FLORIDA — South Floridians woke up Sunday to Hurricane Irma as the monster storm made landfall in the Florida Keys, downing trees and hurling street signs and debris and knocking the power out to hundreds of thousands of residents throughout the state.
The National Hurricane Center said Irma is expected to remain powerful as it heads north along the state’s Gulf coast.
This is the scene in south Florida this morning.
Brad Whitworth of Texas is riding the storm out in Tavernier, Florida, just south of Key Largo. He told CNN he has homes there and in Houston, which was hit by heavy flooding from Hurricane Harvey two weeks ago.
CNN’s Derek Van Dam, reporting from Miami Beach, said the roaring winds felt like a jet engine. “It just stings every time one of these gusts come through.”
“Anyone who didn’t heed the evacuation orders here in Miami Beach, it’s time to bunker down,” Van Dam said. “It is time to take this storm seriously. Do not come back to the evacuation zones. It has just begun, and it’s going to get worse.”
CNN’s Kyung Lah reported from Miami Beach, where she said rescue efforts have ceased because of the extreme sustained winds.
Irma hit South Florida on Sunday with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.
“If you own a power washer … imagine taking it in the face,” said CNN’s Bill Weir of the torrential rain in Key Largo, some 70 miles south of Miami.
CNN’s Rosa Flores and her crew had to drive around trees and debris as they made their way into downtown Miami.