Hurricane Irma Hits Florida as Cat 4; Path Further West Than Expected

Forecast track of Hurricane Irma as of Sunday morning // Map by The National Hurricane Center

Hurricane Irma struck the Florida Keys and south Florida early Sunday morning as a powerful category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds near 130 mph.

The National Hurricane Center reports that a the storm is expected to move near or over Florida’s west coast later today through tonight, farther westward than had previously been predicted. While the storm is expected to weaken slightly, it will still remain a powerful hurricane as it moves through Florida.

A hurricane warning is in effect for Fernandina Beach southward around the Florida peninsula to Indian Pass; the Florida Keys; Lake Okeechobee; Florida Bay; and the provinces of Matanzas and La Habana in Cuba. A hurricane watch is in effect for an area north of Fernandina Beach to Edisto Beach. A tropical storm warning is in effect for an area west of Indian Pass to the Okaloosa/Walton County line, as well as an area north of Fernandina Beach to South Santee River, while a tropical storm watch is in effect for Bimini and Grand Bahama.

Port Closures

Port Tampa Bay is now closed to all traffic, joining the previously announced port closures of Port Everglades, Port Canaveral and PortMiami. A number of cruise lines, such as Carnival Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean, have closed their Florida-based headquarters, evacuated personnel, and cancelled or modified cruise itineraries.

Airport Closures

Miami International Airport has shut down at least through Saturday and Sunday. Tampa International Airport shut down operations at 8 p.m. Saturday. All flights are also cancelled through Palm Beach International Airport, Fort Lauderdale – Hollywood International Airport and Orlando International Airport.

According to The New York Times, the storm has already left more than one million households in Florida without power. 6.5 million Florida residents have been ordered to evacuate, one of the largest emergency evacuations in American history. An evacuation order is also in effect for the Georgia coast, while Alabama, North Carolina and South Carolina have all declared states of emergency.

In the Caribbean, the storm made landfall in Cuba on Friday evening, making Hurricane Irma the first Category 5 hurricane to hit the island since 1924, according to the Times. All told, at least 25 people have been killed by the storm throughout the region.

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