As Irma marches up Florida's Gulf Coast toward Tampa Bay, residents fear what the storm will do to an area that hasn't taken a direct hit from a major hurricane since 1921.
From punishing winds to catastrophic storm surge, the area is bracing for devastation. Vulnerable structures range from the towering Sunshine Skyway Bridge to toxic waste sites from the state's phosphorous mining industry.
A 2013 World Bank study that ranked cities according to their vulnerability to major storms placed Tampa at number seven — among all cities in the world.
"We're going to be inundated with unprecedented amounts of water," Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said Sunday. "It's going to stress our storm water and sewer capacity. There's going to be overflows. There's no two ways around it."
Irma was a Category 3 storm Sunday afternoon. Its center was on track to reach the Tampa Bay area by late Sunday or early Monday.
The four-county area, with approximately 3 million residents, encompasses two of Florida's largest cities: Tampa and St. Petersburg. The area is known for its sugar-sand beaches, the Busch Gardens theme park and the Salvador Dali Museum.