Category 4 Hurricane Irma bearing down on Florida Keys

The Latest: Gov Scott: State dealing with fuel, traffic jams

During that storm, "I lived the experience of feeling that I was inside a blender", she said.

- More than 17,000 customers have already lost power in Savannah, Georgia.

Last October, Hurricane Matthew knocked out 1.2 million FPL customers as it skirted Florida's east coast without making landfall. The National Hurricane Center quickly responded to this disturbance with "Hurricane #Irma makes landfall at Cudjoe Key in the lower Florida Keys".

- Almost 4 million electric customers are without power across Florida, according to utility companies.

Irma is expected to weaken into a tropical storm over far northern Florida or southern Georgia later on Monday but first its centre will continue to move over the western Florida peninsula, the NHC said.

The "cone of uncertainty", as it is known, shows the most likely path for the storm and has been a reference point for days, as the hurricane left a trail of destruction through the Caribbean and bore down on Florida. The Sarasota-Manatee area could receive one to three feet of above ground level water and 6.75 inches of rain through Tuesday. "It was was like, 'Oh my God, what is going to happen?"'

During its march up Florida's west coast, Irma swamped homes, uprooted trees, flooded streets, snapped miles of power lines and toppled construction cranes.

And more than 120 homes were being evacuated early Monday in Orange County, just outside the city of Orlando, as floodwaters started to pour in. And so it's going to ... take us a little bit longer to do everything we care to do after a storm because we have to bring the assets south.

Hurricane Irma reaches Florida
Despite Threat, Some Choosing to Ride Out Hurricane Irma at Home

The whole of the southern tip of Florida has seen high winds, driving rain and storm surges.

"We have seen significant numbers of evacuees stopping at our interstate visitor centers and rest areas seeking lodging, and there are few hotel rooms remaining available", said NC Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry. "Let's just say a prayer we hope we make it through".

North-eastern Florida cities including Jacksonville were facing flash flooding, with the sheriff's office pulling residents from waist-deep water. "If you're outside, get inside and shelter in place". Its outer bands were also blowing into Georgia, where the storm's center was expected to arrive later in the day.

Miami and other heavily populated areas of southeastern Florida are on the worst side of the storm.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said the situation was not as bad as it could have been, but warned residents that unsafe storm surge continued.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Irma's wrath is unprecedented, warning that storm surges could be deadly.

There will be heavy rain accumulations into Wednesday in parts of Florida, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, Mississippi and North Carolina, forecasters said.

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