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MIAMI, Florida (CNN) -- Hurricane Rita strengthened to a Category 2 storm Tuesday as it pounded the Florida Keys with heavy rain and strong wind.
The National Hurricane Center predicted storm surges of 4 to 6 feet above normal tide levels and large and dangerous battering waves in the Florida Keys, as well as 6 to 8 inches of rain.
It said coastal storm surge flooding of 2 to 4 feet is also possible along the extreme southeastern Florida coast.
"The northern eye wall will push water and strong winds onto the Florida Keys for the next several hours," forecaster Richard Knabb said.
Mandatory evacuation orders were issued Monday for the Keys, but some residents insisted on staying.
"In the Keys, a lot of people are stubborn," said Craig Fugate, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management.
CNN correspondent Dan Lothian reported from Key Largo that he saw some people still putting up boards on their windows as late as Tuesday morning.
Gov. Bush said more than 1,600 residents of Monroe County, which includes the Keys, were in shelters elsewhere in Florida. All three hospitals in the county were evacuated, as well as its nursing homes.