Irma at one time was the most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the open Atlantic, a Category 5 with a peak wind speed of 185 miles per hour (300 kph), and its approach set off alarm in Florida. A Category four storm with 210km/h winds when it slammed into Cudjoe Key, it tied for history's seventh strongest hurricane to make U.S. landfall, based on its central pressure.
Winds reaching 130 miles per hour and torrential downpours wreaked havoc in Florida as Hurricane Irma made landfall on Sunday, flooding city streets in downtown Miami, tearing down construction cranes and knocking out power to more than 3 million people in the path of the storm. A total of some 9 million people in Florida may lose power, some for weeks, the Florida Power & Light Co said.
"What we really fear more than anything is that storm surge", Buckhorn told CNN's Anderson Cooper on Sunday.
But those few miles meant St. Petersburg could get a direct hit, rather than its more populous twin across Tampa Bay.
Meanwhile, evacuees in Florida were anxious to return and see how their homes weathered the storm. "I think our day has come", he said in a somber voice.
More than 100 patients at the nursing home were evacuated on Wednesday along with 18 patients from a nearby facility that was cleared due to the criminal investigation, Hollywood officials said.
"This was a large, extremely risky catastrophic hurricane", National Hurricane Centre spokesman and meteorologist Dennis Feltgen said today, when he said the storm was over. "This is a deadly storm, and our state has never seen anything like it". But we have far more infrastructure and many more people in Florida now and a lot more people being affected adversely. The mass evacuations have sent throngs onto jammed highways heading north and created a severe gas shortage in some parts the state.
The area was hit by Hurricane Matthew past year, but Robinson said the experience was very different. The storm's violent gusts destroyed the instrument used to measure wind strength, Cuba's meteorological agency reported.
Insurance companies buy reinsurance at varying levels, so if a firm only participates at a level of 45%, it is not going to be able to pay all of its policyholders in full after a storm of this magnitude, Dr. Hamid said.
The Nielsen company said Tuesday that its ratings information from this past weekend is delayed because the company's processing center in Tampa, Florida, was shut down because of Irma.
The National Weather Service in Atlanta issued a tropical storm watch for the area Monday and Tuesday.More news: Five die while removed from hurricane-hit nursing home lacking air conditioning
Irma was initially expected to hit Florida's east coast, including Miami Beach.
- A storm surge warning wraps around the state, from Brevard County to Tampa Bay.
Hurricane warnings remained in place Saturday in parts of the Bahamas.
Davis Islands, where Buckhorn and his family live, are a prime example of the freewheeling development ethic of the region - and the entire state.
Irma is not classified as tropical depression and is expected to bring heavy rains as far north as North Carolina on Tuesday. About 65% are damaged, according to FEMA's initial figures.
Florida residents have begun to dig out in hurricane-scarred Florida and officials are slowly piecing together the scope of Irma's vicious path of destruction across the peninsula.
What's with all these hurricane forecast models?
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) estimates nearly 75 percent of customers in Florida have no electricity.
Early reports indicate that Irma has left more than four million people without power, while water and debris cover roadways. Polk County was the closest to Central Florida that Irma's center came, Combs said.
Because of the shift in the most likely storm track to the west, Miami and Southeast Florida were most likely to miss the storm's intensely destructive core, known as the eyewall, where winds are strongest.
Irma's course change caught many off guard and triggered a major round of last-minute evacuations in the Tampa area.