Hurricane Irma weakened to a Category 1 storm on Monday morning after it battered Florida’s northwestern coast.
Maximum sustained winds had decreased to near 85 miles per hour with Irma projected to become a tropical storm as it moved into northern Florida or southern Georgia late on Monday.
Warnings of dangerous 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 US history.
When it arrived in Florida, Irma was a Category 4 hurricane.
On Sunday, Hurricane Irma gave Florida a coast-to-coast pummeling with winds up to 130 mph, swamping homes and boats, knocking out power to millions and toppling massive construction cranes over the Miami skyline.
Three people were reported to have been killed in Florida. In the Carribean, 24 people were killed during Irma’s destructive trek.
Many streets were flooded in downtown Miami and other cities. In downtown Miami, two of the two dozen construction cranes looming over the skyline collapsed in the wind but no injuries were reported.
Curfews were imposed in Miami, Tampa, Fort Lauderdale and much of the rest of South Florida. Miami Beach barred outsiders from the island.
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.
Nearly 7 million people in the Southeast were warned to evacuate, including 6.4 million in Florida alone.
Irma made landfall just after 9 am at Cudjoe Key, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) outside Key West. Forecasters warned some places could see a storm surge of up to 15 feet (5 meters) of water.
Some 400 miles (640 kilometers) north of the Keys, people in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area started bracing for the onslaught. The Tampa Bay area, with a population of about 3 million, has not taken a direct hit from a major hurricane since 1921.
After leaving Florida, a weakened Irma is expected to push into Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and beyond.
President Donald Trump approved a disaster declaration for Florida, opening the way for federal aid.
Irma at one time was the most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the open Atlantic, a Category 5 with a peak wind speed of 185 mph (300 kph), and its approach set off alarm in Florida.
Florida’s governor had activated all 7,000 members of the Florida National Guard, and 10,000 guardsmen from elsewhere were being deployed.
Before reaching the United States, Irma smashed through a string of Caribbean islands from tiny Barbuda on Wednesday, to the tropical paradises of Saint Barthelemy and Saint Martin, the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and the Turks and Caicos.
(With inputs from agencies)