While South Carolina avoided Irma's eye, the massive storm caused severe flooding and tropical storm-force winds that left hundreds of thousands without power Monday and killed one person.
"It is too early to tell if Jose will have any direct impact on Florida, but it is expected to turn to the north in three or four days", the state Division of Emergency Management posted on its website Monday.
By midday Tuesday, Florida Power & Light Co. had restored power to 2.3 million customers, which was 40 percent of those affected across the state; at least 4.4 million customers in Florida are still without power as of Tuesday afternoon.
Warnings of unsafe storm surges remained in effect through vast swaths of peninsular Florida, where more than six million people had been ordered to flee Irma in one of the biggest evacuations in U.S. history.
Late Sunday, as the storm moved up Florida's west coast, officials said 28,000 people had taken refuge in 45 county shelters in Hillsborough County, which includes Tampa. The most extensive damage was likely in the Naples area, but a full assessment was ongoing.
As of Sunday night, 112,759 customers for Tampa Electric had lost power, the utility said on its website. "You still have to go there and work just as hard and sweat just as much to get them back on". A river gauge downtown in the Atlantic Coast city measured 3 feet above flood stage. More than 3,800 USA flights scheduled for Monday were canceled by late morning and more than 9,000 since Saturday according to tracking service FlightAware.
CNN meteorologist Judson Jones said the severity of the storm surge depended on which side of the storm Tampa was on.
Lines wrapped around gas stations across Florida as people who evacuated from Hurricane Irma were anxious to get home.
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Irma's peak winds of 105 miles per hour, with higher gusts, had dropped 20 miles per hour from the morning, making it a Category 2 hurricane (down from a Category 4).
"A really large crash and I thought it might have been something right there, but it came from back there", said Jacobson while pointing out the damage. The National Hurricane Center said Irma is "a life-threatening situation", urging people to follow evacuation and other instructions from local officials.
The hurricane hit southwest Florida on Sunday, battering the state's lower half and leaving a trail of tornadoes and storm-surge flooding as its core slowly moved inland.
"The first bit of good news is that some hurricane warnings have been downgraded to tropical storm warnings in south Florida", the weather report noted. After the water receded, Timmer began surveying the damage. It's now bearing down on the Tampa-St.
The storm was earlier pummelling the area around the city of Fort Myers.
The city appeared to avoid a direct hit from the hurricane, which has claimed three lives in the USA so far, but heavy rain and flooding is still a major threat.
According to ABC News, 27 people have been killed in the Caribbean due to the storm, with another five casualties reported in Florida. Next, Irma is expected to push into Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee.