Relief crews expect they'll discover fatalities. Gastesi says they are "prepared for the worst."
Update: 8:45 p.m. ET: More than 3.3 million homes and businesses are without power as Irma makes its way up the Florida peninsula, the Associated Press reports. According to Florida Power & Light, nearly 1 million customers have lost power in Miami-Dade County alone. The power outages are expected to increase as the storm moves north.
According to Jeff Masters, meteorology director of the private Weather Underground, Irma could have hit the mainland United States as a Category 5 storm if its center had shifted just 20 miles to the north as it moved past Cuba.
Update: 5:30 p.m. ET: Irma is now a category 2 storm, according to the National Weather Service. The storm is hitting Naples, FL with winds as high as 110 mph at present and storm surges are expected after the eye of the hurricane passes over Florida, the Associated Press reports.
Update 2:30 p.m. ET: Irma has been downgraded to a category 3 hurricane by the National Weather service on Sunday afternoon.
The National Weather Service predicts cities on Florida's west coast, including Tampa and St. Petersburg, will feel Irma most intensely around 9 p.m. ET.
Tampa, FL mayor Bob Buckhorn advised citizens that their city is "ground zero" for the storm and that a 6 p.m. curfew is in effect on Sunday night. First responders will not be able to help citizens of Tampa while winds are sustained at over 40 mph or higher, Buckhorn wrote, saying "We cannot put our first responders at risk."
The storm surge is forecast at 10 to 15 feet for southwest Florida, while life threatening winds will be sustained as Irma pushes slowly north and west.
Wind speeds of 130 mph were reported when Irma made ground on the Cudjoe Key at around 9 a.m.
Update, 8:15 a.m. ET, September 10: The eyewall of Hurricane Irma reached the Lower Florida Keys at 7 a.m. ET this morning, the National Weather Service reported in a tweet. The center of the deadly storm made it to the Keys about one hour later, marking the time that Irma officially made landfall in the U.S. (Irma passed by and caused much damage to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, but did not make landfall there.) The storm has been moving steadily westward, with the brunt of the impact now expected to hit the state's west coast.
Irma became a category 4 hurricane again overnight.
Citizens are urged to take shelter in interior rooms while the powerful storm passes over Florida, and shelter in place. Hurricane force wind gusts are the most imminent danger for most, with storm surges near the coasts and sustained high winds also posing a threat.
Tornado warnings and flash flood warnings are expected for the entire area, off and on all day Sunday and going into Monday.
In response to a tweeted question from a viewer who wanted to know how long the worst of Irma would last, NBC6 Chief Meteorologist John Morales said, "It's only moving at 8 miles per hour. It's an all Sunday thing."
Update, 5:15 p.m. ET: Hurricane Irma has shifted direction, CBS News reports. The storm is now targeting Tampa, FL rather than Miami. Though the storm will miss Miami, that city of 6 million will still experience life-threatening hurricane winds.
The Tampa area is home to around 3 million people, many of whom are scrambling to leave town. Citizens of Florida's west coast were instructed to evacuate previously.
This story was originally published on September 9, 2017.
Hurricane Irma hasn't made landfall in Florida yet, but the state is already feeling some of its effects. CBS News reported that damaging winds and rains from the outer arms of Irma had already arrived in South Florida, with gusts up to 56 mph reported in Miami.
The powerful winds have led to 30,000 power outages in Miami-Dade County and 1,870 in Broward County, according to the Florida Power & Light Company (FPL). CBS Miami reported that FPL estimates 3 million people will be affected by power outages during Irma.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami announced that as Irma makes its way to Florida it has been downgraded to a Category 3 storm with maximum sustained winds of 125 mph, but would likely pick up speed and turn back into a Category 4 before landing in the Florida Keys on Sunday morning.
According to the Associated Press, Irma has changed course and the storm's center will no longer land in Miami but the Tampa Bay area instead. Irma is expected to start in the low-lying Florida Keys before hitting southwestern Florida and moving north into the Tampa Bay area, which includes the major cities, Tampa and St. Petersburg, along with Naples. This would be the first time the Tampa Bay area has been directly hit by a major hurricane since 1921.
Miami might not get hit as hard as first expected, but the National Hurricane Center warns that the city will still be hit with "life-threatening hurricane winds." CNN reported that from Sunday through Wednesday as much as 20 inches of rain was predicted to fall across the Florida peninsula and southeast Georgia.
With new reports, Florida governor Rick Scott once again urged residents that were in Irma's path to evacuate immediately. He said that in some areas along the west coast of Florida the storm surge is expected to reach up to 15 feet. "You need to leave — not tonight, not in an hour, right now," Scott said. "This is the most catastrophic storm the state has ever seen."
According to CBS, 6.3 million of the state's approximately 21 million residents have been asked to evacuate. It's one of the biggest evacuations ever reported in U.S. history.