Hurricane Irma climbs Florida coast, risky storm surges feared

Naples Fla

Naples Fla

Midnight: The center of Hurricane Irma moved 25 miles south of Lakeland by midnight with 100 mph top winds, but it sent relentless gusts and rain for more than 400 miles from its center and refused to go quietly across South Florida including Palm Beach County.

Schools in the state planned to close Monday.

After leaving the coast of Cuba, Irma barrelled through the Florida Keys, a chain of low-lying islands to the south, on Sunday morning.

As of 8 a.m., Hurricane Irma continues to take aim at the west coast of Florida as a low-end Category 3 hurricane with winds now at 130 miles per hour.

Irma is "an extremely unsafe major hurricane, and will bring life-threatening wind impacts to much of the state regardless of the exact track of the center", according to the National Hurricane Center.

The storm is plowing into Georgia and others parts of the Deep South - Alabama, Tennessee and the Carolinas - bringing the danger of life-threatening storm surge and hazardous winds.

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

Authorities are reporting the first death in SC related to Tropical Storm Irma.

In the dark: According to state officials, more than 50,000 customers are without power in Monroe County, Florida, which includes the Keys.

- In Miami-Dade County, police said they arrested 28 people for burglary and looting.

Hurricane Irma has battered the Florida Keys, destroying roadways and isolating residents who didn't evacuate the string of islands, prompting one county's emergency management director to call the situation a possible "humanitarian crisis". No injuries have been reported.

Irma - one of the strongest storms ever recorded on the Atlantic - has killed at least 24 people in the Caribbean islands, according to CNN.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott said almost 30 states had deployed personnel and resourced to help out with the response and recovery of Hurricane Irma. About 5,000 of the Keys' 30,000 permanent residents stayed to ride out the storm, Florida Keys spokesman Andy Newman said.

"I just hope everybody survived", he said.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster issued a mandatory evacuation for some barrier islands.

Additional weakening is forecast, and Irma is expected to degenerate into a remnant low by Monday evening.

Numerous local governments and businesses will be closed Monday.

Christian relief groups are mobilizing to help in recovery efforts with Irma, much like they did with Hurricane Harvey and the damage it caused in Texas.

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