Hurricane Irma is now a Category 2 storm, threatening to bring dangerous storm surges along Florida’s west coast, the National Hurricane Center said Sunday.
Irma slammed into southwest Florida on Sunday, threatening to bring dangerous storm surges to coastal areas already battered by the hurricane’s powerful winds.
Now a Category 2 storm with maximum sustained winds of 110 mph, Hurricane Irma is about 5 miles north of Naples, Florida, the National Hurricane Center said in its latest advisory at 5 p.m. ET.
Irma is already uprooting trees and turning streets into rivers.
Forecasters warn that water levels are rapidly rising in Naples as the storm churns north.
And there’s plenty more to come as Irma climbs the coast toward Fort Myers and Tampa.
“We’re all hanging in there, ready to get out there to help others as soon as it’s safe to do so,” Marco Island Police Chief Al Schettino said as the storm hit his city on Sunday afternoon.
Even areas that aren’t facing a direct hit from Irma are seeing flooding and downed power lines.
“We’re getting slammed right now,” Josh Levy, the mayor of Hollywood, Florida, said on Sunday afternoon.
Expected to be even more dangerous than the powerful winds are the storm surges that threaten Florida’s coastal cities.
“The threat of catastrophic storm surge flooding is highest along the southwest coast of Florida, where 10 to 15 feet of inundation above ground level is expected,” the hurricane center said. “This is a life-threatening situation.”
Still, not everyone heeded orders to evacuate coastal Florida.
Wayne Ploghoft hunkered down Sunday on the third floor of a building on Marco Island — where life-threatening storm surges are imminent.
Ploghoft said he wasn’t able to evacuate because his flight plans didn’t work out. Now Ploghoft and three others are holed up with stockpiles of water, canned food and battery power.
“We’re all going to be OK,” Ploghoft said.
Gov. Rick Scott said Irma’s wrath is unprecedented.
“We have never had anything like this before,” he said Sunday.
In Florida and southern Georgia, more than 8 million people face hurricane-force winds topping 74 mph, said Ryan Maue of WeatherBell Analytics.
And almost the entire state of Florida is under a hurricane warning, affecting at least 36 million people.
Miami faces Irma’s wrath
Gusts topping 90 mph whipped Miami on Sunday, knocking out power to more than 750,000 customers in the Miami-Dade area.
Flying objects such as coconuts turned into dangerous projectiles. And at least two construction cranes partially collapsed. One swung vigorously over downtown Miami. Another dangled over the city’s Edgewater neighborhood.
Matthew Spuler captured video of waves crashing over a seawall toward his downtown high-rise building.
“There is no seawall whatsoever,” Spuler said. “It’s amazing. It’s under water.”