Hurricane Irma is pummeling Florida with powerful winds and rain after making landfall in the Florida Keys as a Category 4 storm this morning. The hurricane has left at least three people in the state dead, including a sheriff’s deputy, and over 1 million households and businesses without power.
In Miami, winds whipped around high-rise buildings at speeds approaching 100 mph, the National Weather Service said. A 94 mph wind gust was recorded at Miami International Airport.
A tower crane slammed by the high winds collapsed on top of an under-construction high-rise in Miami this morning, city officials said.
The Miami-Dade Police Department tweeted that its officers are sheltered for their safety and cannot respond to calls for service, warning residents, “DO NOT venture out!”
Irma this morning also brought wind gusts of 120 mph to the National Key Deer Refuge on the Florida Keys and 89 mph to Key West.
By 11 a.m., the storm had moved away from the Keys to about 80 miles south-southeast of Naples on Florida’s west coast.
Irma is forecast to move up the western coastline of Florida this afternoon, with another landfall possible later today near Fort Myers and Naples, with winds of up to 115 mph expected this afternoon in the western part of Collier County, which includes Naples.
Wind gusts of 75 mph were recorded at the Naples Airport early today, and officials were warning people to stay indoors and away from windows.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott warned residents of dangerous storm surges that could reach 10 to 15 feet above sea level in the Naples area.
“Do not think the storm is over when the wind slows down,” Scott said Saturday. The dangerous storm surge “will rush in and could kill you.”
“You need to stay in a safe place,” the governor said. “Be prepared, listen to local evacuation advisories.”
The National Weather Service warned Florida residents that being in the eye of a hurricane can lead to a false sense of security: “IF winds go calm, you’re in the eye. Stay inside! Winds dramatically shift and will do so violently! STAY INSIDE!”
As Irma bore down on Florida this morning, at least three deaths were reported in the state.