NBC 6 South Florida is reporting that tropical-storm-level winds (classified as 39 miles per hour and higher) are now being felt in Key West and Miami.
Sustained winds are expected to still be at least 74 miles per hour with higher gusts possible when the eye hits southern sections of Georgia early Monday afternoon.
Earlier this week the hurricane caused the deaths of 24 people throughout the Caribbean.
Emera's Tampa Electric utility reported 300,000 homes and businesses lost power by Monday morning.
"Stay inside. Go up".
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn warned residents of what was to come. Scott has called up and sent out 7,000 National Guardsmen across the state, some of whom have been dispatched to the more than 400 shelters that have been set up.
"My heart just pounded out of my chest the whole time", said Hally, 37. Boat captain Ray Scarborough was 12 when Andrew hit and remembers lying on the floor in a hall as the storm almost ripped the roof off his house.
Residents are hoping the storm will just glance the island before heading across the Florida Straits to Miami.
A large military airborne relief operation was being prepared to take help to the islands, which are linked by a dramatic series of bridges and causeways from Key Largo nearly 100 miles (160 km) southwest to the city of Key West, Monroe County Emergency Director Martin Senterfitt told a teleconference.
Authorities in Cuba said they had evacuated more than a million people
Weisberg explained that if Charley struck that end, its back side would drive storm surge well inland because the shallowness of the Gulf and Tampa Bay leaves no other place for the water to go.
A storm surge warning has been issued for much of the Florida Peninsula and extended into southern Carolina.
One of Florida's primary public utility companies said Saturday that it is preparing to deal with the largest number of power outages in USA history.
Authorities said 5,000 houses flooded, while 8,000 families were declared disaster victims after their homes were severely damaged or destroyed.
Irma, which earlier in the week was projected to strike South Florida, started shifting to a northwest track on Friday toward Southwest Florida. State officials are also fearful the massive rain that was soaking the state could also lead to flash floods.
Catastrophe modeling firm AIR Worldwide has estimated the storm has already done about $20 billion to $40 billion damage to insured property in Florida.
Ray Scarborough and girlfriend Leah Etmanczyk left their home in Big Pine Key and fled north with her parents and three big dogs to stay with relatives in Orlando.
The coastlines of Wakulla, Jefferson, and Taylor counties are in a storm surge warning, meaning an increase of water levels is anticipated. The center of the storm is anticipated to move into southwestern Georgia later today and be in eastern Alabama by Tuesday morning.
"A lot of times, they're up and down before the radar can discern what it is", Grabryan said. The most extensive damage was likely in the Naples area, but a full assessment was ongoing.