Preparations underway ahead of Hurricane Irma

Hurricane Irma’s leading edges whipped palm trees and kicked up the surf as it spun toward Florida with 125 mph winds Saturday on a projected new track that could subject Tampa — not Miami — to the storm’s worst fury.

Tampa has not taken a direct hit from a major hurricane in nearly a century.

The westward swing away from Miami in the overnight forecast caught many people off guard along Florida’s Gulf coast and triggered an abrupt shift in storm preparations. A major round of evacuations was ordered in the Tampa area, and shelters there soon began filling up.

Still, Miami was not out of danger. Because the storm is 350 to 400 miles wide, the metro area could still get life-threatening hurricane winds and dangerous storm surge of 4 to 6 feet, forecasters warned.

The window was closing fast for anyone wanting to escape before the arrival of the fearsome storm Sunday morning. Irma — at one time the most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the open Atlantic — left more than 20 people dead across the Caribbean. (AP)

Photos: Hurricane Irma thrashes the Caribbean »
Photos: Aerial photos of Hurricane Irma destruction »
Photos: Not a beach day in Miami, but the people-watching is fine »

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Miami, Fla.

The skyline is seen as the outer bands of Hurricane Irma start to reach Florida on Sept. 9, 2017 in Miami, Fla. (Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Hurricanes Irma and Jose in the Atlantic Ocean

GOES-16 captured this geocolor image of Hurricanes Irma and Jose in the Atlantic Ocean on the evening of Sept. 9, 2017. (Photo: NOAA)

Fort Myers, Fla.

A woman arrives at a shelter at Alico Arena where thousands of Floridians are hoping to ride out Hurricane Irma on Sept. 9, 2017 in Fort Myers, Fla. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Police patrol the street running along Sebastian Street Beach ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Irma, Sept. 9, 2017 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Irma Florida

Evacuees fill Germain Arena, which is being used as a fallout shelter, in advance of Hurricane Irma, in Estero, Fla., Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017. (Photo: Jay Reeves/AP)

Miami, Fla.

The winds and sea are whipped up off of the Rickenbacker Causeway in Miami as Hurricane Irma approaches on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017. (Mike Stocker/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)

Estero, Fla

Residents line up outside for shelter in the Germain Arena in preparation for Hurricane Irma in Estero, Fla., Sept. 9, 2017. (Photo: Bryan Woolston/Reuters)

Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

People walk along the beach in advance of Hurricane Irma’s expected arrival in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Sept. 9, 2017. (Photo: Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

Islamorada, Fla.

Rough surf churned up buy the approaching hurricane damage the docks at Whale harbor in the Florida Keys as winds and rain from the outer bands of Hurricane Irma arrive in Islamorada, Fla., on Sept. 9, 2017. (Photo: Gaston De Cardenas/AFP/Getty Images)

Savannah, Ga.

Elizabeth Ponder, center, hugs her daughter Exodus Ponder, left, while standing in line at the Savannah Civic Center before evacuating from he path of Hurricane Irma, Saturday, Sept., 9, 2017 in Savannah, Ga. (Photo: Stephen B. Morton/AP)

Islamorada, Fla.

A powerboat sits moored in shallow rough seas in the Florida Keys as winds and rain from the outer bands of Hurricane Irma arrive in Islamorada, Fla., on Sept. 9, 2017. (Photo: Gaston De Cardenas/AFP/Getty Images)

Miami Beach, Fla.

A lone pedestrian walks through the usual bustling South Beach ahead of Hurricane Irma in Miami Beach, Fla., Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. (Photo: David Goldman/AP)

Brooksville, Fla.

A car rides in the shoulder to pass other cars in evacuation traffic on I-75 N, near Brooksville, Fla., in advance of Hurricane Irma, Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017. (Photo: Gerald Herbert/AP)

Palm Coast, Fla

Ryan Kaye loads sandbags into his truck at a makeshift filling station provided by the county as protection ahead of Hurricane Irma, Friday, Sept. 8, 2017, in Palm Coast, Fla. (Photo: David Goldman/AP)

Miami, Fla.

Hundreds of people gather in an emergency shelter at the Miami-Dade County Fair Expo Center in Miami, Fla., Sept. 8, 2017, ahead of Hurricane Irma. (Photo: Saul LoebAFP/Getty Images)

Miami Beach, Fla.

A worker covers the windows of a restaurant with plywood in preparation for Hurricane Irma in Miami Beach, Fla., Sept. 7, 2017. (Photo: Bryan Woolston/Reuters)

Hollywood, Fla.

Gretchen and Ron Levine of A Paw Above in Hollywood, Fla., are taking care of 20 dogs and 21 cats as they’ve been inundated with pet care requests by people fleeing Hurricane Irma. (Photo: Susan Stocker/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)

Miami Beach, Fla.

Signs warning of road closures are seen above the road in Miami Beach, Fla., Sept. 8, 2017. (Photo: Bryan Woolston/Reuters)

Davie, Fla.

