Hurricane Irma death toll on Caribbean islands rises to 34

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"Had this even gone from Miami-Dade County in southeast Florida up the east coast, it was probably a billion plus for Heritage".

Meteorologist Ryan Maue of WeatherBell Analytics said the entire Florida peninsula will be raked by Irma's right front quadrant - the part of a hurricane that usually brings the strongest winds, storm surge, rain and tornadoes. It was smacking Naples after coming ashore in Marco Island at 3:35 p.m.

The storm was still hurling 65 miles per hour winds Monday, pummeling cities in northeast Florida that had not expected to feel its full wrath.

Although the storm has long since departed the Keys, some of the islands are so devastated - mainly, Key Largo, which is blocking access to those Keys further west - that Florida authorities refuse to allow residents to reenter. Jacksonville experienced its worst flooding since 1864.

"I guess I'll start from scratch", said Crockett, who runs a event and party supply business.

The U.S. Virgin Islands are facing a potential humanitarian crisis, reports the New York Times U.S. military helicopters are dropping food and water aid, and almost 5,000 American troops are headed to the islands to help with relief efforts.

On Saturday, the President said he approved emergency declarations in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. Irma, weakened to a tropical depression, is expected to push into Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee over the next two days.

There were no immediate confirmed reports of any deaths in Florida, on top of the 24 people killed during Irma's destructive trek across the Caribbean.

Clay County emergency operations manager John Ward said dozens of people were rescued early Monday from their homes as floodwaters rose, and many others were stranded.

Late Sunday, as the storm moved up Florida's west coast, officials said 28,000 people had taken refuge in 45 county shelters in Hillsborough County, which includes Tampa.

"We're not saying get in your auto and go", Merrill said. But the storm won't have much moisture or strength left by the time it gets here, according to the National Weather Service. Flooding was reported along Interstate 4, which cuts across Florida's midsection.

-- All public schools, state colleges and state universities and state government offices have been ordered closed on Monday.

Irma is the first major hurricane to make a direct strike on Florida since Hurricane Wilma in 2005, and appears capable of a wider swath of destruction than each of the several storms that hit the state the mid-2000s.

"You can't survive these storm surges", he said.

Some residents compared the impact of Irma to that of two other memorable hurricanes that hit Cuba: Wilma in 2005 and Kate in 1985.

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