Published: Tue, September 12, 2017
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

'Pray for us': West Florida braces as Hurricane Irma engulfs state

'Pray for us': West Florida braces as Hurricane Irma engulfs state

The storm has weakened to a tropical storm with 70 miles per hour winds, according to the 8 a.m. Monday update from the National Hurricane Center.

Last week, Irma had ranked as one of the most powerful hurricanes ever documented in the Atlantic, one of only a handful of Category 5 storms known to have packed sustained winds at 185 miles per hour or more. See some examples below.

Hurricane Irma made its way to the Tampa Bay area late last night and is now crawling up Florida's spine, slinging brutal winds and rain across the state.

Tampa hasn't been hit by a major hurricane since 1921, but on Sunday it looked like Hurricane Irma was about to change that.

"What we really fear more than anything is that storm surge", Buckhorn told CNN's Anderson Cooper on Sunday.

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Florida Governor Rick Scott said damage to the fourth-largest USA state was not as bad as previously predicted, but some areas had suffered extensive destruction, including the Florida Keys.

In the Florida Keys, which were struck by the storm at a Category 4 strength, the situation seems far more dire.

Gov. Rick Scott, who spent the days before the storm hit beseeching the islands' residents to evacuate, said Monday that he is flying down to the Keys to survey the damage. Locally, near I-75 and the Suwannee Valley, we are seeing rain already beginning to move into the area with breezy winds.

Officials say there was no damage at the airport but they were waiting Monday on restoration of power before flights can take off and land.

More than 1.2 million Georgia Power and EMC customers mostly in coastal and south Georgia were without power. A storm surge of up to 4 feet was expected for Tampa Bay, lower than originally forecast.

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- 5.8 million customers are without power across Florida, state emergency officials said.

Irma has toppled cranes, swallowed streets and left millions without power after wreaking a trail of death and destruction through the Caribbean.

The company is also assessing the damage to the Cost-U-Less store on St. Thomas and its nine other stores and wholesale operations in the British Virgin Islands.

Late Saturday afternoon tropical storm warnings were issued for the Lowcountry of SC.

'The people of South Florida, the people of the entire state should know: We are with you, ' Pence said, flanked by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.

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