Florida is already feeling the impact of Irma as Governor Rick Scott says at least 76,000 people are without power as Irma unleashes winds and rain on the state.
Scott said on Saturday night that the number of outages is expected to grow even higher as Irma inches closer to the state. He strongly warned people the storm is life-threatening.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Current forecast for storm inundation. Red indicates "greater than 9 feet" above ground level –<br> forecasts are for up to 15 feet. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Irma?src=hash">#Irma</a> <a href="https://t.co/MdTUWGF9Sy">pic.twitter.com/MdTUWGF9Sy</a></p>— Michael Slezak (@MikeySlezak) <a href="https://twitter.com/MikeySlezak/status/906680389510369280">September 10, 2017</a></blockquote>
<script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
The US national hurricane center also says wind gusts “near hurricane strength” have been recorded in the Florida Keys as Irma approaches the state.
Marathon reported a wind gust of 71mph (114kmh) and sustained winds of 51mph (82kmh). Irma is about 105 miles (170km) southeast of Key West. It has winds of 125 mph (200kmh).
Hurricane Irma has already made its wrath felt in Cuba as it uprooted trees and tore off roofs on Saturday with 125mph winds that damaged hotels in the most popular beach resorts on the island. Officials also carried out forced evacuations as far along the coast as low-lying areas of the capital Havana.
Power and mobile phone services were also affected as they proved problematic in many regions as Irma approaches the end of a 200 mile trek westwards along the top of the island.
Residents in the fishing town of Caibarien swept mud from the beachside homes after a storm surge pushed meter of seawater up the shore. People said it was the strongest cyclone ever to hit the town.
Irma is expected to head north towards Florida today. Photos going viral the past recent days show Florida residents in the thick of preparations- some say even panic- as they brace for the impact of Irma. Millions attempt to evacuate. Thousands of others are working to secure their property.
The constant fluctuations in Irma’s strength and path are putting many Florida residents on the edge. Residents of Collier County in southwest Florida, for instance, initially thought they would be spared of Irma’s fury now appear to be her target, and so people are scrambling to make last minute preparations.
Irma made landfall on Cuba on September 8 as a category 5 storm but has been downgraded to a category 3 storm by September 9. It is likely, however, to gain strength before it hits Florida’s west coast.
Many residents of southwest Florida thought they were safe riding out the hurricane at home have now flocked to shelters as Irma's projected path shifted overnight.
Still, in Cuba, authorities evacuated around 10,000 people from central Havana near the Malecon seawall because of fears of flooding from the storm surge.
Despite the still strong impact of Irma, many Cubans are more relieved than anything else- it was not as worse as they feared it to be.