The historic storm is so wide that authorities faced destructive storm surges on both coasts of Florida and the Keys as it follows a path north toward Georgia.
The monster storm could then move into Pinellas and Hillsborough counties as a strong Category 3 hurricane.
Some 6.3 million people in Florida had been told to evacuate.
Claudia Russell, 47, enjoys an empty beach in Miami. "Tree removal, debris - don't want to say it's negligible, but it's manageable".
It's the region that will see heavier rain and pinwheeling feeder bands that create a risk for spin-up tornadoes from Sunday afternoon through Monday morning in advance of the approach of the eye.
José is forecast to loop around itself through the end of the week, so that by Friday, the center of the storm is pretty much back to where we are today. Parents pointed out familiar sites, now damaged, to their children.
National Weather Service models show that the western edge of the storm will likely reach the River Region later Monday and could bring Montgomery up to two inches of rain and winds as fast as 35 miles per hour through Tuesday.
Downtown Atlanta's streets were eerily quiet, with restaurants, businesses and schools closed. Traffic out of the city was light, however, and the governor ordered the interstate returned to normal after just eight hours.
More than 1.2 million Georgia Power and EMC customers mostly in coastal and south Georgia were without power.
SC also geared up for the storm. Utilities said thousands of employees were prepared to respond, but repairs could take several days.
Video footage from Miami shows a frightening scene, with howling winds tearing through the city's streets and whipping the rising flood waters into a frothy river.
More than 3.4 million homes in the state are without power, and parts of the city of Miami are under water.
According to some reports, almost 4 million to 5 million homes and businesses in Florida lost power, and utility officials said it could take weeks to restore electricity to everyone.
"We are about to get punched in the face by this storm".
"Hurricane Irma downgraded to tropical storm, continues to weaken as the center moves along the northwestern coast of the Florida peninsula", the state Division of Emergency Management posted on its website early Monday.