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Irma, now a tropical depression, bringing heavy rains to Georgia

Irma, now a tropical depression, bringing heavy rains to Georgia”

Hurricane Irma was downgraded to tropical storm Monday, but that did little to lessen the threat of more destruction in the coming hours.

The battering ram that was Hurricane Irma chugged into Georgia on Monday, lashing trees, roofs and power lines that lie hundreds of miles from the sea with tropical-storm conditions rarely seen here.

Irma however may in fact be the strongest hurricane ever observed in the Leeward Islands where places like Barbuda and Sint Maarten were utterly decimated with winds that exceeded 180 miles per hour. Weather Underground reports the damage was muted because the storm decreased in strength and made landfall on the west coast in more unpopulated areas.

On Sunday, Irma claimed its first U.S. fatality - a man found dead in a pick-up truck that had crashed into a tree in high winds in Marathon in the Florida Keys, local officials said. Southbound US Route 1 - the only road connecting the Keys - is closed, Florida Keys spokesman Andy Newman said.

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As Irma crossed into Georgia, the storm's tidal surge unleashed flooding in coastal communities. The storm surge you are used to hearing about happens when wind pushes water onto land causing flooding.

- 5.8 million customers are without power across Florida, state emergency officials said. An estimated 220,000 people were staying in shelters.

Full restoration of power could take weeks in many areas, FPL said, because of expected damage to the company's system.

No deaths in Florida were immediately linked to the storm. At least 35 people were killed in the Caribbean. Some 900,000 customers lost power in Georgia.

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The small French island of St. Barthelemy and the French-Dutch island divided between St. Martin and St. Maarten also were badly damaged.

Irma was ranked a category five, the rare top end of the scale of hurricane intensity, for days, and carried maximum sustained winds of up to 295km/h when it crashed into the island of Barbuda on Wednesday.

Officials in the Caribbean area are working to help residents reporting shortages of food, water and medicine. That was down from a peak over 1.4 million on Monday night. Nonetheless, barrier islands like Marco Island, near Naples, reported rising flood water and a loss of electricity and drinking water, authorities said.

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