Tampa Bay waters get sucked backward ahead of Hurricane Irma

Its outer bands were also blowing into Georgia, where the storm's center was expected to arrive later in the day.

President Trump has described Hurricane Irma as "a storm of absolutely historic destructive potential" and declared major disaster in Florida, which means federal funds will be released. A storm surge of over 10 feet was recorded in the Keys, and forecasters warned some places on the mainland could get up to 15 feet of water.

Collier, Lee, Volusia, Brevard and Hillsborough counties each had more than 200,000 customers in the dark.

The storm could still deliver wind gusts up to 73 miles per hour as it barrels northwest into Alabama early Tuesday, and weaken further to a tropical depression, with gusts up to 39 miles per hour, as it arrives in northern MS and western Tennessee on Tuesday afternoon.

"With Orlando being in central Florida we aren't getting it as bad as the coastal towns, but there are very strong winds and heavy rain battering down".

About 3 million people live in the Tampa Bay area. "We are actively monitoring the situation in Florida and will provide another update as soon as we know more". We have downed power lines all across the state. "We should not take too much comfort (or indulge in too much angst) over a particular set of model runs". "The surge is yet to be finished". The current forecast cone is showing this storm skirting just along the Florida Gulf Coast.

Irma left a million residents of Puerto Rico without power, has killed at least two dozen in the Caribbean and has stranded some in the U.S. Virgin Islands - People reports American tourists Kerman Haynes and Andrew Burruss, on a dream vacation when Irma obliterated Tortola, have been sharing desperate messages on Facebook.

In Riviera Beach, on Florida's east coast, winds partially ripped roofs off two apartment buildings, forcing rescuers to evacuate about 50 people from the complex, according to CNN.

In the low-lying Keys, appliances and furniture were seen floating away.

Those islands have had massive power outages, but search-and-rescue operations had to wait out Hurricane Jose before they could begin recovery efforts there, Long said on ABC's "This Week".

USA state officials and utilities said outages were in power & light's service area in the southern and eastern parts of Florida, Reuters reported.

Irma is plowing into Georgia and toward other parts of the Deep South - Alabama, Tennessee and the Carolinas.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster issued a mandatory evacuation for some barrier islands. They said they expected steady 20-to-30-mph wind and gusts up to 50 miles per hour.

  • Leroy Wright