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Updated 9:48 PM  |  September 11, 2017
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Aerial views show Irma’s wreckage in Key Largo
Irma inundates Jacksonville
Tommy Nevitt carries Miranda Abbott, 6, through floodwaters from Hurricane Irma on the west side of Jacksonville, Fla., on Monday. (Dede Smith/Florida Times-Union/AP)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Before Hurricane Irma left Florida, it caused historic flooding in the Jacksonville area, packing a surprise last-minute wallop to North Florida that sent people scrambling for the top floors of their houses Monday morning.

The St. Johns River, which cuts through this northeastern Florida city, overflowed its banks, flooding bridges and city streets.

In nearby Clay County, the Black Creek had already surpassed its historic high of 26.5 feet on Monday afternoon, and it was expected to crest at 28.5 feet early Tuesday.

“We did not expect how extensive this would be,” said Kimberly Morgan, public information officer for the Clay County emergency operation center.

Morgan said a storm that dumped six inches of rain on the area the day before Irma hit made matters worse.

“I hate to use the term, but this was the perfect storm. It was the tidal surge, combined with all the rain from the nor’easter, which was six inches, and then Irma dumped another 10 to 15 inches. We’ve had places flooded that have never flooded before. Water is up to the mailbox level in some neighborhoods. We’re doing rooftop rescues.”

Morgan said water rescues are being done by boat, JetSki, even surfboards.

“You have to get creative in a situation like this,” she said.

Morgan said that evacuation shelters, which held 700 people before Monday, were expected to fill up even more.

“We don’t think we’re going to see the end of this until Friday,” Morgan said.

‘People helped each other’
A tree was pushed over and damaged in Estero, Fla., after Hurricane Irma. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)

ESTERO, Fla. — Many of the 4,000 or so people who spent the past two nights in the massive and crowded Germain Arena in this southwestern Florida town left at dawn Monday, only to find their cars flooded and the streets overfilled with water.

One young woman in a subcompact car got as far as one block from the main and passable Corkscrew Road, only to have her engine stop amid two feet of standing water. An older man in a Vietnam Veterans ball cap got out of his Oldsmobile to help push her out of an intersection — but then found himself stuck, afraid to come off a wet median strip and into the lake.

“We’re all in the same boat here,” he said, identifying himself only as John from Fort Myers. “The shelter was as good as can be expected, chaotic at times. But people helped each other.”

Lee County authorities said its 14 shelters housed more than 32,000 people during Hurricane Irma. It closed 10 of its 14 shelters Monday. People who still needed places to stay will be brought to the four remaining sites, including Germain Arena. A decision has not been made about how long those sites will accept people seeking shelter.

Irma wreaks havoc on Coconut Grove neighborhood of Miami
The Coconut Grove neighborhood of Miami sustained some of the worst damage from Irma. (Perry Stein/The Washington Post)

MIAMI — Coconut Grove, one of Miami’s oldest neighborhoods, appeared to be one of the most ravaged in the wake of Irma. Storm surges from Biscayne Bay had flooded parts of main thoroughfares of the coastal neighborhoods. The water had seeped into the lobbies of luxury condo buildings along Biscayne Boulevard.

Sailboats on Grove Key Marina were flipped. Once-idyllic parks looked like desolate war zones. Debris was everywhere. Large trees toppled over by their roots.

By Monday afternoon, the water had mostly receded, but power had yet to be restored.

Irma’s enormous reach

As Irma dissipated over North America on Monday afternoon, its enormity was still evident. Tendrils of the storm covered parts of Canada and Florida at the same time.

Hurricane Irma: Storm moves north after pounding Florida
Heavy winds and rain are seen in Miami on Sunday. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

Irma, the record-setting hurricane that devastated islands across the Caribbean, has been churning north through Florida — and has turned its sights on Georgia.

Visit the Capital Weather Gang’s live updates page for more on the storm.

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