Deadly Hurricane Irma, now a Category 3 storm, is moving slowly up the western coastline of Florida, breaking meteorological records and sowing destruction, as a constant stream of tornado warnings, storm surges and high winds lash low-lying areas, knocking out power to an estimated three million people.
— Brian Entin (@BrianEntin) September 10, 2017
The enormous storm, whacking some areas with Category 3, 120 mph winds, is spreading tropical storm force gusts as far as 220 miles from its center as it moves across the US mainland on Sunday. Tornado warnings have been issued in locations as far as 150 miles from the giant hurricane's center.
According to the National Hurricane Center (NHC), Irma is unprecedented as it was the second Category 4 storm to strike the US in a single hurricane season — a first-time weather event since record-keeping began in 1851.
The powerful storm is also one of the longest lived since satellite-based observations began in 1966, existing for almost nine days, and is expected to last another day at a minimum.
With widespread sustained winds approaching 120 mph and heavy rainfall bands across the region, additional warnings of storm surges between 5-10 feet in some areas have first responders and police services in many affected areas sheltering in place, unable to respond to calls for help from those trapped.
Particularly vulnerable are low-lying coastal regions in the state, which are anticipated to experience the "the worst storm surge event that area has seen in generations" according to a former NHC director.
Winds around the eye of the storm have been measured at 120 mph, howling through streets, knocking over powerlines and trees, and pulling pieces of buildings away from their foundations.
— Mike Theiss (@MikeTheiss) September 10, 2017
The island nation of Cuba and many other smaller Caribbean islands saw widespread catastrophic damage after Irma passed over as a Category 5 monster on Friday, destroying neighborhoods and turning some areas into what look like war zones.
Emergency procedures, evacuation orders and curfews are currently in place in much of the regions being pounded by the historic storm.