Robert Gehl reports increasing to a Category 4 hurricane – with winds in excess of 130 miles per hour, Hurricane Irma will blast into the Florida Keys early Sunday morning, likely leveling everything in its path.
Authorities throughout the state issued mandatory evacuations in preparation for the historic storm.
In Miami, law enforcement and social service agencies went through the streets of Miami begging the areas homeless to go with them to storm shelters. If they didn’t they used the state’s controversial “Baker Act” to take people against their will off the streets and away from the storm. The state law permits police to detain people if they pose a danger to themselves or others.
Most homeless went voluntarily to shelters, a handful were detained under the Baker Act.
Landfall was expected to be about 9 a.m. local time between Key West and Key Largo, Florida, in the community of Cudjoe Key.
Here is a live feed of the storm’s coverage, from Tampa Bay’s ABC Action News:
CNN has several correspondents on the ground. Here’s a link to the live feed of their coverage.
Authorities have postponed all rescue efforts throughout the Keys and much of south Florida until the worst of Irma passes. People who chose to hunker down and ride out the storm were advised to write their Social Security Numbers in permanent marker on their arms so their bodies could be identified.
Basically, any preparations that were to be done in advance of the hurricane have already been done and it’s simply a matter of riding out the storm. Accuweather reports:
The current track of Irma will bring severe and life-threatening impacts to all of the Florida Keys and a large portion of the Florida Peninsula, including Key West, Key Largo, Tampa, Fort Myers, Naples, Sarasota and Miami.
“Irma remains a very powerful and destructive hurricane,” AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski said.
After the center of Irma tracked along the northern coast of Cuba Saturday morning, Irma briefly became a Category 3 hurricane. Early Sunday morning, it again became a Category 4 storm.
Irma is projected to maintain Category 4 strength until it makes landfall just east of Key West, Florida, around 8 a.m. Sunday. It may intensify further over very warm waters in the region, so landfall as a Category 5 hurricane cannot be ruled out.
Wind gusts may exceed 160 mph from Fort Myers southward to Everglades National Park and could lead to a swath of catastrophic damage, including roofs getting ripped off and severe structural damage.
“Impacts within the projected path of Irma include life-threatening wind, storm surge and flooding rainfall hazards,” Kottlowski said.
As Florida is almost completely flat, storm surges are one of the greatest fears.
The largest of the surges will occur right to the east of where Irma is tracking – putting the Keys and Southwest Florida at the greatest risk of inundations of up to 15 feet in storm surges. Areas such as Tampa Bay, Miami and Melbourne can expect storm surges. Some of the areas with the highest surges are expected to be Naples, Bonita Springs, Port Charlotte and Fort Meyers.