More than 6 million people in Florida have been told to evacuate their homes and either get out of the storm's path or take refuge in one of the hundreds of shelters that continue to open across the state. "Not tonight, not in an hour, now", the governor said Friday, warning that storm surges could be as high as 12 feet.
In other parts of the state, like Tampa, residents had yet to see the worst that Irma could offer, and either evacuated the area or prepared to shelter in place - including animals in Tampa's Busch Gardens.
After filming the waves for around 10 seconds, he is suddenly blown back by one massive wave.
Just after 4. a.m. ET Saturday, Jose was 240 miles east south east of the group, known as the Leeward Islands, according to Michael Palmer, lead meteorologist at the Weather Channel.
What's in a name?
"Storm surge is the most dangerous part of any hurricane threat", Norman said, adding that the danger grows as the water begins to destroy structures on land.
"We know this is a day our new moms and dads and staff will never forget", the hospital said in a statement.
Irma, which has killed at least 22 people in the Caribbean, was likely to inflict billions of dollars in damage in the third largest U.S. state by population.
"It was powerful, water rose to about one meter high", said Risle Echemendia, 28, in Caibarien as he swept muddy water out of his front door.
CNN's Derek Van Dam, reporting from Miami Beach, said the roaring winds felt like a jet engine.
He warned of a 12ft storm surge that could threaten the lives of anyone remaining in the state.
"I don't have the luxury of leaving". But Irma is expected to regain strength late Saturday once it moves back over warm water on its way north. When Irma made landfall in Cuba on Friday night, it was a Category 5 storm with 160 mph winds - the first Category 5 to strike the country since 1924.
Irma is expected to travel along the southwestern coast of Florida through Monday morning, but portions of Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama are also under advisories, covering everything from hurricane watches to tropical storm watches. All of this can be made worse by the waves that ride in on top of the shore, however big or small they may be.
Doctors were forced to talk a Florida woman through delivering her baby at home while Hurricane Irma's outer bands lashed Miami. The advice still holds: get as low to the ground as you can, and put as many layers between yourself and the outside world as possible. "This will cover your house". But Irma's interaction with land weakened the storm from a potentially catastrophic Category 5 to a Category 3.
President Trump, before a winter storm that underperformed expectations in March, said something often true but inconvenient about storm forecasting: "Let's hope it's not going to be as bad as some people are predicting. Very noisy", he said by text message.
The wind began picking up in St. Petersburg, some 400 miles north the Keys, and people started bracing for the onslaught.
Hurricane Irma slammed into the easternmost islands of the Caribbean Wednesday before moving on and lashing Haiti and the Dominican Republic and the Leeward islands in the northwest.
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