Airports in South Florida re-open

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Irma was also extending tropical-storm-force winds outward up 415 miles, the National Hurricane Center says. However, he believes the situation will be manageable because the hurricane shifted west and did not travel directly up the east coast.

Amid urgent warnings from state officials to evacuate before it was too late, downtown Miami was all but abandoned on Saturday. The streets were almost empty, shops were boarded up and the wind started to blow.

"Now we're looking at hurricane-force winds in excess of 79 miles per hour", Dukes said.

But damage to the city was minimal, according to a relieved Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who the Associated Press quoted as saying Monday "became a good day".

The leading edge of the enormous storm bent palm trees and spit rain across South Florida, knocking out power to more than 170,000 homes and businesses, as the eye approached Key West.

There is also a STORM SURGE WARNING in effect for Coastal Dixie, Coastal Taylor, Coastal Jefferson, and Coastal Wakulla counties in Florida with 4-6' possible.

A direct hit from Irma appeared increasingly unlikely in North Carolina, where emergency officials urged people to stay vigilant with preparations.

A man died when his pick-up truck crashed into a tree in the Florida Keys during Hurricane Irma in Florida, this handout photo obtained by Reuters September 10, 2017.

The waters retracted because the leading wind bands of Irma whipped the coastal water more out to sea. The Florida Highway Patrol escorted fuel tankers so they could reach and resupply gas stations, the agency reported.

The city of Savannah, on Georgia's coast, was evacuated for the second time in less than a year because of the storm, and the National Weather Service in Peachtree City confirmed that Atlanta - more than 250 miles inland from either the Atlantic or Gulf coasts - was under a tropical storm warning for the first time.

Extreme winds, around the eye of the hurricane, are expected to last for the next two hours in the Lower Florida Keys area, which includes Key West.

On Saturday, Irma covered most of the island, the Caribbean's largest.

"It will be a nice waterfront lot in sunny Florida with no house, no trees, no cars, no boats and an awesome view of devastation as far as you can see".

Cubans walked through ankle-deep water in Caibarien, a fishing town where streets were flooded and covered in seaweed.

Strong winds will break tree branches, topple small or weak trees and damage powerlines.

More than 1 million residents had already lost power by Sunday morning, and it could be days before officials can provide food and water to those struggling in the aftermath of the powerful storm.

President Trump described the storm as "some big monster".

The Florida Department of Transportation on Saturday started to close turnpike service plazas in South Florida, with the Fort Pierce and Fort Drum plazas shutting down Saturday night.

Even a weakened Irma engulfed cities as far north as Charleston, South Carolina, on Tuesday.

About 6.5 million homes and businesses remained without power across Florida, and officials said it could be weeks before power is restored in all places.

"Sheets of zinc that came flying into our backyard also damaged the kitchen wall and we lost many roof tiles", said Angel Coya, 52, adding he was optimistic that Cuba's Communist government would help fix the damage. "And when you compound that with Hurricane Irma, with Irma, you can imagine how that cost is going to go up".

"What we feared the most was the surge", he said Monday on MSNBC.

Irma could cause insurance losses of between $15 billion and $50 billion in the United States, catastrophe modeling firm AIR Worldwide said.

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