After ravaging parts of the United State, making a second landfall, hitting Marco Island on Florida’s west coast, and forcing one of the largest evacuations in American history, Hurricane Irma ripped away from the Florida Keys on Sunday afternoon and moved toward southwest Florida, where residents were bracing after days of frantic preparation.
The storm, which was downgraded on to a Category 2 hurricane, crawled up the western coastline with maximum sustained winds of 110 miles per hour, according to the National Weather Service.
“The biggest thing you can do now is pray,” Gov. Rick Scott said earlier on Sunday afternoon.
According to THE NEW YORK TIMES, the Hurricane Irma thrashed the Florida Keys earlier in the day, when a television news broadcast showed entire homes, and a person standing on a balcony, nearly submerged.
Already crippling more than 2.3 million customers across the state, power failures sprawled by the hour.
There was no television to keep many residents updated, with only the remaining battery on their cellphones keeping them in touch with the world.
Irma’s full might was expected to be felt in major cities, including St. Petersburg and Tampa, on Sunday night, according to Andrew McKaughan, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face,” Mayor Bob Buckhorn of Tampa said at a news conference earlier in the day, paraphrasing Mike Tyson.
“Well, we’re about to get punched in the face”, he said.
After a day of anticipation, the pummeling of Florida’s west coast began Sunday evening.
In Fort Myers, the wind whipped the tops of palm trees and the rain came in waves, quickly inundating low-lying areas.
When the rain and wind combined, gusts slammed water against windows. At one Fort Myers hotel, the water was being driven with such force that it blew into rooms around window frames and soaked carpets.
The police in San Marco, where Hurricane Irma made its second landfall, posted on Twitter that residents should evacuate to a second floor or higher.
The department also posted photos showing downed trees and power lines, and advised people to stay away from windows.
The Florida Keys, a 113-mile stretch of islands connected by 42 bridges, have been ordered closed for re-entry until further notice, officials announced Sunday.
The authorities had yet to begin inspections of the dozens of bridges that connect the many islands that make up the Keys, said Cammy Clark, a county spokeswoman.
The Florida tourism bureau posted a notice on its website urging tourists to postpone their trips as a result of the devastating Hurricane Irma.
Governor Rick Scott had outlined support that has been deployed to Florida from twenty-eight states and Washington D.C. to aid in the response and recovery of Hurricane Irma. Governor Scott has worked closely with local, state, and federal governments to coordinate preparation efforts.
Governor Scott said, “Florida has received an incredible outpouring of support from other states in responding to Hurricane Irma. Responding to catastrophic storms like this takes a collaborative and coordinated team effort.
“The strength and speed of these states’ help has been instrumental in our planned response to Irma.
“The people of Florida are incredibly thankful for their selfless dedication. Together, we can withstand this storm and come back even stronger”, he said.