Hurricane Irma lashes Florida Keys, nearly 500,000 lose power

Hurricane Irma made landfall in Florida on Sunday, raking the lower Florida Keys with 130 mph and soaking the southern part of the state with torrential rains.

Irma touched ground in Cudjoe Key at 9:10 a.m., the National Hurricane Center reported.

The system, which has already knocked out power to almost 500,000 customers across the state, was expected to churn-up life-threatening storm surges of up to 15 feet along parts of southwestern Florida and on other parts of the coast, forecasters warned.

Storm surges were beginning to impact Key West just before 4 a.m. ET Sunday, with water levels already two feet above normal.

RELATED: Irma's wrath from above

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Hurricane Irma's wrath from above
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Hurricane Irma's wrath from above
Hurricane Irma (L) and Hurricane Jose are pictured in the Atlantic Ocean in this September 7, 2017 NOAA satellite handout photo. NOAA/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
An aerial photography taken and released by the Dutch department of Defense on September 6, 2017 shows the damage of Hurricane Irma on Maho beach, on the Dutch Caribbean island of Sint Maarten. Hurricane Irma, rampaging across the Caribbean, has produced sustained winds at 295 kilometres per hour (183 miles per hour) for more than 33 hours, making it the longest-lasting, top-intensity cyclone ever recorded, France's weather service said on September 7. / AFP PHOTO / DUTCH DEFENSE MINISTRY / GERBEN VAN ES / Netherlands OUT / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT 'AFP PHOTO / DUTCH DEFENSE MINISTRY/GERBEN VAN ES' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS (Photo credit should read GERBEN VAN ES/AFP/Getty Images)
CARIBBEAN SEA - SEPTEMBER 7: In this NOAA handout image, NOAA's GOES satellite shows Hurricane Irma as it moves towards the Florida Coast in the Caribbean Sea taken at 20:00 UTC on September 07, 2017. The state of Florida is in the track of where the hurricane may make landfall. (Photo by NOAA GOES Project via Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - An aerial photography taken and released by the Dutch department of Defense on September 6, 2017 shows the damage of Hurricane Irma, on the Dutch Caribbean island of Sint Maarten. Hurricane Irma, rampaging across the Caribbean, has produced sustained winds at 295 kilometres per hour (183 miles per hour) for more than 33 hours, making it the longest-lasting, top-intensity cyclone ever recorded, France's weather service said on September 7. / AFP PHOTO / DUTCH DEFENSE MINISTRY AND AFP PHOTO / GERBEN VAN ES / Netherlands OUT / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT 'AFP PHOTO / DUTCH DEFENSE MINISTRY/GERBEN VAN ES' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS (Photo credit should read GERBEN VAN ES/AFP/Getty Images)
An aerial photography taken and released by the Dutch department of Defense on September 6, 2017 shows the damage of Hurricane Irma, on the Dutch Caribbean island of Sint Maarten. Hurricane Irma, rampaging across the Caribbean, has produced sustained winds at 295 kilometres per hour (183 miles per hour) for more than 33 hours, making it the longest-lasting, top-intensity cyclone ever recorded, France's weather service said on September 7. / AFP PHOTO / DUTCH DEFENSE MINISTRY AND AFP PHOTO / GERBEN VAN ES / Netherlands OUT / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT 'AFP PHOTO / DUTCH DEFENSE MINISTRY/GERBEN VAN ES' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS (Photo credit should read GERBEN VAN ES/AFP/Getty Images)
CARIBBEAN SEA - SEPTEMBER 7: In this NOAA handout image, NOAA's GOES satellite shows Hurricane Irma as it moves towards the Florida Coast in the Caribbean Sea taken at 16:15 UTC on September 07, 2017. Irma is a category 5 hurricane and will bring life-threatening wind, storm surge, and rainfall hazards to the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. The state of Florida is in the track of where the hurricane may make landfall. (Photo by NOAA GOES Project via Getty Images)
CARIBBEAN - AUGUST 25: In this NOAA handout image, NOAA's GOES satellite shows Hurricane Irma as it makes its way across the Atlantic Ocean in to the Caribbean -- a category 5 storm with winds as high as 185 miles per hour -- today at about 3:15 pm (eastern), September 6, 2017. (Photo by NASA/NOAA GOES Project via Getty Images)
An aerial photography taken and released by the Dutch department of Defense on September 6, 2017 shows the damage of Hurricane Irma, on the Dutch Caribbean island of Sint Maarten. Hurricane Irma, rampaging across the Caribbean, has produced sustained winds at 295 kilometres per hour (183 miles per hour) for more than 33 hours, making it the longest-lasting, top-intensity cyclone ever recorded, France's weather service said on September 7. / AFP PHOTO / DUTCH DEFENSE MINISTRY / GERBEN VAN ES / Netherlands OUT / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT 'AFP PHOTO / DUTCH DEFENSE MINISTRY/GERBEN VAN ES' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS (Photo credit should read GERBEN VAN ES/AFP/Getty Images)
An aerial photography taken and released by the Dutch department of Defense on September 6, 2017 shows the damage of Hurricane Irma, on the Dutch Caribbean island of Sint Maarten. Hurricane Irma, rampaging across the Caribbean, has produced sustained winds at 295 kilometres per hour (183 miles per hour) for more than 33 hours, making it the longest-lasting, top-intensity cyclone ever recorded, France's weather service said on September 7. / AFP PHOTO / DUTCH DEFENSE MINISTRY / GERBEN VAN ES / Netherlands OUT / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT 'AFP PHOTO / DUTCH DEFENSE MINISTRY/GERBEN VAN ES' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS (Photo credit should read GERBEN VAN ES/AFP/Getty Images)
