Updated: Winter Park resident, photographer heads to eye of Hurricane Irma (with video, photo gallery) | SkyHiNews.com

Updated: Winter Park resident, photographer heads to eye of Hurricane Irma (with video, photo gallery)

Updated at 5:30 p.m. Saturday

“I was out walking around town, documenting this quiet ghost town, handing out granola bars to people who didnt have homes or shelters to go to, when out of nowhere an intense wind ripped through the street. Rain poured violently from the sky. A band from Irma tore through the area ripping palms from the trees, and uprooting small trees.” – Tyler Tomasello

As more than 5 million people have been ordered to evacuate Florida, Tyler Tomasello was one of the few with airline tickets in hand, ready to fly into Miami, one of the cities in the already devastating path of Hurricane Irma.

But Tomasello, a 13-year resident of Winter Park and a professional photographer, showed no fear; his mission was to share people’s stories from the affected area and lend a hand wherever possible. He booked a one-way ticket to Miami early last week and didn’t look back.

His plane, departing from Denver, was delayed then rerouted, but he landed in Miami late Friday night, just as Irma was making landfall on north-central Cuba.

Now a A Category 3 hurricane but picking up momentum, the historic and ominous storm — the likes of which not seen in the Sunshine State since Hurricane Andrew in 1992 — was forecast to pave a destructive path straight up the middle of Florida, with Miami still in its crosshairs. The unprecedented storm is set to make landfall in Florida early Sunday.

Tomasello, 33, would be in an area preparing for sustained winds upwards of 150 mph, huge storm surges and widespread flooding — an area of impending desolation.

“I made it to Miami, home of South Beach, warm sandy beaches, crystal blue water and lots of beautiful people,” Tomasello said in an email to Sky-Hi News Friday night. He described Miami as a popular vacation spot for many around the world looking for a good time.

But on this trip, Tomasello wouldn’t have the mindset of a vacationer.

“I arrived in a place that will be an inevitable war zone, but much less predictable,” he wrote. “Stepping off the plane and into a place that will quickly turn into hell is a feeling that is hard to describe. But that won’t stop me from doing my part.

“Welcome to the eye of the storm,” he concluded.

Sky-Hi News will continue to update this story and photo gallery as Hurricane Irma approaches the Florida coastline.

Three Floridians race against the clock as they secure their home against the damaging winds of the hurricane. (Photo by Tyler Tomasello)

A man walks along a Miami sidewalk prior to the storm’s arrival. (Photo by Tyler Tomasello)

A Miami Subway boards up its windows in preparation of Hurricane Irma. (Photo by Tyler Tomasello)

Dozens of flights into Florida were cancelled in the wake of Hurricane Irma. (Photo by Tyler Tomasello)

Miami International Airport looks like a ghost town. (Photo by Tyler Tomasello)

The rains begin in Miami. (Photo by Tyler Tomasello)

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