Hurricane Irma makes landfall on Florida's mainland
LAKE MARY, Fla. (WOFL FOX35) - Irma weakened to a Category 2 as it approached Naples, Florida after making its second landfall on Marco Island, Florida as a Category 3 hurricane Sunday afternoon.
The massive storm touched down on Marco Island at about 3:35 p.m., according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. The hurricane center said, "although weakening is forecast, Irma is expected to remain a hurricane at least through Monday morning."
Category 3 storms pack wind speeds from 111 to 129 mph, but 130-mph wind gust was recently reported by the Marco Island Police Department. Category 2 storms can experience wind speeds between 96 and 110 mph. A wind gust of 142 mph was recorded at the Naples Municipal Airport as the storm kept its top sustained wind speed of 110 mph.
Irma's powerful winds wreaked havoc as it made its way to the mainland, already knocking out power to more than 3.3 million homes and businesses in the state, according to officials. Florida Power and Light said it would be weeks before electricity would be fully restored because of damage being done by the hurricane.
NOAA noted there was a Storm Surge Warning in effect for the Florida Keys. The highest threat of catastrophic storm surge flooding is along the southwest coast of Florida, where residents can expect 10 to 15 feet of inundation above ground level, according to NOAA.
Officials warned residents who didn't evacuate to shelter in place and to stay in interior rooms and hallways on floors just above floodwater.
Nearly 7 million people in the Southeast were warned to evacuate, including 6.4 million in Florida alone. Florida officials say 160,000 people across the state have taken refuge in more than 500 shelters as Hurricane Irma hits the state.
Irma is expected to move directly over the Tampa Bay area around midnight and a report by CoreLogic found that nearly 455,000 Tampa Bay homes could be damaged by storm surges, the most of any major U.S. metro area other than Miami and New York. Rebuilding those homes could cost $81 billion. The Tampa-St. Petersburg area, with a population of about 3 million, has not taken a direct hit from a major hurricane since 1921.
Miami experienced intense flooding and two dozen construction cranes looming over the skyline collapsed in the wind. No injuries were reported due to the cranes falling. The cranes were left up because officials said it would've taken nearly two weeks to move the massive pieces of equipment.
Forecasters said a weakened Irma could push into Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and beyond. A tropical storm warning was issued for the first time ever in Atlanta, some 200 miles from the sea.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.