHOTO / ANP / Gerben van Es / Netherlands OUT / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT 'AFP PHOTO / DUTCH DEFENSE MINISTRY/GERBEN VAN ES' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - NO ARCHIVES - NO SALE- DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS (Photo credit should read GERBEN VAN ES/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - An aerial photography taken and released by the Dutch department of Defense on September 6, 2017 shows the damage of Hurricane Irma in Philipsburg, on the Dutch Caribbean island of Sint Maarten. Hurricane Irma sowed a trail of deadly devastation through the Caribbean on Wednesday, reducing to rubble the tropical islands of Barbuda and St Martin. / AFP PHOTO / ANP / Gerben van Es / Netherlands OUT / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT 'AFP PHOTO / DUTCH DEFENSE MINISTRY/GERBEN VAN ES' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - NO ARCHIVES - NO SALE- DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS (Photo credit should read GERBEN VAN ES/AFP/Getty Images)
Yves (L) removes items from his roof in preparation for the arrival of Hurricane Irma in Lauriers neighborhood of Cap-Haitien, on September 6, 2017, 240 km from Port-au-Prince. / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMAL (Photo credit should read HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images)
Search and rescue crew members clears a fallen tree over a road during a search mission as hurricane Irma hits Puerto Rico in Fajardo on September 6,2017. Irma is expected to reach the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico by nightfall on September 6. / AFP PHOTO / Ricardo ARDUENGO (Photo credit should read RICARDO ARDUENGO/AFP/Getty Images)
Search and rescue crew members clears a fallen tree during a search mission as hurricane Irma hits Puerto Rico in Fajardo on September 6, 2017. Irma is expected to reach the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico by nightfall on September 6. / AFP PHOTO / Ricardo ARDUENGO (Photo credit should read RICARDO ARDUENGO/AFP/Getty Images)
A bulldozer cleans debris in a canal, in Cap-Haitien, on September 6, 2017, 240 km from Port-au-Prince, in preparation before the arrival of Hurricane Irma. Some people in Cap-Haitien still do not have information on the arrival of Hurricane Irma and many others do not know what to do or where to go to take shelter. / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMAL (Photo credit should read HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images)
People take shelter in a school as Hurricane Irma slammed across islands in the northern Caribbean on Wednesday, in Fajardo, Puerto Rico September 6, 2017. REUTERS/Alvin Baez
Children in a low-income neighborhood carry containers for water as Hurricane Irma slammed across islands in the northern Caribbean on Wednesday, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic September 6, 2017. REUTERS/Ricardo Rojas
TOPSHOT - Jean looks at the sea from a house where he is working in the neighborhood of Aviation in Cap-Haitien, Haiti, on September 7, 2017. Hurricane Irma is barrelling past Haiti towards the Turks and Caicos Islands, and then the Bahamas. Irma has produced sustained winds at 295kph (183mph) for more than 33 hours, making it the longest-lasting, top-intensity cyclone ever recorded, France's weather service said Thursday. / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMAL (Photo credit should read HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images)
FAJARDO, PUERTO RICO - SEPTEMBER 06: Debris is seen during a storm surge near the Puerto Chico Harbor during the passing of Hurricane Irma on September 6, 2017 in Fajardo, Puerto Rico. The category 5 storm is expected to pass over Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands today, and make landfall in Florida by the weekend. (Photo by Jose Jimenez/Getty Images)
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A week earlier Hurricane Harvey flooded a wide swath of Houston. Nearly three months remain in the official Atlantic hurricane season.

Northeastern Florida cities including Jacksonville were flooding on Monday, with police pulling residents from waist-deep water.

"Stay inside. Go up. Not out," Jacksonville's website warned residents. "There is flooding throughout the city."

The city also warned residents to be wary of snakes and alligators driven into the floodwater.

11 PHOTOS
Miami zoo animals sheltered for Hurricane Irma
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Miami zoo animals sheltered for Hurricane Irma
Flamingos take refuge in a shelter ahead of the downfall of Hurricane Irma at the zoo in Miami, Florida, U.S. September 9, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
Cheetahs are photographed in a shelter ahead of the downfall of Hurricane Irma at the zoo in Miami, Florida, U.S. September 9, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
An American white pelican and brown pelicans take refuge in a shelter ahead of the downfall of Hurricane Irma at the zoo in Miami, Florida, U.S. September 9, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
A macaw parrot looks out of it's cage after being put into a shelter ahead of the downfall of Hurricane Irma at the zoo in Miami, Florida, U.S. September 9, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
Flamingos take refuge in a shelter ahead of the downfall of Hurricane Irma at the zoo in Miami, Florida, U.S. September 9, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
Brown pelicans and an American white pelican take refuge in a shelter ahead of the downfall of Hurricane Irma at the zoo in Miami, Florida, U.S. September 9, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
Senior keeper Jennifer Nelson walks a cheetah to a shelter ahead of the downfall of Hurricane Irma at the Miami Zoo in Miami, Florida, U.S. September 9, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
Cheetahs are photographed in a shelter ahead of the downfall of Hurricane Irma at the zoo in Miami, Florida, U.S. September 9, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
An African crested porcupine is moved into a shelter ahead of the downfall of Hurricane Irma at the zoo in Miami, Florida, U.S. September 9, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
An African grey parrot is moved into a shelter ahead of the downfall of Hurricane Irma at the zoo in Miami, Florida, U.S. September 9, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
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BILLIONS IN DAMAGE

The storm did some $20 billion to $40 billion in damage to insured property as it tore through Florida, catastrophe modeling firm AIR Worldwide estimated.

That estimate, lower than earlier forecasts of up to $50 billion in insured losses, helped spur a relief rally on Wall Street as fears eased that Irma would cut into U.S. economic growth.

Shares of insurance companies were among the big winners, with Florida-based Federated National, HCI Group and Universal Insurance all up more than 12 percent.

Some 6.5 million people, about one-third of Florida's population, had been ordered to evacuate their homes ahead of Irma's arrival. More than 200,000 people sought refuge in about 700 shelters, according to state data.

As shelters began to empty on Monday, some 7,000 people filed out of Germain Arena in Estero, south of Fort Myers. The crowd included Don Sciarretta, who rode out the storm with his 90-year-old friend, Elsie Johnston, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease.

Sciarretta, 73, spent two days without sleep, holding up a slumped-over Johnston and making sure she did not fall out of her chair. He relied on other people in the shelter to bring the pair food, often after waiting in hours-long lines.

"For the next storm, I'll go somewhere on my own like a hotel or a friend's house," Sciarretta said. "I'm not going through this again."

Shelters across western Florida opened, filled up – and often closed because of overcrowding – after the storm made a western shift on Saturday.

U.S. President Donald Trump, attending a ceremony at the Pentagon on the 16th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, vowed a full response to Irma as well as ongoing federal support for victims of Hurricane Harvey, which flooded Texas.

"These are storms of catastrophic severity and we are marshaling the full resources of the federal government to help our fellow Americans," Trump said.

On Marco Island, where the storm made its second landfall on Sunday, residents were cleaning up damaged homes and dealing with the downed trees that knocked out power lines and crushed cars.

Salvatore Carvelli, Jr., 45, rode out the storm in DaVinci's, his Italian restaurant.

"It sounded like a train going through," Carvelli said.

The winds tore the air conditioner from his restaurant's roof, he said, adding that the storm surge added to the danger.

"There was no road that you could see," Carvelli said. "The parking lot was gone, you could fish."

 

 

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