Cameras at Jacksonville Beach Pier, West Palm Beach, Miami and Naples, Fla., show Hurricane Irma passing through Florida. (The Washington Post)
MIAMI — The fierce eye of Hurricane Irma made its second landfall in Florida on Sunday as the full intensity of the storm began battering the state’s Gulf Coast.
After days of alarming warnings forced millions from their homes and effectively shut down daily life across a wide swath of the Southeastern United States, Irma had earlier Sunday made landfall on the lower Florida Keys before beginning what forecasters say could be a painful journey up the state’s western coastline.
The storm breached the Florida coast on Sunday morning, making landfall just after 9 a.m. at Cudjoe Key. After churning through the Keys and on through to Florida’s southwestern coast, Irma’s second landfall occurred in Marco Island, Fla., at 3:35 p.m. A wind gust of 130 mph was reported by the Marco Island police, according to the National Weather Service.
Irma had already made its presence known across South Florida, causing more than a million power outages and lashing major population centers with driving rain and roof-rattling wind. The danger is only just beginning, forecasters warn, because the storm will grind along Florida’s Gulf Coast on Sunday bringing life-threatening storm surge.
“Today is going to the be the long day,” said Mark DeMaria, deputy acting director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
[What you need to know about Hurricane Irma and its path]
The hurricane center warned that Irma had created an “imminent danger of life-threatening storm surge flooding along much of the Florida west coast.” While Irma’s path is now likely to hew to Florida’s Gulf Coast, the storm’s sheer size and reach — hurricane-force winds extend about 80 miles from the center, and tropical storm winds extend out 220 miles — means that those scattered through South Florida remain imperiled by its winds and dangerous storm surge.
By Sunday afternoon, the hurricane center said that Irma — which had shifted back to a Category 3 storm — was “impacting all of South Florida.” Irma is forecast to remain a major hurricane as it approaches the densely populated Tampa Bay area, which experts say is woefully ill-equipped to confront a storm of this size. Many people from Florida’s eastern coast had sought refuge around Tampa in recent days before the storm’s path shifted westward.
Irma spent much of Sunday morning over the Florida Keys, the string of islands off the state’s southern coast. The Keys could see up to 25 inches of rainfall and storm surges could wash over the low-lying chain, a popular tourist destination that includes Key West.
“A very dangerous day is unfolding in the Florida Keys and much of West Florida,” Michael Brennan, a senior hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center, said in an early morning update Sunday. “It certainly could inundate the entire island. That’s why everyone in the Keys was urged so strongly to evacuate.”
Obviously Hurricane Irma continues to be a threat that is going to devastate the United Stang enough to upf well-built frame homes.
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Hurricane Irma made its second landfall on Marco Island on the southwest Florida coast this afternoon after first making landfall in the Florida Keys this morning. The hurricane, which is barreling toward Naples, has left at least three people dead in Florida, including a sheriff's deputy, and over 2.1 million households without power.
By 11 a.m. today the storm had moved away from the Keys and is forecast to continue moving up the western coastline of Florida this afternoon, with winds of up to 115 mph expected in the western part of Collier County, which includes Naples.
In Miami, winds whipped around high-rise buildings at speeds approaching 100 mph, the National Weather