Hurricane Irma roared into Florida with 210 km/h winds Sunday for what could be a sustained assault on nearly the entire Sunshine State, flooding streets, knocking out power to more than 2.5 million homes and businesses and snapping construction cranes over the Miami skyline.
As the eye of Irma approached Naples, it weakened to a Category 2 hurricane, bringing winds of 175 km/h, the National Hurricane Center said, but Irma is expected to remain a hurricane through Monday.
The eye of Hurricane Irma made second landfall in Florida as a Category 3 hurricane at 3:35 p.m. ET in Marco Island, in southwest Florida off Naples, where gusts of 210 km/h were reported.
The Marco Island police department is warning people who didn’t evacuate to get to higher floors in buildings because the area is expecting storm surges of up to 4.5 metres.
The more than 560-kilometre-wide storm blew ashore in the morning in the Florida Keys and is expected to make a slow, ruinous march up the state’s west coast, hitting the heavily populated Tampa-St. Petersburg area by Monday morning.
Streets emptied across the bottom half of the Florida peninsula and some 127,000 people huddled in shelters.
“Pray, pray for everybody in Florida,” Gov. Rick Scott said on Fox News Sunday.
Irma made first in Florida landfall just after 9 a.m. at Cudjoe Key, about 32 kilometres outside Key West, forecasters said.
Some storm chasers took the inadvisable risk of experiencing the winds earlier today.
Many streets were underwater in downtown Miami and in other cities. Roof damage and floating appliances and furniture were reported in the low-lying Keys, but with the storm still hitting around midday, the full extent of Irma’s wrath was not clear.
At least two construction cranes in Miami have been knocked over by the heavy winds.
A Miami woman who went into labour was guided through delivery by phone when authorities couldn’t reach her in high winds and street flooding. Firefighters later took her to the hospital.
There were no immediate confirmed reports of any deaths in Florida, on top of 24 people killed during the storm’s destructive trek across the Caribbean.
While the projected track showed Irma raking the state’s Gulf Coast, forecasters warned that the entire state — including the Miami…