FEMA chief says Irma path is 'worst-case scenario' for Florida Keys

Bunking down on Necker Island as Hurricane Irma approaches

As winds began to pick up in the Florida Keys on Saturday, Hurricane Irma's storm surge forecast was increased to as high as 15 feet as the storm appeared headed for Tampa and Florida's Gulf Coast.

Irma has killed at least 23 people in is considered a life-threatening danger to Florida and could inflict a natural disaster causing billions of dollars in damage.

As Irma moves inland and away from the warm waters that strengthen hurricanes, forecasters said the storm should lessen in intensity, but the winds will maintain hurricane strength at least until Monday morning.

A storm surge warning is in place for the Florida Keys, Tampa Bay, and an extensive stretch of coastline wrapping most of the way around the state. About 6.5 million Florida residents - almost a third of the state's population - were under mandatory evacuation orders, in one of the largest such evacuations in U.S. history.

To make matters even worse, communications on many of the affected islands were still spotty days after the storm, leaving many agonized relatives and friends elsewhere to wonder how their loved ones had fared.

Irma hit Florida on Sunday morning as a dangerous Category 4 storm, the second-highest level on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale. Miami Beach, a beachfront barrier island in front of Miami normally teeming with tourists, young families, and beautiful people hoping to be admired, was deserted on Saturday.

As for the damages from Irma, "It will cost a lot of money but right now we're worried about lives, not costs", Trump said.

Irma packed winds of 110 MPH as of 7 p.m.as it lashed much of Florida, down from 130 MPH earlier on Sunday.

"This is a life-threatening situation", the hurricane center posted.

"The message has been clear: The Keys are going to be impacted".

He went on, "I'll tell you we have great people and a group that truly deserves credit is the United States Coast Guard what they've done". "Catastrophic surge imminent", the National Weather Service tweeted Sunday afternoon, calling a flash-flood emergency in the Naples-Marco Island area.

Storm surge is shaped by a number of different factors, including storm intensity, forward speed, the size of a storm and the angle of approach to the coast.

Flamingos are being herded to safety at Busch Gardens in Florida.

There have also been dozens of tornado warnings througout the state of Florida.

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