Hurricane Irma, now a Category 1 storm with top sustained winds of 85 mph, was battering Orlando early Monday morning after lashing southern Florida and moving across the center of the state.
The storm’s center was located near Lakeland, Florida, as of early Monday morning, moving north of Tampa and Orlando at a fast pace of 14 miles per hour.
More than 4 million people were without power in Florida and many towns and cities imposed curfews. Miami-Date police said early Monday they arrested 28 people for burglary/looting. Fort Lauderale police also said they arrested several looters.
Irma struck south Florida with powerful wind, rain and flooding, swamping parts of Naples and Miami on opposite coasts before moving north over the center of the state. A storm surge of 10 feet was recorded in the Florida Keys and Naples reported a 7-foot storm surge in at least one location, according to the National Weather Service.
Irma weakened to a Category 1 hurricane at around 2 a.m Monday as it’s center and core moved over land, forecasters said, and it could be downgraded to a tropical storm by late Monday morning.
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) said it expected the storm’s center to remain inland over Florida and then move into Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee where heavy rain and possible flash floods will be a major concern.
The NHC says the storm is still life-threatening with dangerous storm surge, wind and heavy rains. Storm surge warnings were in effect for parts of Florida, including North Miami Beach, the Florida Keys and Tampa Bay.
At least five storm-related fatalities
At least five people died of storm-related injuries in Florida, including a sheriff’s deputy, as the massive hurricane barreled across the Sunshine State with punishing wind gusts of up to 142 mph at it’s height.
Two people were killed in Monroe County, which encompasses the Florida Keys. One person was found dead in a home in Shark Key, Florida on Sunday. Another man was killed after he lost control of a truck that carried a generator as winds whipped at tropical-storm strength, officials said.
Two other people, a sheriff’s deputy and a corrections officer, died from a two-car crash in the rain in Hardee County, which is about 60 miles inland from Sarasota, officials said.
The fifth fatality was…