Hurricane Irma has been downgraded to a tropical storm this morning as it continues to batter Florida with winds, torrential rain and dangerous storm surges. The storm has killed at least five and left nearly 6 million without power in the state.
Irma is headed northwest toward Tallahassee and is expected to move tonight into Georgia and Alabama with heavy rain and winds. A tornado watch has also been issued in Florida from Daytona Beach to Jacksonville and into Georgia through Savannah.
The storm has dumped massive amounts of rain in Brunswick, Georgia, as well as the Florida cities of Daytona Beach, Orlando, Melbourne and Gainesville causing flash flooding in several of those areas.
A record storm surge was reported this morning in Jacksonville, exceeding the previous record set by Hurricane Dora in 1964. A flash flood warning is in effect for Jacksonville this morning as water is expected to flow into the city from the St. Johns River.
As of this morning, 125 rescues have been made from floodwaters in Orange County, Florida, officials said.
In Lakeland, Florida, police officers rescued a family with two young children who were stranded in a car that was submerged in about 4 feet of water in a ditch.
“In the car they found two adults and two small children, ages six months and ten months old,” the police said. “The water had reached the kids car seats. Thankfully, all were not injured and officers were able to safely get them out of the car.”
Irma first made landfall in the Florida Keys Sunday morning as a Category 4 hurricane, bringing 130 mph winds and a storm surge of 10 feet. It was the first Category 4 landfall in Florida since 2004.
The Keys were under mandatory evacuation orders as Irma neared, but not everyone left.
In an interview with ABC News, Roman Gastesi the administrator of Monroe County, which includes the Keys, said officials will begin house-by-house searches today.
“Unfortunately, you start to hear stories of folks that stayed in houses that shouldn’t,” Gastesi said. “We’re hearing of folks that stayed in boats,” Gastesi said.
According to the Miami Herald, Florida Director of Emergency Management Bryan Koon estimates that about 10,000 people remained in the Keys during the storm but it is hard to communicate with those left there.
“We don’t have a comprehensive insight into what the damage is,” Koon said late Sunday, “We will work on those at first light.”