Hurricane Irma strengthened overnight to Category 4 again and is bearing down on the Florida Keys, bringing damaging winds and heavy rain. At least one person was killed, which brings the storm’s current death toll to 25, according to recent reports.
The man who was killed was in the Florida Keys on the island of Marathon when he lost control of a truck he has driving in the storm, trying to transport a generator, according to the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office.
Two other people died in a car crash in the rain in Hardee County, Florida, which is about 60 miles inland from Sarasota, the Florida Highway Patrol said.
The storm’s eye was as of 8 a.m. ET about to move over the Florida Keys, as it was about 20 miles from Key West and 110 miles south of Naples, Florida, on the state’s west coast.
Wind gusts up to 82 mph were reported in the Keys and up to 68 mph in Miami, according to the National Hurricane Center.
The National Weather Service earlier Sunday morning urged everyone in the Florida Keys to “hunker down,” warning, “the worst winds are yet to come.”
A tornado watch is also in effect across the area, with two twisters already reported in South Florida.
In Collier County, which is on the west coast of Florida, emergency vehicles were pulled from the roads on Sunday morning as heavy wind gusts began, the county said.
A weather station near Fort Pierce reported a four-hour rainfall total of 10.53 inches between midnight and 5 a.m. The rainfall rate along the east coast of Florida was 3 inches per hour.
Parts of Tennessee were put under a tropical storm watch on Sunday morning, which could bring a significant wind event to parts of Alabama, Georgia, southern Tennessee and South Carolina.
The storm, which had been downgraded to Category 3 after making landfall as a rare Category 5 hurricane in Cuba early Saturday morning, has sent 124,000 people to Red Cross and Red Cross-affiliated shelters, as of Sunday morning. That figure does not include church and ad hoc shelters. More than six million people have been warned to evacuate its path.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott called the storm unprecedented.
“This is a life-threatening situation,” he said on Saturday, adding, “Our state has never seen anything like it.”
Scott warned of the possibility of a “deadly, deadly, deadly storm surge.”
ABC News meteorologists are forecasting storm surges of 10 feet in Tampa and Sarasota, and 10 to 15 feet from Fort Myers to Naples. Somewhat lower storm surges of 3 to 6 feet may occur from Miami to Key Largo.
Winds were already picking up in Florida early Saturday, with gusts between 40 and 60 mph.
Hurricane-force winds with gusts over 115 mph are possible in the Keys by daybreak Sunday.
As of 7 a.m. ET Sunday, 478,340 customers in Florida were without power. In Miami-Dade County alone, 250,740 were without power.
Some 10,000 flights have been cancelled in anticipation of Irma, about 7,000 of them in Florida alone.
Ahead of Irma’s arrival in the Sunshine State, the last flights departed Friday night from Miami International Airport and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. Miami’s airport officially remains open, while Fort Lauderdale’s airport is closed for Saturday and Sunday.
Many ATM machines across southwest Florida were out of cash by late Friday night after people stocked up in case Hurricane Irma causes power outages that make debit and credit card transactions impossible, The Associated Press reported.
— Lisa Steinberg (@GoodHumorGrl) September 10, 2017
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Giménez said Saturday morning about 25,000 residents are sheltered in Miami-Dade alone, a number he called “unprecedented in our history.”
“We must remain vigilant,” Giménez said. “The storm will still strengthen … and we will be impacted.”
— Andrew Perez (@PerezLocal10) September 10, 2017
A slew of counties and cities in south Florida have issued curfews as the storm nears. Counties include Broward, Flagler, Orange, Palm Beach, Volusia, and Seminole. The cities of Miami, Miami Beach, North Miami Beach, Homestead, Key Biscayne, Melbourne Beach, Coral Springs, and Coral Gables also issued curfews.
— Carlos Suarez (@CarlosWPLG) September 10, 2017
"BUILD THE WALL" bumper stickers now on sale. (BUY NOW)
If you would like to receive Breaking News text alerts on a smartphone or tablet, download the DML APP which is completely FREE and easy to use. Go to the Google Play Store or the IOS App Store and search for DML APP. Be sure to keep the app’s notifications setting on. Another way to receive alerts is to text to 40404 the following message: follow @realdennislynch (be sure to put a space between the word follow and the @ symbol).
To see more stories like this, sign up below for Dennis Michael Lynch’s email newsletter.
Sign up to get breaking news alerts from Dennis Michael Lynch.
City of Miami rescuers are ‘no longer able to respond’