The Associated Press

Huge waves crashed down on this tropical paradise, pounding the white sands of Summerland Key with brute fury. Then came bomb-blast winds as Hurricane Irma slammed ashore.

Justin Doyle / Flickr

In a state built on air conditioning, millions of Florida residents now want to know: When will the power come back on?

Wikimedia Commons

As monster Hurricane Irma buzz-sawed its way up Florida's Gulf Coast, it looked for several hours like the heavily populated Tampa Bay area could face catastrophic wind damage and flooding from the first major storm to roar ashore there in 96 years.

Kev Cook / Flickr

Florida residents got a first look of the destruction Irma caused as it swept over the state, leaving virtually no area of the peninsula untouched. Some donned waders to slog through thigh-high water and stuffed bags with all of the belongings they could carry after being forced to leave apartment buildings and mobile homes. Many were shaken by a storm they said was more powerful than they had ever seen.

Their stories provide a glimpse into the extensive reach of Irma's wrath:

Kev Cook / Flickr

A grinding chorus of chain saws and generators kicked in quickly after Hurricane Irma's roar left Sweetwater, a small, mostly Spanish-speaking town west of Miami where streets were swamped, fences and trees fell, cars got stuck in floodwater and shed roofs bent like tin foil.

Worried relatives, generous volunteers, frantic neighbors, even medical providers are turning to social media now that Hurricane Irma wiped out electricity and cell service to communities across Florida, cutting off most contact with remote islands in the Keys.

A massive but weakened Hurricane Irma zeroed in on the Tampa Bay region early Monday after hammering much of Florida with roof-ripping winds, gushing floodwaters and widespread power outages.

Michael Sechler (Facebook)

Two manatees were stranded after Hurricane Irma sucked the water out of Sarasota Bay, in Manatee County.

Florida Public Radio Emergency Network

A massive but weakened Hurricane Irma zeroed in on the Tampa Bay region early Monday after hammering much of Florida with roof-ripping winds, gushing floodwaters and widespread power outages.

Florida Public Radio Emergency Network

Hurricane Irma's leading edges whipped palm trees and kicked up the surf as the storm spun toward Florida with 120 mph winds Saturday on a projected new track that could put Tampa — not Miami — in the crosshairs.

Tampa has not taken a direct hit from a major hurricane in nearly a century.

Florida Public Radio Emergency Network

The biggest danger to life and property from Hurricane Irma could come from storm surge that forces seawater inland, which could topple houses, isolate residents who don't evacuate and make drowning an imminent threat, the National Hurricane Center is warning.

Florida Public Radio Emergency Network

The National Hurricane Center says it's looking more likely that the eye of powerful Hurricane Irma will strike the Keys, southwestern Florida and the Tampa Bay region starting Sunday. But that doesn't mean Miami area is in the clear. It's not.

Florida Public Radio Emergency Network

The National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Irma has strengthened back into a Category 5 storm, as officials warned more than 5 million people that time was running out Friday and ordered them to evacuate ahead of the deadly hurricane as it followed a path that could take it from one end of the state to the other.

Forecasters also extended hurricane and storm surge warnings and watches farther north to the Anclote River, including Tampa Bay.

tampaairport.com

Airlines are adding last-minute flights out of Florida after people snapped up seats to escape Hurricane Irma.

Florida Public Radio Emergency Network

For an entire generation in South Florida, Hurricane Andrew was the monster storm that reshaped a region. Irma is likely to blow that out of the water.

Florida Public Radio Emergency Network

Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco Counties begin evacuations today as the first hurricane warnings were issued for parts of southern Florida with the state braced for what could be a catastrophic hit from Hurricane Irma over the weekend.

Samara Sodos / Port Tampa Bay

Supplying gasoline to evacuating Floridians is a top priority according to the governor. 

That has meant an accelerated tempo at Port Tampa Bay, which provides the gas, aviation fuel, diesel and oil to Central Florida and the Tampa Bay region.

Florida Public Radio Emergency Network

Hurricane Irma lashed Puerto Rico with heavy rain and powerful winds Wednesday night, leaving nearly 900,000 people without power as authorities struggled to get aid to small Caribbean islands already devastated by the historic storm.

Florida rushed to prepare for a possible direct hit on the Miami area by the Category 5 storm with potentially catastrophic 185 mph winds.

Gas Buddy

Florida Gov. Rick Scott says the state is working to get gasoline to areas experiencing shortages in advance of Hurricane Irma.

In the meantime, a free mobile app may help Floridians find out which stations still have fuel.

Florida Public Radio Emergency Network

Hurricane Irma has strengthened into a Category 5 storm as it roared toward the northeast Caribbean on a path toward the U.S.

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