Irma weakens but still wreaks havoc in Florida

This article is more than 12 months old

MIAMI: Hurricane Irma, which has toppled cranes, swallowed streets and left millions without power, weakened to a Category 1 storm yesterday but remained dangerous as it continued its furious climb up Florida's south-west coast.

Warnings of hazardous storm surges remained in effect through vast swaths of peninsular Florida, where more than six million people had been ordered to flee Irma's path - one of the biggest evacuations in US history.

"As little as six inches of moving water can knock you down," tweeted the state's governor Rick Scott following the downgrade. "Stay inside. Stay safe," he added.

Maximum sustained winds had decreased to 136.8kmh as of 2am local time, with Irma projected to become a tropical storm as it moved into northern Florida or southern Georgia later yesterday.

After wreaking a trail of death and destruction through the Caribbean, Irma had killed three people when it struck the southern Florida Keys island chain as a more powerful Category 4 on Sunday.

More than four million customers were without power throughout the state, according to Florida's Division of Emergency Management.

Florida Power and Light said it had "safely shut down" one of two nuclear reactors at its Turkey Point power plant.

Handfuls of holdout residents, having defied calls to evacuate, hunkered down as Irma tore over the Keys, ripping boats from their moorings, flattening palm trees and downing power lines across the island chain popular for fishing and scuba diving.

Hours later, one of the mightiest hurricanes ever to slam the state made a second landfall on Marco Island near the beach resort of Naples.

"I am concerned about people that don't believe in the storm surge," said Virginia Defreeuw, 76, who fled her mobile home in Naples to a shelter.- AFP

WeatherTYPHOON/HURRICANEunited states