Hurricane Jose: Track takes weakening storm on an Atlantic loop

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In other parts of the Keys, the closure of United States 1, a major artery that connects the islands with the mainland, was a prime concern. How many people in the dangerously exposed, low-lying islands defied evacuation orders and stayed behind was unclear.

Hurricane Irma weakened as it pummeled Florida - but the storm still packed a powerful punch, spawning torrential downpours, tornadoes and flash floods.

As of 11:00 a.m. this morning, the National Hurricane Center placed Jose at 305 miles northeast of the Turks and Caicos Islands, moving northward at 9 mph.

The tidal surge also sent water and damaged boats rushing ashore for more than three blocks into downtown St. Marys just north of the Georgia-Florida state line, said St. Marys police Lt. Shannon Brock.

Contrast this with the Caribbean, where dozens of people have died.

The string of islands, the first part of the state hit by the storm, were without water, power or cellphone service on Monday. That's more than the population of NY and Los Angeles combined.

With over 15 million people without electricity in Florida, one million in neighboring Georgia and 300,000 in Puerto Rico, authorities launched a massive effort to restore power.

While battling a storm might have looked fun to some, Reddit advised that people experiencing the storm to remain indoors. First responders just now getting to the lower Keys including National Guard digging out the road. "What's going to happen now?" She says the utility company had about 3,400 employees on standby to respond, but cautioned repairs could take several days. And the governor said effects on the southwest coast, including in Naples and Fort Myers, were not as bad as feared. The damage in his city and in his neighborhood on Cudjoe Key didn't match those dire numbers, he said.

"We had a number of patients who thought their local pharmacy was open [on Sunday], and when they found out that it wasn't, they started asking around and eventually found us", said Howard Smith, director of outpatient pharmacy department at Florida Hospital.

"We are still without water, power, sewer, gas and cell service", she said.

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"HELP IS ON THE WAY", they promised on Facebook.

The Keys are linked by 42 bridges that have to be checked for safety before motorists can be allowed on the farther islands, officials said. The governor said the route also needs to be cleared of debris and sand, but should be usable fairly quickly.

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said Tuesday that 356 people were rescued from flooding the previous day. "But hey, you live by the ocean ... you got to take chances". "A t-shirt, anything white", the office said on its Facebook page.

Meanwhile, search-and-rescue teams located in Orlando and other staging areas were waiting out the storm until it was safe enough to go out and assess the extent of the damage and injuries.

"Gov. Nathan Deal has expanded the state of emergency to include all counties in Georgia", Georgia Public Broadcasting reported as Irma hit the state Monday.

ABC News reports a Monroe County man was killed after losing control of a truck that carried a generator as winds whipped at tropical-storm strength. Georgia: More than 1.3 million customers, according to Georgia Power and Georgia EMC.

About 400 exhausted and traumatised survivors of Hurricane Irma arrived in France and the Netherlands yesterday aboard military planes.

"The water [was] just taking everything out, there was sand everywhere, there were people's belongings just flowing down the canal".

It had been on course to hit Barbuda and St Martin, already devastated by Irma. But by the time Irma arrived in the middle of the night Monday, its winds were down to 100 miles per hour (161 kph) or less.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said the situation was not as bad as it could have been but warned residents that unsafe storm surge continued.