The eye is a region of mostly calm weather at the center of strong tropical cyclones. The eye of a storm is a roughly circular area, typically 20–40 miles in diameter. It is surrounded by the eyewall, a ring of towering thunderstorms where the most severe weather occurs. The cyclone's lowest barometric pressure occurs in the eye and can be as much as 15 percent lower than the pressure outside the storm.
Irma was back up to a Category 4 storm (at 2am)- of maximum sustained winds of 130-miles-per-hour and 350-400 mile span as she headed to the Florida Keys.
The northern eyewall reached the lower keys at 7:20am today and was moving in a northwest direction at 8 mph.
Before dawn,wind gusts were up to 94 miles per hour with sustained winds of 73 miles per hour. Winds gusts of 70 miles-per-hours hit Miami.It will pick up wind speed later today.
It is expected to travel up the west coast before heading inland over the panhandle and crossing the state line into southwest Georgia on Monday afternoon.
The hardest hit areas are expected to be Key West,Naples,Tampa,Fort Myers and central south Florida.
It is predicted that some places could get up to 18 inches of rain with the Keys forecast to receive up to 25 inches of rain.
Southwest Florida - Naples area - could see a storm surge of 10 to15 feet above ground level and 5 to 8 feet in the Tampa-St.Petersburg area. Entire neighborhoods from Naples to Tampa Bay that are close to shore could be submerged.
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said storm surge is the main fear.
"We're going to get through the winds, we'll get through the rain, depending on what the level of surge is," he said. "But more importantly, the surge will occur tomorrow at the same time we have a high tide -- so that compounds the problem." - CNN
6.5 million people have been ordered to evacuate. 77,000 people are now in the 450 shelters around the state.
Officials are saying Irma could potentially be worse than Hurricane Andrew that hit South Florida in 1992 (a category 5 storm that killed 61 people and caused $48 billion (2017) dollars of economic damage - the costliest storm in US history until Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
560,000 people have lost power at this point in 19 counties,but mainly in Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
Florida Power and Light is saying 3.4 million of its customers could lose power at some point during the storm,which would be the largest number of outages they have ever had.
"We think this could be the most challenging restoration in the history of the US," company spokesman Chris McGrath said.-CNN
The power company that supplies electricity to Key West and the Lower Florida Keys has said that all 29,000 of its customers are without electricity. The repair of electrical lines and transformers can not be dealt with until the storm passes.
29 hospitals,239 assisted-living centers and 56 other health care facilities in the state have been evacuated. More than 60 special needs shelters have been opened.
One exception was Tampa General Hospital,the highest-level trauma center in the region has remained open and full with staff and 700 patients. (it is located on the tip of Davis Islands - zone A-the most vulnerable to storm surge. The hospital has submarine doors to protect against flooding and generators have been moved to upper levels above any possible water seepage.They are powerful enough to continue to provide air-conditioning to parts of the building if necessary. In discussions with FEMA and local emergency agencies,it was decided that there were no resources to evacuate that large number of patients and have a safer place for them to continue to receive the care they required that was safer or better equipped than the hospital itself.
In the Keys,water was moving up to hotel parking lots and roads. In the northern reaches,the water level was starting to spill over the tops of canals. Emergency responders evacuated to the Upper Keys.One of the biggest worries is that some of the bridges that link the Florida Keys to the mainland will be damaged,thereby isolating residents in the Keys,restricting access to food,water,gas and other supplies - at least by road.
“Just think about the Keys for a second,” Mr. Scott warned residents at a recent news conference. “If we lose one bridge, everything south of the bridge, everybody’s going to be stranded. It’s going to take us a while to get back in there to try to provide services.” - NYT
Downtown Miami is already seeing flooding from Biscayne Bay.
With electricity cut off in many buildings and windows bordered up against the weather,the heat is creating uncomfortable conditions for those stuck inside.
Once the storm moved westward,some in Miami area shelters headed home.
Brevard County Communications Director Don Walker said some people left one of the county's 21 designated hurricane shelters, and asked if they could return, if necessary. The answer is yes, but, ideally, they would continue to stay at the shelter until the storm passes.
"It's still going to be a dangerous situation," Walker said. "Don't make a dumb decision. Stay put until the all-clear is issued by emergency officials." That will likely would be Monday afternoon, at the earliest. - CNN
In Lake Worth on the east coast above Miami (Palm Beach County) a tornado set down. And yet,in most other neighborhoods,the weather was calm enough that people were out and about with little worries. Broward County just below Palm Beach County is under curfew until Monday morning at 10. The National Weather Service lifted the storm surge warning for Broward County.In Davie,a wastewater pump station lost power and was expected to overflow,with worries that it could cause contamination of standing water in the surrounding neighborhood.
On Saturday morning,block long lines started forming outside of shelters near Fort Myers,Florida on the west coast. By later afternoon,all of the shelters in Collier County (Naples) were filled to capacity.
In the Florida panhandle,some counties have issued a mandatory evacuation order for all barrier islands and low lying areas.
Georgia has told 540,000 people to evacuate the coastline. South Carolina has evacuated some barrier islands. Alabama and North Carolina have all declared states of emergency.
So far,only one person has lost their life due to the storm,when a man in Monroe County in the Keys died in a car crash.