Hurricane Irma weakened to a Category 1 storm early Monday as it marched up the U.S. state of Florida's northwestern coast, with its eye located about 25 miles (40 kilometers) northeast of the vulnerable Tampa area. Major General Michael Calhoun, the head of Florida's National Guard, said on Sunday that more than 10,000 National Guard members from other states are going to be arriving soon.
In fact, people living hundreds of kilometres outside of the cone will feel Irma's wrath, with hurricane-force winds extending 200km in diameter.
Still, Miami was not out of danger.
The storm is slowing downHurricane Irma has been downgraded to a tropical storm, after days bouncing between classifications.
Hurricane Irma wasn't the only vortex that the southeastern USA had to worry about Sunday. Irma also snapped miles upon miles of power lines and toppled three massive construction cranes over Miami and Fort Lauderdale. Laessig and his wife rode out Hurricane Matthew as it brushed coastal Georgia last October. He drove to St. Helena Island in coastal SC with a truckload of supplies to get his cabin, boat and sailboat storm-ready but wasn't sticking around after seeing footage of Irma's Caribbean devastation.
The Tampa Bay area has not been hit by a major hurricane since 1921. Now it has around 3 million people.
"Although at this point is does not appear that Alabama will face the brunt of the storm, we will certainly be affected and we must be ready to respond, no matter what comes our way", Ivey said.
Speaking on "Fox News Sunday" as Irma began its assault on Florida on Sunday morning, Long called the storm a "complex event" in particular because of its movement from the southern part of the state to the north.
Hansen, who moved to Florida five years ago to run the restaurant, said the area was getting rain and gusty winds.
"There is the danger of life-threatening storm surge flooding along portions of the coasts of Florida, Georgia and SC, where a Storm Surge Warning remains in effect".
Almost 7 million people in the Southeast were warned to evacuate, including 6.4 million in Florida alone.
Clearwater Beach measured a gust of 96 miles per hour, bu high winds persisted much farther away and forecasters warned against venturing out because of a variety of hazards.
The hurricane center's official forecast track shows the center of the weakening storm heading northwestward through north Florida and south Georgia.
But then Irma made a more pronounced westward shift - the result of what meteorologists said was an atmospheric tug-of-war between weather systems that nudged Irma and determined when it made its crucial right turn into Florida. Strong river flooding is possible over the next five days in much of central Georgia and southern SC.
"We have very serious, significant river flooding along the banks of the St. Johns River".
Irma pushed about 170 kilometres north-northwest of Tampa by 8 a.m. local time. At present Irma's center is still about 245 miles (395 kilometers) southeast of Miami as it crosses over the northern coast of Cuba.
Hurricane Irma's path of destruction up Florida's Gulf Coast on Sunday threatens to disrupt a thriving state tourism industry worth more than $100 billion annually just months ahead of the busy winter travel season.
Some 166,000 people in Georgia, including more than 17,000 in the city of Savannah, lost power as the outer bands of the storm lashed the state.