Hurricane Irma wasn't the only vortex that the southeastern USA had to worry about Sunday.
No deaths in Florida were immediately linked to the storm.
"As expected, this storm has brought strong winds and rains to North Carolina, especially in the western part of our state", Cooper said. This is the longest any cyclone has maintained that intensity on record, according to Phil Klotzbach, an atmospheric scientist at Colorado State University.
The storm is continuing to move farther inland and is approaching the Georgia-Alabama border, a hurricane center forecaster says.
The first images from the Keys, where Irma made its initial United States landfall as a Category 4 yesterday morning now coming in showing houses barely standing, cars buried beneath sand.
In Florida and southern Georgia, more than 8 million people face hurricane-force winds topping 74 miles per hour, said Ryan Maue of WeatherBell Analytics.
The U.S. Defense Department said it may need to help evacuate about 10,000 people stranded in the Florida Keys by Irma.
Update 1 a.m.: Hurricane Irma sustains Category 2 hurricane winds of 100 mph as its center moves 15 miles southwest of Lakeland.
They also expect Irma to weaken further into a tropical storm over far northern Florida or southern Georgia on Monday as it speeds up its forward motion.
The city appeared to avoid a direct hit from the hurricane, which has claimed three lives in the U.S. so far, but heavy rain and flooding is still a major threat.
In the low-lying Keys, where a storm surge of over 10 feet (3 meters) was recorded, appliances and furniture were seen floating away, and Monroe County spokeswoman Cammy Clark said the ocean waters were filled with navigation hazards, including sunken boats. A tropical storm warning was issued for the first time ever in Atlanta, where many schools canceled classes because of the storm.
High winds snapped power lines and left about 4.5 million Florida homes and businesses without power in the state, whose economy represents about 5 percent of USA gross domestic product.
Irma's crest winds of 100 miles per hour with higher gusts had dropped 30 miles per hour from the morning causing it to be a Category 2 hurricane.
"The Keys I'm very concerned about, the Marco Islands area, we have a lot of concerns about that", Scott said on Fox News.
People magazine reports one Miami resident, Matthew Spuler, has been sharing posts with video showing water rising above the seawall, flooding the lower floors of high-rise buildings. Officials warned it could take weeks for electricity to be restored to everyone.
Last month, Hurricane Harvey devastated much of coastal Texas and killed more than 70 people. But by Sunday, just before the season's halfway point, there had already been 11 named storms and six hurricanes.