Now a tropical storm, Irma hits Florida with wind, flooding

Now a tropical storm, Irma hits Florida with wind, flooding

Millions of people in Florida are bracing for Hurricane Irma which has regained strength as a Category 4 storm and aimed towards the coastal USA state with wind speed of 210 km per hours.

Irma hit Florida on Sunday morning as a risky Category 4 storm, the second highest level on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale.

Before slamming into to the United States, Irma hit Cuba late Friday as a Category 5 hurricane. While it arrived in Florida a Category 4 hurricane, it was down to a Category 1 with winds of 85 miles per hour (135 kph).

Nearly all of Georgia was under a tropical storm warning.

But the effects are being felt far from the center because of Irma's size.

"Sheets of zinc that came flying into our backyard also damaged the kitchen wall and we lost many roof tiles", said Angel Coya, 52, adding he was optimistic that Cuba's Communist government would help fix the damage.

Hurricane Irma, which left fatalities in its march through the Caribbean and made landfall in Cudjoe Key at 9:10 Sunday morning, has utility crews already laboring -- mostly in South Florida -- with more than 1 and a half million customers in the dark Sunday morning, the Associated Press reported.

The Keys were the first part of Florida slammed by the powerful hurricane Sunday morning. Even before the hurricane finished its course through the state, President Donald Trump declared Florida a major disaster area and ordered the release of federal aid funds to help storm victims. Given its mammoth size and strength and its projected course, it could still prove one of the most devastating hurricanes ever to hit Florida and inflict damage on a scale not seen here in 25 years.

Some of the state's biggest attractions have announced temporary closures, including amusement park giants Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, Universal Studios, Legoland and Sea World, which all planned to close through Monday.

Scott warned of deadly storm surges of 6 to 12 feet above ground level along the east and west coasts of Florida.

"I just spoke to Anaida, it is hard to believe she is getting ready to go through the same thing I just did", she said.

"Pray, pray for everybody in Florida", Gov. Rick Scott said on "Fox News Sunday" as more than 160,000 people waited out Irma in shelters statewide.

It's the second time in less than a year that Georgia coastal residents have been told to flee a storm.

"You can't do anything against nature", he said.

The National Weather Service in Atlanta issued a tropical storm watch for the area Monday and Tuesday.

Miami and other heavily populated areas of southeastern Florida are on the worst side of the storm.

Despite the slow weakening, this is still a very risky storm that will have a significant impact on the Sunshine State. Tampa Bay hasn't been hit by a hurricane since 1921. In the Keys, though, he said "there is devastation".

Florida Power and Light estimated 3.4 million of its customers could be without power at some point during Irma, the company's largest number of outages ever.

The National Hurricane Center also expects heavy rain in Mississippi, Tennessee and North Carolina.

EPA spokeswoman Amy Graham said in an email that "these facilities will be properly assessed to ensure there are no potential adverse impacts to human health and the environment".

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