Florida power outage: Irma leaves almost 4.5 million in the dark

Shorelines drained in eerie effect of Hurricane Irma

Tampa International Airport is closed and will open Tuesday for commercial flights after Hurricane Irma hit Florida on Sunday and Monday, according to the airport's Twitter account, which has been responding to customer questions.

Danny Spewak is helping WGRZ's sister station in Tampa, Florida as they await the arrival of Hurricane Irma.

The eye of the Category 4 storm was 15 miles (24 kilometers) southeast of Key West, bringing winds up to 130 miles per hour and threatening unsafe storm surges. Those conditions are now more likely to affect the southwestern part of the Midlands, the weather service said in its 5 a.m. Saturday briefing. There were no immediate reports of tornadoes touching down.

But the desperation of thousands of local people was palpable, particularly in the shelters that had been opened for those exposed to the mighty winds and unsafe tidal storm surge that was imminent.

In the Tampa Bay area, access to all of Pinellas County's barrier islands, including the popular spring break destination of Clearwater Beach, was shut off.

The storm wreaked havoc from the state's southernmost point to areas near the Georgia line, with homes and cars swamped, trees flattened, boats cast onto roads in the Florida Keys and streets underwater in many places.

Palmer and his wife planned to stay in their 144-year-old home, which has weathered many storms including the last major hurricane to hit the Georgia coast in 1898.

"There are a lot of good people who are going to come and help us from all over the country", he said.

In the resort town of Varadero in the Matanzas province, 14,500 foreign tourists rode out the storm, according to state-run news organization Granma.

Hurricane-strength winds later were recorded in the northern half of Camaguey province, the agency said. She said she has stood in the eye of a hurricane before and it's "total peace and quiet". About 6.4 million people were told to flee.

Across Florida, authorities said 127,000 people had entered such facilities instead of evacuating, as around seven million people had managed to do, answering dire warnings from government, law enforcement and emergency services.

Irma is impacting our region this morning, creating continuous moderate rain and wind speeds near tropical-storm force of 40 miles per hour.

At least 34 people are reported to have been killed as Irma made its way across the region, while thousands have been left homeless.

After making landfall on Sunday, the huge storm remained a Category 1 hurricane as it moved over the state's northwest Monday, before finally being downgraded to a tropical storm at 8 a.m. ET.

The Hurricane Watch previously issued from north of Fernandina Beach to Edisto Beach was discontinued, the National Hurricane Center said. Now around 3 million people live there.

Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia in West Point, Georgia, has canceled vehicle production on Monday and Tuesday for all three shifts due to Irma, a company official said. Many businesses had yet to protect windows with plywood or hurricane shutters.

"It's such a rarity along the west coast of Florida", he said. "I just don't know".

Forecasters warned of storm surge as high as 15 feet (4.5 meters).

Spirit Airlines said late Friday that it shuttered its Miramar, Florida headquarters and move its operations center to its backup in Detroit.

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