The storm then idled as it moved west across the Atlantic - before warmer waters gave it another growth spurt. Heavy rains are causing rivers to swell, and significant flooding is possible over the next five days, both along the Florida peninsula and in southern Georgia.
Now a Category 2 storm with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph, Hurricane Irma is about 50 miles east-northeast of Fort Myers, Florida, moving north at 14 mph.
One death occurred in a crash in the Keys. Storm-shocked Floridians returned to shattered homes on Monday as the remnants of Hurricane Irma pushed inland, leaving more than half of all state residents without power and city streets underwater from Orlando and Jacksonville into coastal Georgia and SC.
Irma's powerful winds triggered strong damage in the areas where the storm made a direct hit - but for cities including Jacksonville, Fla., and Charleston, S.C., it unleashed pushing amounts of storm surge.
A tired Governor Rick Scott, who has flown across the state during the past five days sounding the alarm bell ahead of landfall, acknowledged that it won't be easy for residents in the days ahead.
"I'm trying to stay calm and see how we can work through this", said Ramos, who employs 30 people at her two restaurants.
Statewide, as many as 13 million people - two-thirds of Florida's population - were without electricity in the tropical heat, and officials warned it could take 10 days or more for power to be fully restored. Florida's largest utility, Florida Power & Light, said western parts of the state might be without electricity until September 22.
Tybee Island Mayor Jason Buelterman estimated several hundred homes had flooded in his community alone, including roughly 200 houses that took in water during Matthew. The death toll jumped to at least 40 as Cuba said 10 people had been killed there over the weekend as the storm carved a path northward.
"I didn't see the damage I thought I would see", said the state's Governor Rick Scott, after flying over the Keys to survey damage. The company updated technology - which Silagy says now allows it to pinpoint outages without customers needing to report them - and strengthened power lines and poles. Nearly every mobile home park in the Keys had overturned homes, according to the governor.
Irma also brought several inches of rain to the state.
- Affected states include Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina and North Carolina.
Hurricane Irma weakened into 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.
More than 45 million people will face continued severe weather conditions as Irma continues to move inland, and some states have already ordered evacuations. Facebook groups were forming Monday to help from afar. Either way, we'll keep you posted! "We all sort of scattered around the country when we evacuated, so we're trying to stay in touch", said Suzanne Trottier, who left her Key West, Florida, home for Virginia nearly a week ago ahead of Irma.
"Whoever is opening and has power is asking for fuel", Joshi said. Its two water parks, however, will not reopen until later in the week.
Barges waited offshore while the Coast Guard cleared Port Tampa Bay to open, said spokeswoman Samara Sodos.