After tearing through the Caribbean, the deadly Hurricane Irma has begun to batter Florida after tearing through the Caribbean with water levels rising on the coast of the US state where a huge storm surge is expected.
Wind and rain began to lash the Floridian coast and nearby islands in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Some 6.3 million people had been urged to evacuate their homes, but State Governor Rick Scott said it is now to late to leave for anyone remaining.
He said: “This is a deadly storm and our state has never seen anything like it. Millions of Floridians will see major hurricane impacts with deadly storm surge and life threatening winds.
“The threat of significant storm surge flooding along the east, entire west coast of Florida, has increased. And six to 12 feet of impacts above ground level is now probable.”
After the outer edges of the hurricane, which Scott warned was “wider than the entire state”, hit the coast, tornado warnings were issued.
The storm has already claimed at least 24 lives in the Atlantic Basin after it ravaged many of the smaller Caribbean islands.
The Florida Keys – a small chain of islands south of the mainland – were the first to be hit, and are expected to bear the brunt of the storm.
Coastal areas on the mainland are expecting widespread power outages.
The western Gulf coast is expected to be worst affected, with cities such as Tampa – which has not seen a major hurricane since 1921 – and St Petersburg in the path of the storm.
With sustained wind speeds of up to 120 mph, the Hurricane has been downgraded to category 3 after lashing northern Cuba, however, Irma is expected to strengthen and remain a powerful storm.
Some 50,000 people have gone into shelters throughout Florida.