An aerial photography taken and released by the Dutch department of Defense on September 6, 2017 shows the damage of Hurricane Irma, on the Princess Juliana International Airport and Simpson Bay Beach, on the Dutch Caribbean island of Sint Maarten. Hurricane Irma, rampaging across the Caribbean, has produced sustained winds at 295 kilometres per hour (183 miles per hour) for more than 33 hours, making it the longest-lasting, top-intensity cyclone ever recorded, France's weather service said on September 7. / AFP PHOTO / DUTCH DEFENSE MINISTRY / GERBEN VAN ES / Netherlands OUT / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT 'AFP PHOTO / DUTCH DEFENSE MINISTRY/GERBEN VAN ES' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS / The erroneous mention appearing in the metadata of this photo by GERBEN VAN ES has been modified in AFP systems in the following manner: [SIMPSON BAY BEACH] instead of [MAHO BEACH. Please immediately remove the erroneous mention from all your online services and delete it from your servers. If you have been authorized by AFP to distribute it to third parties, please ensure that the same actions are carried out by them. Failure to promptly comply with these instructions will entail liability on your part for any continued or post notification usage. Therefore we thank you very much for all your attention and prompt action. We are sorry for the inconvenience this notification may cause and remain at your disposal for any further information you may require. (Photo credit should read GERBEN VAN ES/AFP/Getty Images)
An aerial photography taken and released by the Dutch department of Defense on September 6, 2017 shows the damage of Hurricane Irma in Philipsburg, on the Dutch Caribbean island of Sint Maarten. Hurricane Irma sowed a trail of deadly devastation through the Caribbean on Wednesday, reducing to rubble the tropical islands of Barbuda and St Martin. / AFP PHOTO / ANP / Gerben van Es / Netherlands OUT / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT 'AFP PHOTO / DUTCH DEFENSE MINISTRY/GERBEN VAN ES' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - NO ARCHIVES - NO SALE- DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS (Photo credit should read GERBEN VAN ES/AFP/Getty Images)
An aerial photography taken and released by the Dutch department of Defense on September 6, 2017 shows the damage of Hurricane Irma, on the Dutch Caribbean island of Sint Maarten. Hurricane Irma, rampaging across the Caribbean, has produced sustained winds at 295 kilometres per hour (183 miles per hour) for more than 33 hours, making it the longest-lasting, top-intensity cyclone ever recorded, France's weather service said on September 7. / AFP PHOTO / DUTCH DEFENSE MINISTRY / GERBEN VAN ES / Netherlands OUT / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT 'AFP PHOTO / DUTCH DEFENSE MINISTRY/GERBEN VAN ES' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS (Photo credit should read GERBEN VAN ES/AFP/Getty Images)
An aerial photography taken and released by the Dutch department of Defense on September 6, 2017 shows the damage of Hurricane Irma in Philipsburg, on the Dutch Caribbean island of Sint Maarten. Hurricane Irma sowed a trail of deadly devastation through the Caribbean on Wednesday, reducing to rubble the tropical islands of Barbuda and St Martin. / AFP PHOTO / ANP / Gerben van Es / Netherlands OUT / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT 'AFP PHOTO / DUTCH DEFENSE MINISTRY/GERBEN VAN ES' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - NO ARCHIVES - NO SALE- DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS (Photo credit should read GERBEN VAN ES/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - An aerial photography taken and released by the Dutch department of Defense on September 6, 2017 shows the damage of Hurricane Irma in Philipsburg, on the Dutch Caribbean island of Sint Maarten. Hurricane Irma sowed a trail of deadly devastation through the Caribbean on Wednesday, reducing to rubble the tropical islands of Barbuda and St Martin. / AFP PHOTO / ANP / Gerben van Es / Netherlands OUT / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT 'AFP PHOTO / DUTCH DEFENSE MINISTRY/GERBEN VAN ES' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - NO ARCHIVES - NO SALE- DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS (Photo credit should read GERBEN VAN ES/AFP/Getty Images)
An aerial photography taken and released by the Dutch department of Defense on September 6, 2017 shows the damage of Hurricane Irma in Philipsburg, on the Dutch Caribbean island of Sint Maarten. Hurricane Irma sowed a trail of deadly devastation through the Caribbean on Wednesday, reducing to rubble the tropical islands of Barbuda and St Martin. / AFP PHOTO / ANP / Gerben VAN ES / Netherlands OUT / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT 'AFP PHOTO / DUTCH DEFENSE MINISTRY/GERBEN VAN ES' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - NO ARCHIVES - NO SALE- DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS (Photo credit should read GERBEN VAN ES/AFP/Getty Images)
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"Life-threatening storm surge is occurring now in the Keys and is expected to begin this morning in Southwest Florida," Florida Gov. Rick Scott tweeted early Sunday.

