Tropical Storm Warning Mon-Tues for East Alabama

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Buckhorn said areas along the Tampa Bay shoreline could expect a unsafe storm surge anywhere from 3 to 8 feet, adding that it would depend on where Irma went.

Those winds could prompt the closure of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge on Saturday night, once sustained winds reach 40 miles per hour, Gilmore said.

MIAMI - A 10-to-15-mile wobble could define whether Hurricane Irma lands in Fort Myers, Tampa Bay or the Big Bend, a National Hurricane Center official said Sunday morning. It was expected to strengthen before hitting Florida. Forecasters monitored a crucial shift in its trajectory that could keep its ferocious eye off the southwest Florida coast and over warm gulf water.

Despite the shift in forecast models, state officials stressed that the Miami metropolitan area was not out of danger.

Update 5 a.m.: Hurricane Irma continues to move across Florida's northwestern coast, weakening as it goes. It gradually weakened to a tropical storm by Monday morning.

Almost 4.5 million homes and businesses across Florida lost power, and utility officials said it will take weeks to restore electricity to everyone.

How many people in the dangerously exposed, low-lying islands defied evacuation orders and stayed behind was unclear. "You will not survive all this storm surge". About 70,000 people crowded into 385 shelters statewide.

There are fears storm surges of 3m to 4.5m could engulf houses in low-lying coastal areas and cause devastating flooding.

And while you are welcomed to blame climate change for Irma herself, the Washington Post should be blamed for the hurricane bullseye-ing Tampa and St. Petersburg.

Authorities sent an aircraft carrier and other Navy ships to help with search-and-rescue operations in Florida on Monday as a flyover of the hurricane-battered Keys yielded what the governor said were scenes of devastation. It scoured Barbuda, St. Martin and parts of the Virgin Islands as it swept over as a Category 5 hurricane with winds over 180 miles per hour (290 km/h) - and maintained that strength for longer than any other storm on record.

At least 20 inches of rain were predicted through Wednesday, and Irma's mass dwarfs that of the entire state of Florida.