Irma Death Toll Climbs To 11 As Storm Surges Flood Charleston And Savannah

The National Hurricane Center downgraded Irma to a Tropical Depression late Monday night, but even in its weakened state, the storm continues to cause deadly storm surges and volatile winds as it travels through Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina, flooding downtown Charleston, South Carolina and uprooting trees in Atlanta, according to CNN.

Meanwhile, authorities have confirmed 11 deaths from the storm.

According to Accuweather, even as the storm travels well inland from the coast, Irma will put many lives at risk in northern Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina, where residents should anticipate severe flooding. Already, the storm has killed three people in Georgia and one in South Carolina, where a 57-year-old South Carolina man was fatally injured by a falling tree limb during the storm, Abbeville County Coroner Ronnie Ashley told CNN. The man was cutting downed limbs with a chainsaw outside of his home when he was struck.

Irma’s storm surge overwhelmed the Battery in the downtown Charleston where the Ashley and Cooper rivers meet. Charleston police asked residents to avoid downtown in anticipation of high tide. One resident captured the surge in this chilling video. Waters in Charleston Harbor peaked at nearly 10 feet, the city's third-highest reading ever, topping Hurricane Matthew in 2016, according to CNN.

A time-lapse video from CNN depicts the progression of the flooding in downtown Charleston:

Irma flooded portions of River Street in the tourist magnet city of Savannah, Georgia and forced police to temporarily shut Highway 80 leading to the barrier island community of Tybee Island.

As of Monday night, Irma was centered about 95 miles south of Atlanta, with maximum sustained winds of 35 mph, the National Hurricane Center said. Even as the storm has lost power, it continues to cover a vast area of more than 300 miles. In addition to heavy rain, some areas will have to worry about quick tornado spin-ups within Irma’s outer rain bands to the northeast of the storm’s center.

“These short-lived tornadoes will continue to develop across parts of South Carolina and Georgia on Monday," Kottlowski said.

Jacksonville, a city in northern Florida, also experienced historic flooding the likes of which haven’t been seen since the mid-nineteenth century.

Meanwhile, authorities in the Florida Keys, the southernmost part of the US where the storm first made landfall on Saturday, were not letting anyone go back in until their safety can be assured. One of those issues is a major concern about drinking and running water. Running water has been out in the area since Sunday. Officials said it will take time to inspect their aqueduct and start-up the running water, according to CBS.

Before the storm hit, Florida Power & Light, the state’s largest power company, announced it had hired thousands of out-of-state temporary workers to help repair any damage to the state’s power grid caused by Irma. That turned out to be a prescient move: the storm ultimately knocked out electricity service to 10 million Floridians – half the state’s population. The company has said that much of the southern state’s electricity infrastructure will need to be rebuilt, and that the process could take weeks, according to Reuters.

Now, those workers are being housed in cots set up inside BB&T Stadium in Broward County, home to the Florida panthers. In an interview with Reuters, Gus Beyersdorf, 40, of De Pere, Wisconsin, who was inspecting power lines in Fort Lauderdale on Monday, described the accommodations in colorful terms.  

“Each one of us has a cot, a single foot apart,” said Beyersdorf. “All you smell is feet and farts. I slept in the truck last night just to get a break from it.”