Boston: Hurricane Irma smashed into Florida as a powerful Category 4 storm, driving a wall of water and violent winds ashore and marking the first time since 1964 the U.S. was hit by back-to-back major hurricanes.
The almost 400-mile-wide storm is expected to make a slow, ruinous march up Florida's west coast, straight toward the heavily populated Tampa-St.
More than 6,000 people had been evacuated to higher ground in preparation for the arrival of Irma, which mostly grazed the island's coastline.
"Pray, pray for everybody in Florida", Governor Rick Scott said on Fox News Sunday.
Ferocious winds knocked out power to more than 680,000 customers in the Miami-Dade area, and at least one construction crane snapped.
And nearly the entire state of Florida is under a hurricane warning, affecting at least 36 million people.
Local radio issued constant messages warning people not to leave their homes while the hurricane passed.
76,000 people are already without power in Florida, as the outer bands of Hurricane Irma begin to affect the USA mainland, the state's governor said late Saturday.
"What happened was the storm continued - after interacting with Cuba - to move west-northwest", Jones said.
Civil Defense official Gregorio Torres said authorities were trying to tally the extent of the damage in eastern Cuba, home to hundreds of rural communities and farmland.
Some are hurricane veterans, having lived through Camille, Andrew, Katrina and other storms unscathed. There are fears the outages could last months. The storm is expected to hit the Tampa area around 8 a.m. Monday.
Orange juice prices have already been creeping higher as Florida braces for the storm. There are also chances of impacts in Georgia and the Carolinas, depending on which direction the storm movesin the coming days. It submerged the highway that connects the isolated Florida Keys archipelago with the mainland and small whitecapped waves could be seen in flooded streets between Miami office towers. The vast majority of those are in Miami-Dade County, which is under a mandatory evacuation order. The Associate Press reported that officials in Georgia asked about 540,000 residents along the coast to evacuate. "You are running out of time to make a decision", Scott said.
Wayne Ploghoft is hunkered down on the third floor of a building on Marco Island - where catastrophic storm surges are imminent. "Take what you need, but only what you need".
Don't just focus on wind speed.
Irma continues to be armed with 130 miles per hour winds as its large eye passes north of the Keys. Irma has the potential to be even worse.
"I've been here with other storms, other hurricanes".
But the United States is still reeling from the impacts of Hurricane Harvey. Parts of Houston are still under water, thousands are still living in shelters, and cleanup efforts have barely begun.
Jones said the severity of the storm surge depended on which side of the storm Tampa was on.
As if Irma weren't enough to worry about there's another huge storm churning in the seas - Jose. By noon, meteorologists were recording 100 miles per hour wind gusts in Broward County, which includes Miramar. The entire island of Barbuda, population 1,600, has been evacuated again.
By Saturday evening, the sea had penetrated two blocks over parts of the city's historic seafront boulevard, and the waters were expected to advance farther as the surge grew. Major hurricane force winds were expected over the Keys by sunrise on Sunday, the centre said.
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