During the afternoon, it rounded Florida's southwestern corner and hugged the coast closely as it pushed toward Naples, Sanibel, Fort Myers and, beyond that, Sarasota, at 14 miles per hour (23 kph). "You will not survive all of this storm surge".
As their family scrambles to finish preparing, they are anxious about the structure of their home.
"The combination of unsafe storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters", the National Hurricane Center said. "This team is nearly three times the size of our everyday restoration team and about 25 percent larger than our pre-storm workforce in advance of Hurricane Matthew past year".
Don't confuse a storm surge with a storm tide.
Flooding, storm surge, fallen structures, debris and severe damage from potential tornadoes can affect the speed of power restoration. However, storm tide can be very unsafe, as some can reach more than 20 feet in length and cause extreme flooding.
"This will likely be the fourth Category 5 hurricane ever to make landfall in the U.S.", Nitz said. The storm made its second Florida landfall, on Marco Island, as a Category 3 storm with maximum sustained winds up to 185 km/h.
Irma crossed over the Florida Keys Sunday morning and was headed for the state's southwest coast with maximum sustained winds of 130 miles (215 kilometers) per hour, making it a unsafe Category 4 storm, the second worst on the Saffir-Simpson scale.
About 30,000 people heeded orders to leave the Keys as the storm closed in, but an untold number refused, in part because to many storm-hardened residents, staying behind in the face of danger is a point of pride.
FPL, the biggest power company in Florida, said more than 3.2 million of its customers were without power by 10pm, mostly in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.
The National Hurricane Center still has the powerful hurricane moving up the western coast of the Florida Peninsula and traking toward southwest Georgia toward Columbus and continuing a northwest path from there. "In all areas this rainfall may cause life-threatening flash floods", warns the NHC.
And in the Jacksonville area, close to the Georgia line, storm surge brought flooding at levels not seen in more than 50 years, with at least 46 people pulled from swamped homes.
Irma's wrath in the Sunshine State extended some 400 miles.
"I will tell you in no uncertain terms - and I am not going to sugarcoat it - this is going to be a hard storm", Buckhorn said at the news conference.
Scott added that, "People don't realize it's going to come into your house, it's going to fill up maybe your entire first floor, and then it's going to flow out. I just don't know".
Roche said the system was getting increasingly disorganized. Hurricane conditions are expected in Florida Saturday night or early Sunday.