Irma weakens to Category 1 as it nears Tampa after slamming southern Florida

A massive but weakened Hurricane Irma zeroed in on the Tampa Bay region early Monday after hammering much of Florida with roof-ripping winds, gushing floodwaters and widespread power outages.

Irma continued its slog north along Florida’s western coast having blazed a path of unknown destruction. With communication cut to some of the Florida Keys, where Irma made landfall Sunday, and rough conditions persisting across the peninsula, many held their breath for what daylight might reveal.

The monster storm measured more than 640 kilometres wide, and its winds of up to 210 km/h sucked the ocean water out of bays, swamped much of downtown Miami and toppled at least three constructions cranes — two over downtown Miami and one in Fort Lauderdale.

More than 3.3 million homes and businesses across the state lost power, and utility officials said it will take weeks to restore electricity to everyone.

Irma’s center was about 40 km northeast of the heavily populated Tampa-St. Petersburg area early Monday, though in a much-weakened state. While it arrived in Florida a Category 4 hurricane, it was down to a Category 1 with winds of 135 km/h. Meanwhile, more than 160,000 people waited in shelters statewide.

There were no immediate reports of deaths in Florida. In the Caribbean, at least 24 were people were killed during Irma’s destructive trek across exclusive islands known as the vacation playground for the rich. In Cuba, the storm swamped Havana’s iconic seawall, pushing water nearly half a kilometre inland.

GFX IRMA 5 PM

In one of the largest U.S. evacuations, nearly 7 million people in the Southeast were warned to seek shelter elsewhere, including 6.4 million in Florida alone.

Upon leaving Florida, a weakened Irma is expected to push into Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and beyond. A tropical storm warning was issued for the first time ever in Atlanta, where many schools canceled classes because of the storm.

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CBC | World News