Update, September 10, 2017: Hurricane Irma has shifted direction, CBS News reports. The storm is now targeting Tampa, Florida rather than Miami. Though the storm will miss Miami, that city of 6 million will still experience life-threatening hurricane winds.
The Tampa area is home to around 3 million people, many of whom are scrambling to leave town. Citizens of Florida's west coast were instructed to evacuate previously.
This story was originally published on September 9, 2017.
Hurricane Irma hasn't made landfall in Florida yet, but the state is already feeling some of its effects. CBS News reported that damaging winds and rains from the outer arms of Irma had already arrived in South Florida, with gusts up to 56 mph reported in Miami.
The powerful winds have led to 30,000 power outages in Miami-Dade County and 1,870 in Broward County, according to the Florida Power & Light Company (FPL). CBS Miami reported that FPL estimates 3 million people will be affected by power outages during Irma.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami announced that as Irma makes its way to Florida it has been downgraded to a Category 3 storm with maximum sustained winds of 125 mph, but would likely pick up speed and turn back into a Category 4 before landing in the Florida Keys on Sunday morning.
According to the Associated Press, Irma has changed course and the storm's centre will no longer land in Miami but the Tampa Bay area instead. Irma is expected to start in the low-lying Florida Keys before hitting southwestern Florida and moving north into the Tampa Bay area, which includes the major cities, Tampa and St. Petersburg, along with Naples. This would be the first time the Tampa Bay area has been directly hit by a major hurricane since 1921.
Miami might not get hit as hard as first expected, but the National Hurricane Center warns that the city will still be hit with "life-threatening hurricane winds." CNN reported that from Sunday through Wednesday as much as 20 inches of rain was predicted to fall across the Florida peninsula and southeast Georgia.
With new reports, Florida governor Rick Scott once again urged residents that were in Irma's path to evacuate immediately. He said that in some areas along the west coast of Florida the storm surge is expected to reach up to 15 feet. "You need to leave — not tonight, not in an hour, right now," Scott said. "This is the most catastrophic storm the state has ever seen."
According to CBS, 6.3 million of the state's approximately 21 million residents have been asked to evacuate. It's one of the biggest evacuations ever reported in U.S. history.