JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Around 24 hours after Irma's first impact was felt in Jacksonville, the storm has weakened to a tropical depression as it tracked near Columbus, Georgia.
Irma's maximum sustained winds were down to 35 mph as it traveled northwest at 15 miles per hour. As of the 11 p.m. update from the National Hurricane Center, Irma's center was located 238 miles northwest of Jacksonville.
The storm punished north Florida with gusting winds and flooding rains. The St. Johns River and many of its tributaries have overflowed their banks, and most bridges in northeast Florida are closed due to high winds.
The worst of the rain has moved out of greater Jacksonville, but winds will continue for a few more hours. The biggest concern is rising water, as high tide downtown is just before 2 p.m. and wind shifting to the south is pushing river water in that direction.
Trees are down across the area and many roads are blocked either by trees, power lines or high water.
As the sun rose, many Floridians tried to go outside to survey the damage, but authorities warn that conditions remain dangerous and ask that people to stay inside. Many beach communities remain under curfew.
Tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 415 miles from the center. A 60 mph sustained wind and a 69 mph gust was recently reported by a National Data Buoy Center station in St. Augustine.
The National Guard and local fire rescue teams have pulled 46 people from flooded homes in Clay County by early Monday and an undetermined number are still stranded as the area's creeks and ponds are getting record flooding.
John Ward, the emergency operations manager of Clay County, said between 400 and 500 homes received severe flood damage but there have been no serious injuries or deaths.
Despite the weakening, Irma is still setting records. The National Weather Service in Jacksonville tweeted that the storm surge flooding in downtown Jacksonville has exceeded the all-time record set in Hurricane Dora in 1964.
Irma continues its slog north along Florida's western coast blazed a path of unknown destruction. With communication cut to some of the Florida Keys, where Irma made landfall Sunday, and rough conditions persisting across the peninsula, many are holding their breath for what daylight might reveal.
As Irma continues its track up Florida, right on schedule hurricane and tropical storm force wind gusts overspread northeast Florida / southeast Georgia during the night. Land interaction and increasing wind shear rapidly weakened Irma Sunday and Sunday night.
Despite the slow weakening, this is still a very dangerous storm that will have a significant impact on the Sunshine State.
Additionally, the National Weather Service received a report of 106 mph sustained wind 60 feet above the ground on Dunes Row at the south end of Amelia Island further supporting the fact that wind speeds increase as you go aloft. High-rise buildings around the area undoubtedly experienced similar conditions.
At 3:42 a.m., National Weather Service staff at JAX reported multiple trees down at their office, with one tree blocking the roadway out of the office, and another tree that fell on the NWS sign, damaging it.
As we explained Sunday, the strong onshore wind is creating a storm surge. A short time ago, emergency management and the public in Flagler County reported storm surge “similar to Hurricane Matthew” in “Marineland Acres.” Widespread two-to-four foot storm surges have been reported along the northeast Florida coast.
Doppler radar is estimating that five-to-eight inch rain amounts have fallen across our area, with locally higher amounts. Fortunately, the back edge of Irma’s rain shield is between Gainsville and Ocala, and steadily moving northward. While torrential rain is falling now, this should taper off later this morning. However, the wind field will remain strong, before improving later this afternoon into the night.
As Irma pulls away, the persistent onshore wind will shift around to the south and southeast. While this will reduce the storm surge impact on the northeast Florida coast, the southeast Georgia coast will see storm surge conditions linger longer. One concern which continues is the potential for flooding in downtown Jacksonville as the south winds push St. Johns River water northward.
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Irma is expected pass west of Jacksonville midday Monday and weather will begin to improve as the system moves away from the region.
Some people are asking if any other major hurricane (Category 3 or higher) has taken the same path that Irma is. The Weather Authority checked historical maps dating back to the mid 1800s, and there was only one major hurricane that even comes close: a storm in the 1930s that crossed the Keys and traveled parallel to the state’s west coast, but well offshore. So, in essence, no major hurricane in recorded history has taken the path that Irma is.
Hurricane Irma passed over the Florida Keys as a Category 4 storm Sunday morning, and later made landfall at Marco Island Sunday afternoon as a Category 3 storm with 115 mph winds. The Category 4 strike on the Keys, following Hurricane Harvey’s landfall on the Texas coast as a Category 4 storm, makes this the first year in recorded history in which two Category 4 storms hit the United States.
The Storm Surge Warning has been discontinued from Anna Maria Island southward.
The Tropical Storm Warning has been discontinued from the Flagler/Volusia County line southward.
The Tropical Storm Warning has been discontinued from the Suwannee River southward.
A Storm Surge Warning is in effect for South Santee River southward to the Flagler/Volusia County line, north of Anna Maria Island to the Ochlockonee River and for Tampa Bay.
A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for north of the Suwannee River to the Okaloosa/Walton County Line, North of the Flagler/Volusia County line to the South Santee River.
A flash flood watch for Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia is already in effect due to rain from a nor'easter.