Although the eye of the storm is still 145 miles southeast of Key West, Irma’s tropical-storm-force winds extend nearly 200 miles in all directions, and many parts of southern Florida are already experiencing strong winds and rains from the storm’s outer bands.
NBC 6 South Florida is reporting that tropical-storm-level winds (classified as 39 mph and higher) are currently being felt in Key West and Miami. Reports of fallen trees and downed power lines are emerging. As of 12:45 pm ET Saturday, nearly 30,000 households had already lost power.
Wind speeds are expected to steadily increase throughout the day on Saturday, and the storm’s center is forecast to arrive in the Keys on Sunday morning, then travel up the west coast of the peninsula. Irma is expected to pick up intensity as it travels across the warm waters of the Gulf.
Many parts of Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina have mandatory evacuation orders in place. In total, nearly 7 million people have been ordered to evacuate in the US ahead of Irma’s arrival.
In addition to dangerous winds, much of southern Florida is anticipating a severe storm surge — the crest of water that forms ahead of a storm because of its powerful winds. Storm-surge warnings are in effect from the Volusia/Brevard County line south around the peninsula to the Suwanee River, as well as in the Florida Keys and Tampa Bay.
If Irma hits Florida at high tide, water levels there are expected to rise to 10 to 15 feet above ground from Cape Sable to Captiva.
“Millions of Floridians will see major hurricane impacts with deadly, deadly, deadly storm surge and life-threatening winds,” Gov. Rick Scott said Saturday morning. “15 feet of impact above ground level — think about that — 15 feet is devastating. It will cover your house.”
Mandatory curfews have been put into effect in several areas, including Broward County (4pm), Miami (7 pm), and Miami Beach (9pm).
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