More than 490,000 customers were without power in Florida early Sunday, according to utility companies including Florida Power & Light.

The Latest on the Storm

  • Irma restrengthened to a Category 4 storm early Sunday as it hit the lower Florida Keys with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph just after 7 a.m. ET.
  • It could reach Fort Myers by Sunday night, passing the Tampa Bay area before moving to northern Florida on Monday morning.
  • The Florida Keys and the southwest Florida coast are in the most danger of storm surges of around 10 feet.
  • The Keys could get between 10 and 20 inches of rain, and the Florida peninsula could get 8 to 15 inches. Tornadoes are possible.

In Miami Beach, streets were already submerged after torrential rain.

Nearly 6.3 million people were ordered to evacuate ahead of the storm. Not everyone heeded the calls.

Brian Cone, a boat captain in Tavernier in the Florida Keys, said he is staying at home, which he said is built of cement and which he compared to "a bunker."

"Truthfully, the whole state of Florida is in trouble. I mean, there's really nowhere safe," Cone told MSNBC in a phone interview. He said he and his neighbors have generators, batteries, food and water and other supplies. "We feel it was more dangerous to travel all over the state, run out of fuel possibly ... We're gonna ride it out," Cone said.

The NHC said late Saturday that "heavy squalls with embedded tornadoes" were sweeping across southern Florida. One touched down near Fort Lauderdale, the National Weather Service said. The fire department said there was no damage or injuries.

Related: Ahead of Irma, One Naples Bar Staying Open Despite Evacuation Orders

Key West Police Chief Donald Lee told MSNBC by phone Saturday that those who stayed in defiance of evacuation orders do so at their own risk. He said the area had already seen tornado warnings, downed trees and flooding by Saturday evening, and the storm could be devastating.

"They're putting their lives in danger," Lee said.

In Miami-Dade County in the southeastern part of the state, police encouraged residents to stay indoors as the storm was hitting early Sunday.

"There’s a lot of trees that are being knocked over, we have live wires — it’s extremely volatile out there,” Miami-Dade Police Department Major Hector Llevat said. "Right now, we’re just urging everybody to stay indoors, to seek shelter."

Scott said Sunday his chief worry was the storm surges, which may reach as high as 15 feet in southwest Florida. "It's hard to believe anybody will survive that," he told NBC News' TODAY show.

Scott said he would not spare any resources to protect people from the storm. “We’re going to take care of everybody,” he said.

The hurricane center warned of a storm surge of up to 10 to 15 feet between Cape Sable and Captiva if they peak at high tide, and storm surge of up to 5 to 10 feet in the Keys. Tampa Bay could see surges of up to 5 to 8 feet.

Scott said Saturday that Florida has been "aggressive" in its preparation for Irma, adding that there were more than 385 shelters open across the path of the storm.

Meanwhile, north of Florida, states were also preparing for Irma's arrival. In Georgia, 540,000 residents were told to leave the coast, while in South Carolina, nearly 45,000 people were ordered to evacuate.

Hurricane Irma has already claimed at least 23 lives after smashing through a string of Caribbean islands this week, including Barbuda, St. Martin, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, where 1 million people were left without electricity.

Kalhan Rosenblatt reported from Plantation, Florida and Saphora Smith reported from London. 

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