Hurricane Irma’s Winds Begin Lashing At Florida, As An Incredible Storm Surge Takes Over Key West

Hurricane Irma’s already beginning to batter south Florida with the storm’s eye moving away from Cuba and toward the Keys. Currently arriving as a Category 3, the system’s packing sustained winds of 125 mph and could dump as much as 25 inches of rain across the state, including the Keys, which are seeing the same storm surge that recently sucked water away from shorelines in the Bahamas. In the above clip, houses in Key West are being slammed by the incredible surge. Governor Rick Scott has already warned residents and tourists alike that many holdouts may not survive this storm:

“This is an unbelievably massive, destructive storm. It’s a killer … you need to get to a shelter, get to a friend’s house if you’re in an evacuation zone. Get off the road … The storm surge is what really scares me. Potential 12 feet of storm surge. Think about that … You cannot survive this.”

Unfortunately, many residents in the Keys (some reports say about 25%) chose not to evacuate. Houses on the island, including Ernest Hemingway’s old home (where about 50 six-toed cats roam) are all in danger of being decimated. And at the nation’s famed Southernmost Point, a live webcam showed people eagerly gathering to witness the arrival of giant waves. In this GIF’ed moment, one spectator was “taken out” by the crashing waters.

Hotels on the island required visitors to sign waivers while handing out ear plugs to guard against the deafening sound of roaring wind.

Although Irma’s winds have slowed since it slammed into Cuba as a Category 5 storm, the system’s new Category 3 status still presents “major hurricane force winds,” and the storm’s core will make U.S. landfall early Sunday morning. At that point, Irma is expected to grind up the southwest Florida coast with the entire state eventually being engulfed by the storm’s winds. Although the system has shifted slightly west from earlier projections, the National Weather Service warns that the path could further change, and all of Florida’s residents should be prepared to seek shelter.

As of now, Irma’s death toll stands at 25 people with numbers expected to rise after the storm’s full impact is felt in Florida. We will, of course, keep you updated on all hurricane developments, including Jose’s impending arrival across the Caribbean.

(Via New York Times, CNN & National Weather Service)