Hurricane Irma gained strength again as it neared the Florida Keys and made landfall early Sunday morning.
The storm’s eye was on track to hit the Lower Keys between 7 and 8 a.m.,
The double barrel threat of both destructive winds and life-threatening storm surges that were gaining in strength again has prompted one of the largest evacuations in US history.
Irma was a Category 4 hurricane about 15 miles south-southeast of Key West, Florida, as of 7 a.m. EDT. The National Hurricane Centre (NHC) said that the maximum sustained wind gusts will reach 130 mph.
If Irma follows its current path, the population centres of Tampa (possibly) and St. Petersburg (surely) will likely be hit. Miami could escape the worst.
<blockquote class="twitter-video" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">It's Like Hell On Earth<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/BREAKING?src=hash">#BREAKING</a>: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/HurricaneIrma?src=hash">#HurricaneIrma</a> back to cat 4 as it churns towards <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Florida?src=hash">#Florida</a> over warm waters<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Irma?src=hash">#Irma</a><a href="https://t.co/l2UCezyu4g">pic.twitter.com/l2UCezyu4g</a></p>— Zippy (@princezip) <a href="https://twitter.com/princezip/status/906764399679025152">September 10, 2017</a></blockquote>
<script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
With the storm nearing, the National Weather Service in Key West updated its advisory as well: “Take action now to protect your life. This is an extremely dangerous and life-threatening situation.”
The White House administration is following up closely how it can help and President Trump could be seen during a conference call with Florida representatives. He stated that “property is replaceable, lives are not” and advised everyone to take shelter.
Gov. Rick Scott meanwhile warned on Saturday night that the sunshine state could get as much as 18 inches of rain, whilst the Florida Keys could expect to get up to 25 inches.
Irma has so far killed 25 people in the Caribbean and will likely cause billions of dollars in damage in the US.
The National Hurricane Centre has also put out a hurricane warning and a tropical storm warning which stretched from Florida into Georgia and South Carolina, meaning that it now covers an area of 20 million Americans.
Some 540,000 people have been told they need to leave the Georgia coast, whilst Alabama, North Carolina, and South Carolina have already declared states of emergency.
My colleague Savannah Smith already posted an alarming article today as to what could remain of Florida after Irma’s passage.