deadly storm is now downgraded to Category One
Koon said about 10,000 people stayed in the Keys to ride out the storm but communications had been cut off.
He said it was likely they did not have power or water and that there would have been ‘fairly significant impact to homes’.
‘It is obvious we need to get in there, assess the damage and figure out what we need to do for helping those folks,’ he said.
More than 170,000 people waited in shelters statewide as Irma headed up the coast.
Forecasters expect Irma to weaken further into a tropical storm over far northern Florida or southern Georgia on Monday as it speeds up its forward motion. The hurricane center says the storm is still life-threatening with dangerous storm surge, wind and heavy rains.
Irma has so far claimed five lives in Florida, including two law enforcement officials involved in a car crash Sunday. Hardee County Sheriff’s deputy and mother-of-one Julie Bridges and Hardee Correctional Institute sergeant Joseph Ossman crashed and died around 60 miles from Saratosa.
The storm toppled cranes, swallowed streets and left about 5 million without power Sunday as it unleashed its terrifying fury after wreaking a trail of death and destruction through the Caribbean.
Six million people were ordered to flee the path of the hurricane before it first made landfall in Florida Keys.
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.
The Keys is now the subject of a huge airborne relief mission.
The county administrator in the Florida Keys says crews will begin house to house searches Monday morning, looking for people who need help and assessing damage from Hurricane Irma.
Monroe County Administrator Roman Gastesi says relief will arrive on a C-130 military plane at the Key West International Airport.
Once it’s light out, they’ll check on survivors. They suspect they may find fatalities. Gastesi says they are ‘prepared for the worst.’
While southwest Florida bore the deadly brunt of Irma’s wrath Sunday, the coastlines of Miami and the neighboring island of Miami Beach were heavily inundated by storm surges as hurricane winds sent two giant construction cranes crashing down.
A third construction crane toppled late Sunday at a project on Fort Lauderdale beach.
Orlando International Airport closed Saturday and won’t reopen to passenger traffic until after Irma has passed, a damage assessment has been completed, necessary recovery efforts made and the airlines are consulted to determine when best to resume operations.
Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport says on its website it has no timetable yet to reopen. Its last flights were Friday. Tampa International Airport also is closed as Hurricane Irma moves up the Florida peninsula.
Airlines are preparing their recovery schedules, which may take several days to execute.
President Donald Trump said on Sunday evening that the US may have gotten a ‘little bit lucky’ after Hurricane Irma veered from its original course and headed west along Florida’s coast.
He said Irma might not have been quite as destructive as a result, but that things will play out over the next several hours. Trump added that Irma would cost ‘a lot of money’ but he wasn’t thinking about that because ‘right now, we’re worried about lives, not cost.’
He declared a major disaster in the state of Florida, making federal aid available to people affected by Hurricane Irma in nine counties already hit by the storm.
The federal help includes temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans for uninsured property losses and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover in the counties of Charlotte, Collier, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Pinellas, and Sarasota.
Federal funding also is available to governments and non-profit organizations for emergencies in all 67 Florida counties. For the first 30 days, that money will cover 100 percent of the costs of some emergency responses.
As the hurricane moves up the west coast, experts have warned of destructive storm surges on both coasts of Florida and the Keys as it follows a path north toward Georgia. On Sunday, Atlanta got its first ever tropical-storm warning.