Gustavo Galindo, left, fills propane tanks at an Exxon gas station in Davie, Fla., Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017, as a long line of people wait in line as residents prepare for Hurricane Irma. (Photo: Taimy Alvarez/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)

Hurricane Irma Florida

Edward Pastrana installs wood shutters at the Miami City Ballet in Miami Beach, Fla., Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017. The National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane watch for the Florida Keys and parts of South Florida. Mandatory evacuations were issued for the Florida Keys and coastal areas in South Florida. (Photo: Marta Lavandier/AP)

Daytona Beach, Fla.

Sandbags sit outside a police station office as a worker secures the grounds of a hotel along the beach ahead of Hurricane Irma in Daytona Beach, Fla., Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. (Photo: David Goldman/AP)

Meritt Island, Fla.

Inmate trustees from the Brevard County Jail work to fill and load sandbags for residents as people in the area prepare ahead of Hurricane Irma on Sept. 7, 2017 in Meritt Island, Fla. (Photo: Brian Blanco/Getty Images)

Meritt Island, Fla.

Mariners work together to secure each other’s vessels at Harbor Square Marina as residents in the area prepare ahead of Hurricane Irma on September 07, 2017 in Meritt Island, Fla. (Photo: Brian Blanco/Getty Images)

Altamonte Springs, Fla.

Drivers wait in line for gasoline at the Costco in Altamonte Springs, Fla., ahead of the anticipated arrival of Hurricane Irma on Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. (Photo: Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)

Daytona Beach, Fla.

Paulita Kundid, left and her brother Mike Kundid board up their apartment building ahead of Hurricane Irma in Daytona Beach, Fla., Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. (Photo: David Goldman/AP)

Miami Beach, Fla

Mail boxes have been covered up as the city prepares for the approaching Hurricane Irma on Sept. 7, 2017 in Miami Beach, Fla. Current tracks for Hurricane Irma shows that it could hit south Florida later this weekend. (Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Miami Beach, Fla.

Park officials fill sand bags for residents who are preparing for approaching Hurricane Irma on Sept. 7, 2016 in Miami Beach, Fla. (Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Traffic heads north on Florida Turnpike

Traffic is seen heading North along the Florida Turnpike near Homestead, Fla. as tourists in the Florida Keys leave town on Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. (Photo: Al Diaz/Miami Herald via AP)

Altamonte Springs, Fla.

Shoppers at Costco in Altamonte Springs, Fla., wait in line for the arrival of a shipment of water during preparations for the impending arrival of Hurricane Irma on Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. These residents waited in line starting at 7 a.m. for an 11 a.m. water delivery. (Photo: Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)

Coral Springs, Fla.

Natalie Burgess of Temple Beth Orr in Coral Springs, Fla., gets ready for Valencia Melendez to draw blood during an emergency blood drive where people donate blood in advance of Hurricane Irma on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017. (Photo: Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)

Tampa, Fla.

Passengers wait in line at the Southwest Airlines ticket counter Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017 at Tampa International Airport. Many passengers were leaving Tampa on Wednesday ahead of Hurricane Irma which is threatening the Florida peninsula. (Photo: Chris Urso/Tampa Bay Times via AP)

Riviera Beach, Fla.

A sign warns potential shoppers preparing for Hurricane Irma that Builders FirstSource in Riviera Beach, Fla., has ‘no more hurricane supplies available’ Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017. (Photo: Bruce R. Bennett/The Palm Beach Post via ZUMA Wire)

Doral, Fla.

Florida Governor Rick Scott gives an update to the media regarding Hurricane Irma on Sept. 6, 2017 in Doral, Fla. (Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Miami, Fla.

People wait in line to purchase plywood at The Home Depot as they prepare for Hurricane Irma on September 6, 2017 in Miami, Fla. (Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Key Largo, Fla.

Erik Budman drills a nail into the plywood as he prepares for Hurricane Irma, at a local business, Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017, in Key Largo, Fla. (Photo: Alan Diaz/AP)

Miami, Fla.

Residents purchase water at BJ Wholesale in preparation for Hurricane Irma Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017, in Miami, Fla. (Photo: Roberto Koltun/Miami Herald via AP)

Miami, Fla.

People purchase plywood at The Home Depot as they prepare for Hurricane Irma on Sept. 6, 2017 in Miami, Fla. (Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Key Largo, Fla.

Gas station employee Albert Fernandez covers a pump after running out of gas as the demand for gas has increased due to Hurricane Irma, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017, in Key Largo, Fla. (Photo: Alan Diaz/AP)

Gulfport, Fla.

Jackie Kreuter, 56, of Gulfport, Fla., tosses pool furniture in the pool Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017 so it doesn’t fly around during the impending hurricane. Kreuter, along with her mother, husband, sister, daughter, grandson, five dogs and a bird are boarding up their home and business and leaving for Ocala to get out of Hurricane Irma’s way. (Photo: Lara Cerri/The Tampa Bay Times via AP)

Cap-Haitien, Haiti

Fishermen move a boat inland as Hurricane Irma approaches Cap-Haitien, on Sept. 7, 2017. The fishermen were not aware of Irma. Irma was expected to hit the northern edges of the Dominican Republic and Haiti later Thursday, continuing past eastern Cuba before veering north towards Florida. (Photo: Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images)

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