LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
Hurricane Irma has been battering the Florida Keys and now the west coast of Florida - and has the west coast of Florida in its sights. People throughout the states - the state - those who haven't evacuated are holed up in their homes or in shelters. This is an ongoing situation that is affecting the entire state of Florida. And we are now going to go to two coasts. NPR's Leila Fadel is in Tampa, and Jon Hamilton is at the National Hurricane Center here in Miami.
Leila and Jon, thank you for being with us on this day.
LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: Thank you for having me.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Jon, are you there? We'd like to check in with you first. All right, so...
JON HAMILTON, BYLINE: Yes, I am here.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: You are there. Wonderful, all right. We've had a lot of problems with comms today, as you can imagine, because we are speaking in the midst of a hurricane. We would like to remind our listeners. So Jon, what are the experts, the meteorologists there telling you about Irma at this point?
HAMILTON: So what they're saying is, Irma is really close to the mainland now. If you look on the screens here at the storm center, you can see that it is really close to Naples. It's really hard to tell if it technically has made landfall to Florida's west coast. And anyway, the - you know, the exact location of landfall is really sort of academic.
It's - this storm is going to affect - it is a really, really big storm. The winds are still estimated 130 miles an hour, so it's a Category 4 storm. And now we've had some idea to see what this storm can do. I mean, Irma devastated the Florida Keys a couple of hours ago, and it's probably going to cause big problems pretty much throughout the state in the coming day or so.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: We should tell our listeners that, yes, Jon is fading in and out, again, because we are talking during a hurricane. Leila, I'm going to go to you now in Tampa on Florida's west coast. Are you feeling the effects yet?
FADEL: Right now, it's just a slight rain. We're at a point where people are still sheltering. They're waiting for the storm to make it up here, and they're preparing for a direct hit. We're seeing people in shelters, nobody on the street, a slight drizzle and a lot of anticipation.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah, and anxiety, I imagine. You have had a chance to check out a nearby hurricane shelter. What is going on there? What'd you see?
FADEL: Well, this is a shelter where people were sheltering in place who need extra help. They need care. And so they went here because there are doctors there. There are nurses there. There are oxygen tanks. But people are scared, and they're sad, and they're worried they're going to lose everything.
And we spoke to one woman who said she took a bunch of sleeping pills because she didn't want to wake up for the storm, but she did, and she got to the shelter with her husband. But she knows her mobile home will be lost. Everything will be lost, and she'll be sleeping in her SUV after this.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right, Jon, we're going to turn to you now. I think we have you on the phone. Tell us a little bit more about the people who were riding it out at home. What kind of conditions are they facing? What kind of concerns will they have?
HAMILTON: Well, it's hard to know where to start because even if you are a hundred miles from the eye of the storm, you're still likely to be experiencing hurricane-force winds. We've seen that here in Miami, which is a long way from the eye. And if you were near the coast or in some low-lying area - which, you know, I should say pretty much describes most of southern Florida - you're going to see a whole lot of water.
You know, the - first you get the rain, and there could be 15 inches or more, depending on when you are and where you are. And that rain really won't have anywhere to go because at the same time the rain is falling, you got this storm surge coming in from the ocean. The wind is pushing all this ocean up onto the land, and forecasters say some areas will see 10 to 15 feet of water on top of what is usually dry ground.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Leila, I imagine that that will devastate Tampa - 10 to 15 feet of water coming into that city.
FADEL: Yeah, there are a lot of people who have moved out of these flood zones and then also areas that aren't necessarily in the flood zone, but they're moving too because that is a lot of water, and people don't want to lose their lives. This was late-notice. This - yesterday, people started preparing a lot of the ways here in Tampa. So in some cases, they couldn't get ready. This was a place where people were fleeing to until yesterday.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Jon, let's look ahead. I mean, we're going to be facing the storm maybe for another 10, 12 hours, I understand - and then, of course, it is the recovery. But the entire state has been affected.
HAMILTON: Yeah, the - it's - there are places that will experience more than 12 hours of very, very high winds. And we should clarify that the forecast of 10 to 15 feet of storm surge applies to areas south of Tampa but not to Tampa itself, where they're expected to have a storm surge of less. I've heard 6 to 8 feet there.
But the point is, this is an enormous storm that is going to have effects that last for a very, very long time. There will be many, many hours of rain, and then there will be many, many days, weeks, months of cleanup.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: NPR's Leila Fadel is in Tampa. Stay safe, Leila.
FADEL: Thank you.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: And Jon Hamilton is here in Miami. You, too, take cover from the storm. Thanks so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.