About 5.8 million without power in US Southeast after Irma - utilities

Officials Urge Patience as Florida Towns Re-Open After Irma

Hurricane Irma to batter Florida Peninsula through the night

Editor's note: This is a developing story that is being constantly updated as the storm progresses.

So far, there has been 61 confirmed deaths caused by Hurricane Irma, with 38 in the Caribbean and 23 in the U.S. as of Wednesday, according to the Associated Press.

"That's why we don't want people to, en masse, return down here to the Keys".

Irma is already uprooting trees and turning streets into rivers. "Then we'll slowly start to clear out as we head into Wednesday", Kovacik said. Irma made landfall in the Florida Keys and on the Florida Peninsula on Sunday, rapidly weakening as it moved northwards into Georgia and Alabama.

The storm's impact was widespread.

"People need to understand this is going to take perhaps weeks, not days, in some areas", he said.

Given the duration of rough surf, extensive beach erosion can occur along the East Coast.

Those with power restored include more than 300,000 customers in metro Atlanta. "This is a life-threatening situation".

He added that all of Florida's 309 hospitals now have power or are running on generator power. But as the storm neared, some Floridians hunkered down rather than hitting the road.

"It's going to take some time to get it back to what it was used to be".

Transportation officials said two sections of United States 1 that were washed away by Irma, one at mile marker 37 and the other at mile marker 75, have been repaired. As she spoke to a reporter, a helicopter passed overhead. Cruise ships that extended their voyages and rode out the storm at sea began returning to port with thousands of passengers. "It's just flooding, it just won't stop, it just keeps coming up". "But this one scares me", Sally Carlson said as she snapped photos of the waves crashing against boats in St. Petersburg.

Monroe County officials said gas is "limited", and AT&T was working to restore cellphone service.

As of Wednesday morning, Florida Power and Light said 1.9 million of its customers were still without electricity, having restored service to 2.5 million out of 4.4 customers impacted by Irma.

- A storm surge warning wraps around the state, from Brevard County to Tampa Bay.

A third death was reported in Worth County. Officials said it was not known how many people ignored evacuation orders and stayed behind in the Keys.

Flying objects such as coconuts turned into unsafe projectiles.

In downtown Miami, two of the two dozen construction cranes looming over the skyline collapsed in the wind. The damage in his city and in his neighborhood on Cudjoe Key didn't match those dire numbers, he said. "It's wonderful. It's under water". "I don't think their forecast was inappropriate", he said.

"Everything is flooded", he said.

"I just hope everybody survived", he said.

"All indications are that a 10-plus-foot surge did occur from Marco Island eastward and around Everglades City", he said.

FEMA reported that 90 percent of homes in the Keys suffered some damage, with 25 percent destroyed.

"You're on your own until we can actually get in there and it's safe", he told CNN. In the span of 24 hours, Irma became a hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 100 mph. Millions of homes and businesses in Florida, Georgia and SC lost power.

Four people died in SC and three in Georgia, officials said.

The National Weather Service said flooding rains were a major concern on Monday, with 8 to 15 inches of rainfall predicted in south-east Georgia. "State government offices will be closed Monday and Tuesday except for essential personnel".

On Tuesday, the hurricane had weakened as it turned eastward.

Irma was still a Category 5 when it raked Cuba's coast, the first hurricane that size to hit the storm-prone island since 1924. Klotzbach says Irma's energy metric tops all of the first eight named storms, including Harvey, of the 2017 season - combined.

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