Hurricane Irma has been downgraded to a Category 3 storm, according to the latest forecast from the National Hurricane Center on Saturday.
As the storm continues to batter Cuba, the 11 a.m. Eastern advisory said it has weakened to 125 miles-per-hour sustained maximum winds, which is still a "major" storm according to the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale used by the NHC.
However, the NHC warns, Irma is expected to "restrengthen once it moves away from Cuba," moving over warmer waters and "is expected to remain a powerful hurricane as it approaches Florida."
Irma is forecast to make landfall sometime Sunday morning.
Hurricane #Irma's sustained winds are now down to 125 MPH. Strengthening expected. #Jose's winds are at 145 MPH. 12-hour #GOES16 IR loop. pic.twitter.com/HrwZs3ZlNI— NASA SPoRT (@NASA_SPoRT) September 9, 2017
The latest advisory also said the storm surge threat area has extended north; parts of southern Florida face 5 to 10 feet, and in some cases, 10 to 15 feet of "life-threatening" storm surge.
The outer bands from the storm have already begun to reach the southernmost parts of the state. More 5.6 million residents have been ordered to evacuate and officials say 20,000 people are already without power. Economics predict up to $200 billion worth of damage.
Even before the eye was predicted to be making heading towards the area – the most dangerous part of the storm is near the eye, where the most intense winds are usually found – the National Weather Service issued a stern message Friday afternoon to Key West residents that with the coming of Hurricane Irma they need to evacuate because "this is as real as it gets."
"Nowhere in the Florida Keys will be safe," the NWS Key West account said in a tweet in all caps. "You still have time to evacuate."
With more than 20 people killed in connection to the storm in the Caribbean, Florida Gov. Rick Scott warned residents not to take a risk if they have been ordered to evacuate.
"If you've been ordered to evacuate, you need to leave now," Scott said in a press conference Saturday morning. "Do not wait. Evacuate. Not tonight. Not in an hour. You need to go right now."
He also cautioned of the often underestimated threat of storm surge, which could reach 6 to 12 feet in some places.
"You will not survive all of the storm surge," he said "This is a life-threatening situation."
Scott has made a request for thousands of volunteers to help at shelters throughout the state.