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About 400 miles north of Hurricane Irma’s first landfall in South Florida, the coastal city of Jacksonville is being swallowed by water, with heavy rain and a record storm surge turning streets into churning rivers and wind-whipped waves crashing through windows.
The city government issued a flash flood emergency Monday morning, ordering people to go inside and stay there. Dozens of people were rescued from their homes. Mayor Lenny Curry and the local sheriff’s office asked people to put white flags outside their homes to signal for help.
The warnings applied mostly to communities along the St. Johns River, where storm surges were expected to push water 4 to 6 feet above normal high tides. Flood levels along the river in downtown Jacksonville had already surpassed previous highs recorded in 1864.
That was before the afternoon high tide.
“It’s bad now. It’s going to continue to get worse,” Angie Enyedi. a meteorologist for the National Weather Service, said at a briefing Monday morning.
By late afternoon, the water was beginning to recede, but the evening high tide was still looming.
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Enyedi described the confluence of the storm surge, the 10 to 20 inches of rain and the winds from the south pushing water upstream on the river as a “trifecta effect.”
Authorities in Jacksonville, population 880,000, said Monday morning that a number of people were injured by structure fires and trees crashing through homes but that no deaths had been reported. Thousands of people remained without power late Monday afternoon.
The flooding in northern Florida was happening as Irma weakened to a tropical storm, moving into Georgia late Monday afternoon.