Irma weakens into a tropical depression

Tybee Island resident Joe Murphy wipes the sweat off his face while standing in knee deep water from Tropical Storm Irma outside his house, Monday, Sept., 11, 2017, on Tybee Island, Ga. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

TAMPA, Florida (AP) — The National Hurricane Center says Irma has weakened into a tropical depression. The storm, located about five miles west of Columbus, Georgia, is still bringing heavy rain to the U.S. Southeast on Monday night.

Boats and buildings are damaged in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, in Key Largo, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Irma is expected to drop two to five inches of rain across South Carolina and northern portions of Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi. The storm’s top sustained winds are 35 mph, and it is moving northwest at 15 mph.

The hurricane center has discontinued all storm surge and tropical storm warnings.

The storm wreaked havoc in Florida from the southernmost point to areas near the Georgia line, with homes and cars swamped, trees flattened, boats cast onto roads in the Florida Keys and streets underwater in many places. Irma also snapped miles upon miles of power lines and toppled three massive construction cranes over Miami and Fort Lauderdale.

More than 400 miles from where Irma first came ashore, storm surge brought heavy flooding to Jacksonville on the Atlantic coast on Monday. The flooding broke a 1964 record by at least a foot.

Authorities say a Florida man appears to have been electrocuted by a downed power line following Irma. Winter Park police spokesman Garvin McComie says officers responded Monday morning following reports of a man lying in the roadway.

The storm has been blamed for more than 40 deaths, including six in Florida.

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“Stay inside unless you are in danger due to flooding,” the forecasters warned.

In nearby Clay County, crews pulled at least 46 people from flooded homes, and still more were stranded, said emergency operations manager Joe Ward.

As of midmorning, Irma’s outer bands were also blowing into Georgia, where the storm’s center was expected to arrive later in the day. From there, Irma is expected to push into Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee on Tuesday and Wednesday.

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

More than 200,000 people waited in shelters across Florida. Nearly 4.5 million homes and businesses statewide lost power, and utility officials said it will take weeks to restore electricity to everyone. More than 100,000 were in the dark in Georgia.

The monster storm arrived in Florida on Sunday morning as a fearsome Category 4 hurricane but weakened rapidly in the evening and overnight.

People in the heavily populated Tampa-St. Petersburg area were braced for its first direct hit from a major hurricane since 1921. But by the time it rolled through in the middle of the night Monday, it was down to a moderate Category 2, with winds around 100 mph or less.

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Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said the situation was not as bad as it could have been but warned residents that dangerous storm surge continued. He also reported downed power lines and other debris.

“What we feared the most was the surge,” he said on MSNBC. “The surge is yet to be finished.”

In Redington Shores west of Tampa, Carl Roberts spent a sleepless night riding out Irma in his 17th-floor beachfront condo. After losing power late Sunday, he made it through the worst of the storm shaken but unhurt.

“The hurricane winds lashed the shutters violently, throughout the night,” he wrote in a text message, “making sleep impossible.”

As morning broke, he couldn’t open the electric shutters to see outside.

Many communities in Irma’s wake feared what destruction would be revealed as daylight allowed authorities to canvass neighborhoods.

Video from the Keys showed a pickup truck zig-zagging over the center line to avoid several boats tossed onto the asphalt. Nearby, houses were shoved from their foundations, and uprooted trees and other debris blocked a road.

Authorities were set to begin house-to-house searches in the Keys to check on victims. About 30,000 people heeded orders to evacuate the low-lying islands as the storm closed in, but an untold number refused.

In this daytime view, NOAA’s GOES East satellite shows Tropical Storm Irma centered over central Florida on Sept. 11 at 10:45 a.m. EDT (1445 UTC) with its cloud cover extending far into the southern U.S.
Credits: NASA/NOAA GOES Project

East of Tampa, winds knocked a utility pole and power lines onto a sheriff’s cruiser late Sunday in Polk County. A deputy and a paramedic, who had just escorted an elderly patient to safety, were trapped for two hours until a crew could free them. Both were unhurt.

And more than 120 homes were being evacuated early Monday in Orange County, just outside Orlando, as floodwaters started to pour in. Firefighters and National Guardsmen went door-to-door and used boats to ferry families to safety.

A few miles away, 30 others had to be evacuated when a 60-foot sinkhole opened up under an apartment building. No injuries were reported.

Associated Press writers Seth Borenstein in Washington; Terry Spencer in Palm Beach County; Gary Fineout in Tallahassee; Terrance Harris and Claire Galofaro in Orlando; and Jason Dearen and David Fischer in Miami contributed to this report.