Irma has wobbled, meaning southeast Florida could face fiercer winds longer.
In their 11 a.m. advisory, National Hurricane Center forecasters said over the last few hours, the storm swerved slightly to the north. That means winds and storm surge that began hammering Miami-Dade before dawn could continue.
Mark DeMaria, deputy acting director of the National Hurricane Center, said there have numerous reports of hurricane force winds throughout Miami-Dade most of the morning and "not it's spreading into Broward."
Irma’s powerful eye has begun moving away from the Lower Keys after officially making landfall on Cudjoe Key at 9:10 a.m. Hours before, the storm started pushing waves ashore. From Old Town in Key West to the 18 Mile Stretch, waves crested on streets and surfs carved chunks out of roads. In Miami-Dade, flooding swept across Brickell Avenue.
As the storm moves away, forecasters warn the west side of the islands may get slammed with a second round of storm surge.
At 11 a.m., Irma was located 80 miles southeast of Naples moving at 9 mph, National Hurricane Center forecasters said in the latest advisory. Irma should near the west coast by this afternoon or later tonight, with hurricane winds extending 80 miles from the center and tropical storm winds reaching 220 miles.
“Life-threatening wind and storm surge from Irma will continue in the Florida Keys and southwestern Florida today and spread into central and northwestern Florida tonight and Monday,” forecasters said.
As Irma nears the west coast, it’s expected to weaken as it brushes up against land and faces stronger wind shear. At 24 hours, forecasters expect sustained winds to drop to 90 mph and at 36 hours, fall below tropical storm force at 45 mph.
The Lower Keys Key could see widespread, “catastrophic” damage, hurricane specialist Mike Brennan said. “The storm surge on top of that can literally wipe structures entirely away.”
Irma struck Cudjoe during a high tide. Luckily for Key West, Irma arrived at low tide. But with the next high tide coming this afternoon, the worst could be yet to come.
In Miami-Dade and Broward counties, tropical storm force winds could last for hours, through the afternoon, Brennan said. Winds are also pushing up ocean waters, with Biscayne Bay seeing a four-foot rise. Miami-Dade County has asked people to stay put, even as Irma heads up the Gulf Coast.
Miami-Dade wants residents to stay where they are, and plan to be there until Monday at the earliest.
"We are not encouraging residents to move out and go to shelters at this time," communications director Michael Hernández said Sunday morning. "They will not be turned away if you knock on the door. But we are asking residents to stay where they are. Because it is just too dangerous to be out on the road at this time."
Miami-Dade has 43 shelters open for Hurricane Irma -- by far, the most in county history -- and about 31,000 people are inside them.
It’s still not clear whether Irma will make landfall as it rolls up the Florida coast toward the Panhandle, but a close brush, and even a landfall, is possible near Tampa Bay and St. Petersburg. If it hits, Irma would be the first strike by a major hurricane in 90 years, when the population ballooned from about 10,000 to more than 4 million.