US President Donald Trump called Hurricane Irma "some big monster" as it battered the Florida coast, saying he wanted to go to the state very soon and praising emergency officials for their efforts to protect people.
Warnings of unsafe storm surges remained in effect through vast swaths of peninsular Florida, where more than six million people had been ordered to flee Irma in one of the biggest evacuations in U.S. history.
Rick Scott says he flew over the Keys and saw a lot of flood damage and boats that had washed ashore.
The prediction, however, is shaky as best, as the NHC's "cone of uncertainty" for Jose is not a cone at all - it's a circle, suggesting the storm could go in any direction. Tybee Island, off Savannah's coast and with a population of about 3,100, remained closed on Tuesday, as bridges leading to the island have not been inspected.
Elsewhere, areas such as Tampa Bay had braced for the worst but emerged with what appeared to be only modest damage.
Over the next two days, Irma is expected to push to the northwest, into Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee.
Key West resident Laura Keeney was waiting in a Miami hotel until it was safe to return home, and she was anxious to hear more about her apartment complex. The island chain curves southwest from Key Largo to Key West, linked by bridges and causeways along a almost 160km route.
"We know that we are ground zero for Hurricane Irma", Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said at a Sunday morning news conference.
A tropical storm warning was issued for the first time ever in Atlanta, and school was canceled in communities around the state.
A weakened but still unsafe Irma pushed inland on Monday as it hammered Florida with winds and floodwaters that created hazards even for rescuers trying to help beleaguered residents.
On top of that, "there is now no cell service, no electricity and no water" in most of the Keys, said Monroe County Commissioner Heather Carruthers.
As anxious Florida residents watched weather forecasts this week, it seemed clear Hurricane Irma was on track to strike Miami, Fort Lauderdale and other Atlantic coast cities, prompting a massive evacuation. The greatest threat would be Monday morning into the early afternoon. That brings the total death toll in all areas affected by the storm to 55. "It is time to take this storm seriously". I'm going in now for meetings, but it's all about coordination.