Flooding, damage reported throughout the Lowcountry from Irma

Florida's Gulf Coast braces for Irma; tornado watches issued in 9 counties

Thousands lose power as Irma nears south Florida

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said the storm is expected to strike the Sunshine State as a risky Category 4 storm.

Irma hit Miami with 209kph winds and is now heading towards the Tampa Bay area on Florida's west coast, where almost 455,000 residents are preparing for impact.

Marathon International Airport recently reported a sustained wind of 48 mph (77 kilometers per hour) and a gust to 67 mph (108 kilometers per hour).

More than 3.3 million homes and businesses across the USA state of Florida lost power as Hurricane Irma swept through it.

Category 3 storms have winds from 111 to 129 miles per hour, but a 130-mph wind gust was recently reported by the Marco Island Police Department. In the following days, Irma is forecast to head through Florida and Georgia into Tennessee.

The WTXL First Alert Weather team is on duty throughout the course of this tropical weather situation.

Storm surge all depends on the tack of Irma.

However, officials continued to sound warnings that the real danger posed by the hurricane came in the form of storm surge, abnormal and extremely rapid rises in water levels.

In St. Augustine, on the state's northeast coast, streets were flooded as the hurricane moved up the Florida peninsula.

Forecasters said it could hit the heavily populated Tampa-St Petersburg area early on Monday local time.

The massive storm triggered evacuation orders for 5.6 million people, and made two landfalls Sunday. Around Florida, zoos, theme parks, rescue centers and other places with animals braced for Hurricane Irma's arrival. Emergency managers there declared "the Keys are not open for business" and warned that there was no fuel, electricity, running water or cell service and that supplies were low and anxiety high.

Irma was churning toward the heavily populated Tampa Bay region, a zone seen as particularly susceptible to storm surges due to its geographical position and sloping land off the coast. The storm is so large the entire state will feel at least some of Irma's power.

Gov. Rick Scott announced he'll join members of the U.S. Coast Guard for an aerial tour Monday afternoon to further assess the damage.

"The important thing is that we're fine", he said, acknowledging his family members in SC who were also impacted by Irma.

Irma, which killed at least 22 people as it tore through Caribbean islands toward Florida, has already claimed at least one life in the state.

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