Hurricane Irma Batters Florida With Wind, Rain And Storm Surges

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Heavy rains and wind gusts reportedly in excess of 150 miles per hour still wreaked havoc on the region as millions in the storm's path were ordered to evacuate.

Florida's main airports have been forced to close as the latest hurricane to hit the USA bears down on the Florida coast. The storm made landfall in the continental USA on Sunday after ripping through the Caribbean as a Category 5 storm late last week. That could bring severe damage to the Sarasota-Manatee area, as well as Tampa Bay. Do not think the storm is over when the winds slow down.

Expected to be even more unsafe than the powerful winds are the storm surges that threaten Florida's coastal cities.

The Florida Division of Emergency Management estimates 6.5 million Florida residents were told to evacuate ahead of Irma's arrival.

While the destruction looks formidable, city officials say they were expecting much worse.

An 8-10 foot storm surge is possible starting late Sunday into Monday for southwest Florida.

"We know that we are ground zero for Hurricane Irma", Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said at a Sunday morning news conference.

By 5 p.m., the storm was hitting Fort Myers, moving north toward low-lying, vulnerable Tampa as a still-potent Category 2 storm. When the storm came in, we saw some storm surge in Miami.

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster on Sunday night issued a mandatory evacuation for some barrier islands, CNN reported. Strong river flooding is possible over the next five days in much of central Georgia and southern SC. "As important as football is to all of us, these kind of events provide perspective when you're talking about life-threatening events and the aftermath ramifications".

While considering how the city would react, Buckhorn quoted boxer Mike Tyson, saying, "Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face".

Scott asked those planning to be on the roads to leave by noon Saturday.

When it is finally safe for emergency officials to fan out across the peninsula, they will find out whether that is enough.

"This is a catastrophic storm".

These tornadoes might be a little weaker, and dissipate faster, than a tornado spawned in, say, the US Central Plains. "It's bigger than our state".

In a Facebook post, Norcross warned that Irma's expected storm surge could be devastating in an area not accustomed to such high water levels.

Irma's core hit the Florida Keys on Sunday morning, according to the National Weather Service.