As Hurricane Irma slams into Florida with gale-force winds, experts sound warnings of rising sea levels and the future of the Sunshine State's coastlines.
Late Saturday night, ABC News reported gusts of 74 mph and tornado sightings as Irma bore down on the Florida Keys. Over 6 million were ordered to evacuate, while 75,000 more have sought refuge in shelters. The city of Miami Beach and three counties -- Palm Beach, Broward, Charlotte -- have also imposed curfews. Despite frequent tropical squalls, Gov. Rick Scott called this a "deadly, deadly, deadly storm surge" and declared, "This is a life-threatening situation. Our state has never seen anything like it."
Hurricane Irma's rising sea levels have also given ABC News' meteorologists cause for alarm, with Florida's west coast bearing the brunt. They predict 10-foot storm surges in Tampa and Sarasota and 10-15 feet along the stretch between Fort Meyers and Naples.
"Somewhat lower storm surges of 3 to 6 feet may occur from Miami to Key Largo," ABC News adds.
The fearsome storm was downgraded to Category 3 from the record Category 5 extreme weather event that wreaked havoc on Cuba, Barbuda, and other islands in the Carribean. Yet the howling winds were still expected to reach speeds of 120 miles per hour. Then, in the wee hours of Sunday morning, Hurricane Irma was upgraded back to a Category 4.