Hurricane Irma pummels Florida amid mass exodus

Bunking down on Necker Island as Hurricane Irma approaches

Bunking down on Necker Island as Hurricane Irma approaches

Hurling 130 miles per hour winds, the once category 4 storm made landfall on Cudjoe Key, the National Hurricane Center said.

The eyewall of Irma has reached the lower Florida Keys and is expected to track along Florida's western coast before hitting Naples and Fort Myers before making its way to Tampa.

It's unclear exactly how long Hurricane Irma will continue or how much more water will be dumped on Florida, but from the first images that have emerged, the state is already being hit with a disastrous amount of rain and heavy winds.

Tens of thousands in Florida are huddled in shelters as the hurricane threatens to make a catastrophic hit on the state.

Miami began feeling some of Irma's winds Saturday, with high-rise construction cranes sent spinning in circles.

Storm Surge Warnings are in effect for South Santee River southward around the Florida peninsula to the Suwanee River, including the Florida Keys and Tampa Bay. Major hurricane force winds were expected over the Keys by sunrise on Sunday, the centre said.

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"At the moment, it's not so high, but there's times when it rises and you must run inside", she said.

"With a storm of this magnitude, there will be widespread destruction throughout our service territory, and most of it will be in the most densely populated areas of South Florida", the utility's CEO, Eric Silagy, said in a statement. I just hope everybody has evacuated and gotten to safety.

The storm's path made another shift toward the west as of the update Saturday night and was about 90 miles from Key West. The hurricane center warns that winds affecting upper floors of high-rise building will be much stronger than at ground level.

But the hurricane killed at least 25 people earlier on its path across the Caribbean. "I couldn't sleep. I'm scared of hurricanes and this is the worst I have been through", she said.

Inga Beale, chief executive of insurance market Lloyd's of London, warned that the string of storms battering the USA and Caribbean coasts this month could rack up losses of $200bn (£151bn) for insurers.

Ngai said he planned to crouch in the bathtub when the storm makes landfall.

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- As Irma barrels toward Florida, as many as 26 million people in the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba could be exposed to destructive winds and torrential rain, the Red Cross said, with 1.2 million people already battered by the storm. "We've moved everything away from windows".

Irma is expected to cause billions of dollars in damage to the third-most-populous US state, a major tourism hub with an economy comprising about 5 percent of USA gross domestic product. "We're hoping for the best - we've bought nonperishable foods and water, and we have a flashlight".

"We think this could be the most challenging restoration in the history of the United States", company spokesman Chris McGrath said. Officials in Miami-Dade and Broward counties in Florida are ordering evacuations of certain residents in low-lying areas.

For days, forecasters had warned that Irma was taking dead aim at the Miami metropolitan area and the rest of Florida's Atlantic coast. Schools in the state planned to close Monday.

Alabama and North Carolina may also be affected, FEMA said.

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