Irma continues to weaken after passing through Central Florida
More than 3.3 million homes and businesses without power
ORLANDO, Fla. – Hurricane Irma continued to weaken Monday morning after the eye passed over Central Florida bringing powerful wind gusts throughout the night, leaving thousands without power.
Forecasters warned Central Florida residents overnight to be prepared to experience wind gusts up to 100 mph for more than six hours as Irma churned up the peninsula.
Irma was downgraded to a Category 1 storm Monday at 2 a.m. when the storm's sustained winds dropped to 85 mph, by 5 a.m. Irma was becoming less of a hurricane with sustained winds of 75 mph.
Irma was moving northwest at 18 mph and is expected to move over the northwestern coast of the Florida Peninsula this morning and cross the Florida Panhandle into southern Georgia Monday afternoon.
Western Central Florida began feeling some of the hurricane's full force Sunday evening as the storm moved slightly inland and continued north. Irma's core was 20 miles northwest of Lakeland with wind gusts up to 100 mph, according to the National Weather Service.
Irma's overnight track put the strongest part of the hurricane, known as the eyewall, directly over the Four Corners area of Central Florida, which includes Disney World and Universal Orlando.
The theme parks shut down early on Saturday and through the weekend for Irma's possible arrival.
Irma lost some power after it made landfall in Florida for a second time on Marco Island Sunday afternoon, but still packed life-threatening storm surges and high-intensity winds to the Naples area.
More than 3.3 million homes and businesses and counting have lost power in Florida as Hurricane Irma moves up the peninsula.
The widespread outages stretch from the Florida Keys all the way into Central Florida.
Flooding was reported from Marco Island to Fort Myers. A 130-mph wind gust was reported by the Marco Island Police Department Sunday afternoon.
At 8 p.m. Irma shifted slightly inland, meaning there is a potential for tornadic activity in western Central Florida throughout the night, News 6 meteorologist Danny Treanor said.
All of Central Florida remained under hurricane warnings Sunday morning as Irma slashed through portions of South Florida. Several tornado watches and warnings were issued for portions of Central Florida and officials said the threats would continue throughout the day and overnight.
Irma’s slight shift east for the most recent track means areas in Polk, Sumter, Marion, Lake, Western Orange and western Osceola counties could see increased tornadic activity between midnight and 7:30 a.m. Monday.
Another tornado warning is in effect Sunday for Brevard County. Earlier in the day, six mobile homes were destroyed by "tornadic activity," although no injuries were reported, Palm Bay police said.
"The roughest stuff for you guys lies ahead," News 6 chief meteorologist Tom Sorrells told Central Florida.
Portions of Lake County could experience 100-110 mph winds overnight from the eastern eye wall of the storm.
The National Weather Service in Melbourne reported seeing hurricane-force gusts over the Orlando metro area, with intense rain bands.
Damage was reported in Lake County Sunday night after a "wind event" caused downed trees and structural damages. Umatilla Elementary School, functioning as a shelter, was also damaged and lost power, Emergency Operations Center spokeswoman Kelly LaFollette said.
Two high schools functioning as shelters in Marion County were also without power by 8:30 p.m., officials said.
Irma is expected to weaken to a tropical storm over far northern Florida or southern Georgia on Monday, the Weather Service said.
Vice President Pence: 'Full resources' available to help Florida
As the eye made landfall in Florida for a second time Sunday afternoon, Vice President Mike Pence spoke to News 6 from Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters about the federal help ready for Florida residents.
"We are bringing the full resources of the federal government to bear -- through the Department of Defense, the Coast Guard, through FEMA, through Health and Human Services -- to support the efforts of your state government," Pence said.
After concerns that FEMA's disaster funds could be running low from Hurricane Harvey response, Pence assured News 6 that Florida would also have the funds it needs to rebuild after Irma makes its way through the state.
Congress recently passed a $15 billion bill to support Texas as it recovers.
Irma makes landfall in lower Florida Keys
The first bands of the 400-mile-wide storm blew ashore in the morning in the Florida Keys and then began a slow march up the state's west coast. Forecasters said it could hit the heavily populated Tampa-St. Petersburg area by Monday morning.
"Pray, pray for everybody in Florida," Gov. Rick Scott said as some 116,000 people statewide waited it out in shelters.
Scott said that some areas of South Florida had already received up to 12 inches of rain and up to 15 more inches could be possible across the state.
The Hurricane Center also emphasizes that Irma will bring life-threatening wind to much of Florida regardless of the exact track of its center.
Scott said millions of Floridians were feeling Irma's impacts and warned residents of the potential threats still to come.
"This is a life-threatening situation. Remember, Southwest Florida, the storm surge comes after the strongest winds. Do not think the storm is over when the winds slow down. Local officials will let you know when it's safe to go out,” Scott said. "The storm surge will rush in and could kill you."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Copyright 2017 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.