Hurricane Irma makes landfall in Florida as public warned of life threatening conditions
Hurricane Irma has reached the Florida Keys as people in the historic storm's path are being warned their situation may "deteriorate significantly".
Having battered the north coast of Cuba as a category three storm, Irma regained its category four status, carrying with it a life-threatening storm surge.
The hurricane began to affect the Sunshine State late on Saturday, with its forward reaches sending "embedded tornadoes" sweeping across southern parts.
Irma's eyewall - a band of clouds surrounding the centre of the storm - reached the low-lying Keys island chain on Sunday morning, with the eye of the storm 15 miles southeast of Key West.
More than six million people in Florida and Georgia have been urged to leave their homes, while tens of thousands of people were huddling in shelters as the National Hurricane Centre (NHC) warned the storm would bring 130 mph winds, torrential rain and storm surges of up to 15ft.
Florida governor Rick Scott called on anyone still in at-risk areas to follow evacuation orders, saying: "This is clearly a life-threatening situation."
"If you have been ordered to evacuate you need to leave now. This is your last chance to make a good decision," he said on Saturday night.
"Evacuation procedures are in place across the state, more than 6.5 million Floridians have been ordered to evacuate. Do not put yourself or your family's life at risk."
There are fears the low-lying Florida Keys, where near hurricane-force wind gusts were recorded late on Saturday, will suffer catastrophic damage.
Monitoring the situation from Camp David, President Donald Trump urged people in the danger areas to heed the governor's advice.
Forecasters offered some hope to residents of Tampa and Miami, which will now potentially be spared the direct hit predicted for days.
But the swing to the west means St. Petersburg could be hit by the centre of the storm, which left more than 20 people dead when it tore across the Caribbean.
Powerful Hurricane Jose began to pull away from the northern Leeward Islands late on Saturday, although a tropical storm watch remains in place for St Martin and St Barts, where Irma wrought destruction days ago.