Hurricane Irma Hits Southwest Florida Then Moves North Hurricane Irma hit Southwest Florida today as a category 3 storm. More than a million people are without power and the worst may be yet to come as the storm moves north.

Hurricane Irma Hits Southwest Florida Then Moves North

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We're going to dedicate much of this hour to reporting on Hurricane Irma, which is working its way up Florida's west coast. The storm made its first landfall in the Florida Keys this morning as a powerful Category 4. Wind speeds have dropped since then, but Irma is still a major hurricane. The storm made a second landfall this afternoon on Marco Island, south of Naples, as a Category 3 storm, with winds as strong as 115 miles per hour. Officials are warning communities along Florida's southwest coast that the danger from Irma is not just from high winds but also from the storm surge, which could range from 10 to 15 feet. Here's Florida's governor, Rick Scott.


RICK SCOTT: The storm surge comes after the strongest winds. Do not think the storm is over when the wind slows down.

MARTIN: Irma has already caused flooding in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties and power outages for more than 2 million homes and businesses in Florida. Joining us now from Miami to tell us more is NPR's Greg Allen. Greg, thanks so much for joining us.


MARTIN: So what's the latest?

ALLEN: Well, right now, Irma is a Category 2 storm, a strong Category 2, 110 mile per hour winds, large storm still with winds extending some 80 miles from the center. So that's affecting a lot of territory here in Florida. It's - as you say, it came aground in Key West early this - today and did a massive amount of damage there. We're still getting reports on that. After that, it lessened its intensity a bit came, ashore on Marco Island. And there, it's - the biggest impact, so far, has been this storm surge, which is still developing as we speak.

We heard from the National Weather Service an unusual warning to people that they should evacuate vertically now. We saw multi-feet rises very quickly in Naples. The National Weather Service says they've seen a storm surge in - over an hour and a half of seven feet. So they've been urging people to get away from the shore, to move as quickly as they can and - 'cause it's that storm surge which is going to be the most damaging thing here.

MARTIN: Can you tell us a little bit more about where Irma is believed to be heading next?

ALLEN: Well, now, it's a little bit north of Naples, heading toward Fort Myers, another populous area here in Florida. And they're likely to see a large storm surge there, still these high winds, an area that, you know, hasn't - I mean, no one can prepare for a hurricane quite like that. And from there, it goes up the coast toward the Tampa, St. Pete area, which is on a very large bay - the Tampa Bay - which is a beautiful area, but it's very susceptible to storm surge, one of the most susceptible areas to storm surge in Florida. It's an area that hasn't seen a hurricane in some 100 years.

So there's concern that structures there might not be as strongly built as some of - more down in South Florida. And then we'll see how bad the storm surge is there. The latest forecast I saw there were from five to eight feet, so it could have a big impact.

MARTIN: Could you tell us a little bit more about where you are in Miami? The storm is expected to begin dying down by tonight, at least the winds are. So just tell us a little bit about what you're seeing there. And how bad is the damage?

ALLEN: Well, you know, Miami was in the cone from the very beginning. And then as it shifted west, a lot of people here kind of relaxed a little bit. I don't think we saw a lot of people going out of the shelters. People still took it very seriously. When the storm came in, we saw some storm surge in Miami. Downtown Miami got water up to your chin level in some areas I understand has been reported. We saw a lot of trees down. As you mentioned, the power outages have been severe.

Three quarters of the people in the county at one point had lost their power. I'm not sure what the situation is now. They'll be able to restore it, they think, quickly. But Florida Power and Light says they're really concerned about some areas where infrastructure is going to be damaged and it might not be so quick. So when you're talking about the west coast of Florida, the Gulf Coast, the damage is likely to be very severe there. And they've said that restoring power might take weeks or months there.

MARTIN: That's NPR's Greg Allen joining us from Miami. Greg, thank you.

ALLEN: You're welcome.

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