ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Many Minnesotans who've moved to Florida to escape the threat of cold weather are now facing Hurricane Irma.

"We've stocked up on food; we've taken in people from the evacuation zones," said Steve Dawson who moved to St. Petersburg from Minneapolis two years ago.

Dawson and his friends battled the strong winds and sideways rain Sunday afternoon as they took one last walk to the edge of Tampa Bay before Irma reached them.

Dawson says he's staying put in his high rise in a non-flood zone and taking in friends who were in evacuation zones.

"I think there's eight of us between two apartments and like seven animals," said Dawson.

Looking out at the bay, Dawson says he's watched the water level go down Sunday as Irma drew closer.

"We're going back inside right after this," said Dawson. "Gonna hunker down. It's nothing to mess with, and we're prepared for the worst."

An hour down the coast in Venice, another Minnesotan, April Lowe, has boarded up her home. Spray paint on the boarding reads: "We're staying, Irma."

"The wind's picking up quite a bit," said Lowe. "We're hoping for the best, but we're probably gonna get the worst."

In Miami, Ariel Setzer says she's letting relatives in Minnesota know she and the family are alive, despite damaging winds and torrential rain.

"We have a lot of trees down, and there's a lot of rain, loud noises, and I know that there's been some tornadoes also," said Setzer as the lights in her home flickered on and off.

Hurricane Irma made landfall in the Florida Keys Sunday morning. It made its second landfall on Marco Island near Naples Sunday afternoon as it marched up Florida's west coast, but the east coast of the state was not spared from the nearly 400-mile-wide storm.