Empty streets, full shelters: conditions in Florida deteriorate as Irma approaches

A woman and child use a blanket as protection from wind and rain as they walk in Caibarien, Cuba, Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. Hurricane Irma battered Cuba on Saturday with deafening winds and unremitting rain, pushing seawater inland and flooding homes before taking aim at Florida. Early Saturday, the hurricane center said the storm was centered about 10 miles (15 kilometers) northwest of the town of Caibarien. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)

As Hurricane Irma continues to approach Florida, the conditions are deteriorating.

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The storm will reach the Keys by Sunday morning and it is expected to move along the southwest coast of Florida Sunday afternoon.

Photos taken in the Bahamas appear to show barren beaches.

The latest advisory shows Hurricane Irma, a Category 3 storm, with maximum sustained winds of 120 mph.

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) is documenting heavy squalls with embedded tornadoes sweeping across South Florida as Irma looms.

A number of water spouts and tornadoes have been documented along the southeast coast by residents and storm chasers.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, water temperatures off Florida's southern tip have hit close to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, helping fuel the storm.

Earlier on Saturday, Gov. Rick Scott reported that more than 6.5 million Floridians had been ordered to evacuate.

Approximately 70,000 Floridians are waiting out the storm in the more than 385 shelters that have been opened around the state.

Shelters are equipped to handle pets. However, some families are abandoning their four-legged friends during evacuation.

The intense winds have already resulted in at least 76,000 people losing power. That number is expected to grow as the storm hits.

The death toll from Hurricane Irma remains relatively low. In the Caribbean 20 people have been reported dead as a result of the storm.

In Florida, one man was killed while installing hurricane shutters. Another man was killed Saturday in the Keys while driving his truck during the storm.

The biggest dangers come from the storm surge, heavy winds and pouring rain.

Parts of the southern Florida Peninsula could face storm surge of ten to fifteen feet, according to the National Weather Service (NWS). Other areas along the coast will anywhere from three to ten feet of storm surge.

NWS has also warned that Irma could produce between 10 to 20 inches of rain, with 20 to 25 inches expected over the Florida Keys, the Florida Peninsula and southeast Georgia.

Local, state and federal authorities have already staged emergency responses including search and rescue teams and food and water delivery.

Store shelves are empty and there are widespread reports of fuel shortages.

Further north, state officials in Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina have declared a state of emergency ahead of Irma.

By Monday, the storm is expected to continue northwest, bringing gale force winds and heavy rains. By Tuesday and Wednesday, Irma is projected to hit as far north as Tennessee.

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