Storm surge threat increases as anxious Tampa Bay area keeps eye on monstrous Hurricane Irma

TAMPA, Florida -- An anxious Tampa Bay area awoke Saturday to an ever-increasing storm surge risk from Hurricane Irma as the track continued to inch west.

“This is a deadly storm” Florida Gov. Rick Scott said during a morning update. “You will not survive all this storm surge. This is a life-threatening situation.”

Irma was a Category 4 storm as of 8 a.m. Saturday and about 225 miles south of Miami. It was downgraded to a Category 3 storm after it raked Cuba's northern coast but was expected to strengthen once again as it made its northward turn toward the west coast of Florida.

Officials in counties around the Tampa-St. Petersburg area -- home to 2.8 million people -- ordered mandatory evacuations of some of the lowest-lying areas, as well as mobile homes.

“Do not put your life or your family’s life at risk,” Scott said.

For those who wanted to flee the area, the window to do so was quickly closing. Tampa International Airport was set to close at 8 p.m., and some airlines began to cancel flights as early as Thursday. Meanwhile, local officials began to urge people to seek shelter in areas outside of evacuation zones rather than trying to drive away from the strike zone.

“If you’re in an evacuation zone, I hope you will go right this minute,” Scott said during his mid-morning press briefing.

An estimated 6.3 million people -- more than a quarter of the state's population -- had evacuated Florida as of Friday, the governor's office estimated.

On Friday evening, many people said they were preparing to stay at home rather than try to evacuate but were prepared to live -- for days if necessary -- without running water or electricity.

© 2017 WWL-TV


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