Storm leaves Florida in holding pattern

Hurricane Irma Update

Hurricane Irma Update

Some residents of the Florida Keys archipelago allowed back Tuesday found homes that Hurricane Irma's high winds had shredded like soda cans, while the death toll rose in the second major hurricane to hit the United States this year.

After leaving the coast of Cuba, Irma barrelled through the Florida Keys, a chain of low-lying islands to the south, on Sunday morning. Massive flooding was reported in Jacksonville, and the extent of the damage in the vulnerable Keys was not known because numerous islands were inaccessible Monday.

A Navy aircraft carrier was due to anchor off Key West to help in search-and-rescue efforts.

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Some 3m people live in the Tampa Bay area.

Over the next two days, Irma is expected to push to the northwest, into Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee. Miami and Tampa turned into "ghost towns" as nervous residents, many of whom struggled to cope with abandoning their homes, moved to safer places following mandatory evacuation notices. Her building manager told her there was flooding there, but further updates were hard to come by because power and cellphone service have been down on the island. Still a large hurricane, its tropical storm force winds extend out 415 miles (665 kilometers).

Heavy rains are predicted for northern Florida and southern Georgia, which could see an additional three to six inches with total amounts reaching between eight to 15 inches. At least nine deaths were reported in Florida, Georgia and SC, while at least 38 people died in the islands across the Caribbean, where it is feared the death toll will climb as more information becomes available. It killed at least 35 people as it tore through islands in the Caribbean last week. "I tell you, whether it's what we're doing here in Tallahassee, our first responders, the federal government, we're going to make sure every person in the state is taken care of to the extent we can", Scott said.

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The latest from Hurricane Center now that Irma will track southwest of our area on Monday. The greatest threat would be Monday morning into the early afternoon.

The storm was earlier pummelling the area around the city of Fort Myers. You know, you're going to get the wind and the rain on the east coast, but right now, it's impacting the Keys. "People are fighting in the streets for what is left" was the account in the New York Times of a resident of St. Martin.

The Keys are cut off from the mainland, as the 42 bridges that link them are being assessed for damage.

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A large military airborne relief operation was being prepared to take help to the islands, which are linked by a dramatic series of bridges and causeways from Key Largo nearly 160km southwest to the city of Key West, Monroe County Emergency Director Martin Senterfitt told a teleconference.

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