The eye of Hurricane Irma slammed into the Florida Keys as the calamitous storm snapped palm trees and threatened to devastate much of the state.
The mammoth cyclone is hurling 130 winds, but even more dangerous may be the storm surges.
Southwestern coastal cities from Cape Sable and Captiva could see walls of water up to 15 feet, the National Hurricane Center said.
“This is a life-threatening situation,” the National Hurricane Center said. “Near the coast, the surge will be accompanied by large and destructive waves.”
Still, not everyone heeded orders to evacuate.
“It’s going from crappy to worse,” said John Hines, who did not evacuate and stayed in his home in the Key West.
“All the interior doors are starting to rattle now, sounds like someone is knocking on the front door,” he said. “The winds are picking up. It’s only going to get worse as it gets closer.”
In the Tampa Bay area, access to all of Pinellas County’s barrier islands, including the popular spring break destination of Clearwater Beach, was shut off.
The leading edge of the immense storm bent palm trees and spit rain across South Florida, knocking out power to hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses, as the eye approached Key West.