Hurricane Irma's Cat 4 winds could last all afternoon in Naples

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Large waves produced by Hurricane Irma crash into the end of Anglins Fishing Pier Sept. 10 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Close to 600,000 homes and businesses were without power as of Sunday morning, according to utilities.

Damage appeared to be severe in the Florida Keys, where Irma first came ashore as a category four hurricane with sustained winds up to 215km/h early on Sunday.

In its update, the NHC said a hurricane watch - meaning a storm is imminent - was issued for west of the Aucilla River to Indian Pass, Fla.

The ever-changing potential path of Hurricane Irma shifted to the west overnight, which could put Macon and Middle Georgia in more danger. There were 166,598 customers without power across the state of Georgia, according to Georgia Power.

The massive storm triggered evacuation orders for 5.6 million people before it made two landfalls in the state Sunday.

Other big power utilities in Florida are units of Emera Inc and Southern Co, which also operates the biggest electric companies in Georgia and Alabama.

The emergency declarations have been approved by the President in the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Georgia and the Sunshine State - Florida.

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Jacksonville, the largest city geographically in the country, is grappling with a record storm surge and enormous flooding.

Gould estimated that FPL positioned "17,000 restoration workers from about 30 states" in anticipation of fix efforts before the storm arrived, but said that flooding from storm surges and traffic congestion as residents return home this week would delay the project.

The hurricane center is forecasting that storm surge could be the most dramatic in the Miami area and in Collier, Monroe and Lee counties, all of which could see surge higher than 9 feet above ground.

"Sometimes people listen and sometimes they don't", Long said. Southbound US Route 1 - the only road connecting the Keys - is closed, Florida Keys spokesman Andy Newman said.

Warnings of unsafe storm surges remained in effect through vast swathes of peninsular Florida, where more than six million people had been ordered to flee Irma in one of the biggest evacuations in USA history.

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Irma comes just days after Hurricane Harvey dumped record-setting rain in Texas, causing unprecedented flooding, killing at least 60 people and leaving an estimated $180 billion in property damage in its wake.

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