Irma is expected to weaken into a tropical storm over far northern Florida or southern Georgia later on Monday but first its centre will continue to move over the western Florida peninsula, the NHC said.
Irma's center was about 105 miles north of Tampa when forecasters announced it had weakened to a tropical storm.
Hurricane Irma, now a category 3, had maximum sustained winds of 195 km/h (120 mph) at that time and was located some 45 km from Varadero, Cuba, and 175 km southeast of Key West.
The governor warned that Irma "is like" Hurricane Andrew, which hit Florida 25 years prior.
As more than 1 million Floridians are under orders to evacuate, ABC News spoke to some Miami residents who are hunkering down at home as Hurricane Irma - the most powerful Atlantic storm in a decade - approaches.
The storm was still hurling 65 miles per hour winds Monday, pummeling cities in northeast Florida that had not expected to feel its full wrath.
Fort Lauderdale police arrested nine people they said were caught on TV cameras looting sneakers and other items from a sporting goods store and a pawn shop during the hurricane.
More than 6.5 million people in the state are in an evacuation zone, but it is unclear how many have taken their lives in their hands and stayed put.
Almost 4.5 million homes and businesses across Florida lost power, and utility officials said it will take weeks to restore electricity to everyone.
- At least 26 deaths have been blamed on Irma in the Caribbean islands, where it hit before barreling toward Florida. Streets flooded, and flying objects such as coconuts turned into unsafe projectiles.
Meanwhile, winds in higher levels of the atmosphere generally come from the west or southwest in the United States.
"Everything is flooded", he said.
"There is the danger of life-threatening storm surge flooding along portions of the coasts of Florida, Georgia and SC, where a Storm Surge Warning remains in effect". During that storm, "I lived the experience of feeling that I was inside a blender", she said.
When Miami chief meteorologist John Morales tweeted that the cone would miss the southern tip of Florida and the Upper Keys, he received some worrying replies asking whether Miami would feel stronger winds than usual.
Those who did not evacuate ahead of the storm are in danger, Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long said Saturday. If you're in shelter or other safe location - stay there.
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