Hurricane Irma is hitting to Florida after pummeling much of the Leeward Islands and the Caribbean, just weeks after Hurricane Harvey devastated Texas and parts of Louisiana.
The latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center said that as of 8 p.m. Saturday night “heavy squalls with embedded tornados [are] sweeping across South Florida.”
The storm has slowed down, moving 7 miles per hour, and has been downgraded to a Category 3 hurricane with maximum wind gusts at 120 miles per hour. The storm is expected to regain strength as it leaves the northern coast of Cuba and hits the Florida Keys.
The core of Irma will continue to move near the north coast of Cuba during the next few hours, and should be near the Florida Keys Sunday morning. The hurricane is expected to move along or near the southwest coast of Florida Sunday afternoon.
President Donald Trump is monitoring the storm from Camp David in Maryland and is warning residents to take cover.
A state of emergency has been declared in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. Mandatory evacuations have been issued in several coastal areas. Schools are closed and the National Guard has been activated.
The National Weather Service said hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 70 miles from the eye of the storm. Marathon International Airport in the Florida Keys reported a sustained wind of 48 mph and a gust to 67 mph.
Storm surge is a huge concern in coastal areas of Florida and could reach 15 feet in some areas.
The combination of a dangerous storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline. The water is expected to reach the following HEIGHTS ABOVE GROUND if the peak surge occurs at the time of high tide…
Cape Sable to Captiva…10 to 15 ft
Captiva to Ana Maria Island…6 to 10 ft
Card Sound Bridge through Cape Sable, including the Florida Keys…
5 to 10 ft
Ana Maria Island to Clearwater Beach, including Tampa Bay…
5 to 8 ft
North Miami Beach to Card Sound Bridge, including Biscayne Bay…
4 to 6 ft
South Santee River to Fernandina Beach…4 to 6 ft
Clearwater Beach to Ochlockonee River…4 to 6 ft
Fernandina Beach to North Miami Beach…2 to 4 ft
Tornados are also possible in South Florida and many are already without power.