One day after leaving a trail of destruction across the Caribbean, Hurricane Irma made landfall in the Florida Keys on Sunday, whipping up 130 mile-per-hour winds throughout the region and knocking out power for nearly 1.5 million people. The Category 4 storm is now expected to travel up the state's western coastline, according to the National Weather Service, and is "impacting all of South Florida," as of 1 p.m. on Sunday.
There is an “imminent danger of life-threatening storm surge flooding along much of the Florida west coast,” the hurricane center warned. “The Keys through Tampa will likely experience the worst storm surge event that area has seen in generations,” Bill Read, a former Hurricane Center director, told the Washington Post.
Miami, too, has taken a beating, with much of the downtown area apparently under water. At least one crane has come down in the construction-heavy area of Biscayne Boulevard, and the City of Miami has tweeted that residents should "AVOID THE AREA!!"
— Brian Entin (@BrianEntin) September 10, 2017
— Gideon J. Apé (@GideonApe) September 10, 2017
— Kerri Copello (@KerriWFXL) September 10, 2017
— WPLG Local 10 News (@WPLGLocal10) September 10, 2017
"Irma is now so large that its exact track just isn’t as important as it is with a typical storm," the New York Times notes, adding that even in a best case scenario, the entire southern and central Florida peninsula should expect hurricane-force winds over 100 miles per hour.
The storm's destruction follows days of panicked warnings from officials and forecasters about the potential for catastrophe. The Florida Division of Emergency Management estimates that 6.3 million people were ordered to evacuate—one of the largest mass evacuations in the country history, according to CNN senior meteorologist Dave Hennen. Among those that stayed, more than 72,000 people moved into over 390 shelters across the state, the governor's office said.
“This is a deadly storm, and our state has never seen anything like it,” Scott added.The death toll for the storm has climbed above 25 in the Caribbean, and ABC News is reporting three deaths in Florida so far.
The arrival of Irma, on the heels of Hurricane Harvey in Houston, marks the first time on record that two Category 4 storms have made landfall in the U.S. in the same year.