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Tampa 'dodged a bullet'; Miami Beach 'dodged a cannonball': mayors

  • Irma was initially expected to hit Florida's east coast, including Miami Beach. Then, Irma shifted west and headed toward the other side of the Florida peninsula. It grazed the state's east coast over the weekend.
  • Updated projections over the weekend put Tampa, Florida, squarely in Irma's path. When Irma finally arrived, it shifted to the east.

The mayors of Tampa and Miami Beach, two Florida cities that were at one point projected to take a direct hit from Hurricane Irma, said their communities were mostly spared.

Irma was initially expected to hit Florida's east coast, including Miami Beach. The beachfront community and neighboring cities ordered residents to evacuate.

Then, Irma shifted west and headed toward the other side of the Florida peninsula. It grazed the state's east coast over the weekend.

"I say we didn't dodge a bullet, we dodged a cannonball," Miami Beach mayor Philip Levine told CNBC on Monday. "This was a nuclear hurricane coming our way."

Updated projections over the weekend put Tampa, Florida, squarely in Irma's path. Mayor Bob Buckhorn told CNBC the city was "staring into the abyss."

Irma pounded Naples and Marco Island before heading to Tampa. When Irma finally arrived, it shifted to the east. Buckhorn said he "realized that the gods were smiling" on the city when dawn broke.

"This is a city that, for whatever reason, dodged a bullet," Buckhorn said.

If original projections had materialized, Tampa could have faced significant flooding issues, downed trees, a downtown inundated with water and people displaced for a long time, he said.

Instead, Tampa woke up to none of that, Buckhorn said. Downed trees and debris littered the roads, he said, but the city did not experience any storm surge like it feared.

WATCH: Tampa mayor says city dodged a bullet