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UPDATE 9:30 p.m. AST
Although Hurricane Irma is located about 100 miles off the coast of Southern Florida, the state is already being battered by strong winds.
ABC News is estimating wind gusts are already clocking in at 40 to 60 mph. They could reach up to 115 mph when Irma hits the Florida Keys by Sunday morning. The region has already faced down two tornadoes more are expected. A tornado watch remains in effect.
A curfew is in effect in several counties, including Palm Beach, Broward and Charlotte, as well as the city of Miami Beach
Airlines around the country have canceled nearly 10,000 flights, of which 70 percent were scheduled to fly in and out of the state of Florida.
Residents of the Florida Keys have already started to feel the earliest effects of Hurricane Irma, as the storm's outer bands dump heavy rain and strong winds on the southern part of the state.
Irma's eye currently hovers just along Cuba's northern shores, but it is expected to make a turn toward the north-northwest early Sunday and reach Florida early Sunday morning.
"Unfortunately, there is no way the United States is going to avoid another catastrophic weather event," said Joel N. Myers, the founder, president and chairman of AccuWeather.
Putting things into context, Irma's tropical force winds currently cover more than 70,000 square miles, an area greater than the entire state of Florida.
As of Saturday morning, Irma's sustained winds were topping out at 125 mph earning the storm a downgrade to a Category 3 Hurricane but the National Hurricane Centers says its winds are expected to "re strengthen" once it moves away from Cuba.
Due to a slight overnight shift, Irma's expected path has altered and the storm is now predicted to travel along Florida's west coast, putting Naples and Tampa in its sights.
Governor Rick Scott has said storm surges remain a "major worry" according to CNN. Meteorologists warn that Irma is expected to dump more than 20 inches of rain on the state and that the surges could cause major flooding along Florida's eastern coast.
The storm could reach Miami and Orlando by late Sunday or early Monday morning and then head as far north as Atlanta by Tuesday and even as far north as Memphis, although it may also have dissipated by then.
A graphic by AccuWeather indicates that some 23 million people in the United States are at risk of "extreme impact" if Irma continues on her current path.
AccuWeather Enterprise Solutions' "Hurricane #Irma: Impact Indicator" says 23 million people are at risk of extreme impacts pic.twitter.com/TQlUz2Il0o- AccuWeather (@accuweather) September 8, 2017
AccuWeather Enterprise Solutions' "Hurricane #Irma: Impact Indicator" says 23 million people are at risk of extreme impacts pic.twitter.com/TQlUz2Il0o
Since the National Hurricane Center issued its first hurricane warnings for Florida, mandatory evacuations have affected an estimated 1.2 million people in the state. Some six million were warned to evacuate.
People who haven't heeded warnings to evacuate are encouraged to head to an area shelter as few options remain for leaving the state.
Both the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and Miami International Airport have announced that they have suspended all traffic for Saturday and Sunday. Additionally, the U.S. Coast Guard has closed the ports of Tampa, St. Petersburg, Manatee and Port Canaveral. It has also set condition Yankee-closed to all commercial traffic and transfer operations-for two ports in Georgia, Savannah and Brunswick.
READ MORE: This Delta Flight Got in and Out Right Before Irma
More Hurricane Irma Coverage
As a result of the major storm, airlines in Florida and throughout the Caribbean are watching the warnings from the National Hurricane Center in order to keep passengers safe through hdelays and cancellations. Plus, read TravelPulse's assessment on accusations of airline price gouging.
For cruise passengers wondering if their voyages have been impacted, all major cruise lines with itineraries in the Caribbean have modified schedules and/or canceled cruises.
Mark Murphy Talks Irma
President and CEO of travAlliancemedia Mark Murphy was a guest on FOX 29 Philadelphia Wednesday and provided travelers with some helpful insight regarding what to expect and how to prepare for a storm as massive as the category five Hurricane Irma.
Irma's Toll on Caribbean Life, Infrastructure and Tourism
travAlliancemedia Caribbean and Latin America executive editor Brian Major broke down the structural, financial and emotional destruction in the region left behind by Hurricane Irma in an in-depth feature. Also, read a report on rebuilding efforts as Caribbean islands start to pick up the pieces.
Wondering if your travel insurance will cover you in the case of Hurricane Irma? TravelPulse has all the information you need.
What you need to know if you have a Florida theme park vacation planned during Hurricane Irma.
While many hotels and resorts in Florida are preparing for Hurricane Irma, residents are heading north to states like Georgia to avoid the storm. As a result, hotels and motels along the route north are at capacity.
Monica Poling, the evening and weekend editor at TravelPulse.com, has been writing about travel for more than 20 years....
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