Death toll in Florida increases to 12

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The National Hurricane Center said it expects Irma to drop 5 inches to 8 inches (13 to 20 centimeters) of rain across SC and the northern regions of Georgia, Alabama and MS through Tuesday. From there, Irma is expected to push into Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee on Tuesday and Wednesday.

He said the storm "is like" Hurricane Andrew, which hit South Florida 25 years ago.

"People who bag your groceries when you're on vacation - the bus drivers, hotel cleaners, cooks and dishwashers - they're already living beyond paycheck to paycheck", said Stephanie Kaple, who runs an organization that helps the homeless in the Keys.

Hundreds of people gather September 8 in an emergency shelter at the Miami-Dade County Fair Expo Center ahead of Hurricane Irma.

Hurricane Irma weakened to a still-dangerous tropical storm Monday as it pushed inland, triggering record flooding in Florida's northeastern corner, while rescuers in its soggy, wind-battered wake mobilized to reach victims and learn the full extent of the damage.

At least nine deaths were reported in Florida, Georgia and SC, while at least 38 people died in the islands across the Caribbean, where it is feared the death toll will climb as more information becomes available.

The hurricane killed at least 37 people in the Caribbean and devastated the islands, including Barbuda, which has evacuated all of its citizens to Antigua. On Monday, Irma took out power for about 7 million people before being downgraded to a tropical depression. "People are fighting in the streets for what is left" was the account in the New York Times of a resident of St. Martin. On Wednesday, the Florida Division of Emergency Management reported more than 8,000 residents and almost 4,000 more special needs patients were still in shelters across the state.

As crews labored to fix the lone highway connecting the Keys, residents of some of the islands closest to Florida's mainland were allowed to return and get their first look at the devastation. "It was was like, 'Oh my God, what is going to happen?'"

"I just started crying", she said. Utility officials warned it could take 10 days or more for power to be fully restored.

He noted that FEMA was continuing to rescue people stranded by flooding around Jacksonville, in the state's northeast.

The takeaway? Don't assume you're out of harm's way when a hurricane is headed toward Florida - especially a Texas-size one like Irma.

The White House Press Secretary told reporters Wednesday that Trump will be in the Naples and Fort Myers area, but did not provide any specific details about what stops the president plans to make. In the Keys, though, he said "there is devastation". "Again, we've never seen anything like this".

Coastal waters could rise 10 to 15 feet above normally dry land in sections of Southwest Florida, inundating homes, businesses and roads, an "imminent danger", according to the Hurricane Center. State and local officials readied for the storm with promises of help from the federal government.

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. "A t-shirt, anything white", the office said on its Facebook page.

Before slamming into the United States, Irma hit Cuba late Friday as a Category 5 hurricane. Klotzbach says Irma's energy metric tops all of the first eight named storms, including Harvey, of the 2017 season - combined.

In Georgia, more than 510,000 homes and businesses remained without power Wednesday. Its outer bands were also blowing into Georgia, where the storm's center was expected to arrive later in the day.

By Sunday morning, the Tampa-St. However, they warned its maximum sustained winds were 70 miles per hour (110 kph), with higher gusts.

Ferguson reported from Jacksonville.

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