Update 11 p.m.: It’s not over for Palm Beach County. Hurricane Irma has pushed within 50 miles southeast of Tampa with Category 2 hurricane winds up to 100 mph, but a tropical storm warning is in effect for Jupiter Inlet southward around the Florida peninsula to Bonita Beach.
The storm is moving north at 14 mph, though its track is expected to bend to the northwest in coming hours.
Tropical-storm-force winds, meaning 39 mph or more, extend outward up to 415 miles. That is double the reach the storm had at earlier stages.
Gusts of more than 7o mph have been reported at Palm Beach International Airport.
Update 10 p.m.: As Hurricane Irma climbs up the state’s western and central spine, its long arms have raked the east side longer than many expected.
The Juno Beach pier was blasted with an 83 mph gust, the National Weather Service noted in a 10 p.m. update.
That was stronger than a 78 mph gust in Tampa Bay, closer to the storm’s approaching center.
“Winds are still sustained tropical storm force with winds gusting 50-70 mph,” the NWS office in Miami tweeted earlier. “These wind gust can bring down trees, power lines.”
Sustained winds are expected to subside below 4o mph by 5 a.m. Monday in Palm Beach County, but for many, the storm is far from over.
Irma’s center moved 50 miles northeast of Fort Myers, maintaining top winds of 105 mph and moving north at 14 mph.
Update 9 p.m.: Hurricane Irma has pushed 35 miles northeast of Fort Myers with top sustained winds at 105 mph, maintaining a 14 mph pace on a northerly track.
It is expected to take a northwesterly turn overnight, reaching the Georgia border by Monday afternoon. Before then, it steams through the I-4 corridor with population centers Tampa and Orlando and into the Panhandle.
Update 8 p.m.: Hurricane Irma’s top winds slowed slightly to 105 mph, or Category 2 strength, with its center about 15 miles northeast of Fort Myers. It is moving north at about 14 mph.
Strong winds continue to blow across the state including Palm Beach County. A storm surge warning remains in effect from the South Santee River southward to Jupiter Inlet.
A National Weather Service update about 6 p.m. cautioned gusts from 80 mph to 100 mph were possible in Palm Beach County through midnight, though sustained winds are expected to diminish over time and below 40 mph by 5 a.m. Monday.
Update 7 p..m.: Irma’s eyewall is “hammering Fort Myers,” a National Hurricane Center advisory says.
The storm’s center is about 15 miles east and north of Fort Myers, traveling north at 14 mph with top sustained winds at 110 mph.
Update 6 p.m.: As Hurricane Irma’s center plows into southwest Florida, Palm Beach County residents can expect periodic wind gusts from 80 mph to 100 mph, continuing through about midnight, a National Weather Service update said.
But there’s some relief on the horizon: Sustained winds are expected to subside below tropical force, meaning below 39 mph, by 5 a.m. Monday, forecasters said.
“The worst of the winds are basically winding down,” said NWS meteorologist Chris Fisher in Miami. “But it’s still going to remain gusty through the evening and tomorrow morning, with a lot of power outages. It’s probably not a good idea to venture out tonight.”
Irma’s center is about 25 miles southeast of Fort Myers. It is moving north at 14 mph, with top winds of 110 mph.
Update 5 p.m.: Hurricane Irma’s center moved past Naples with top sustained winds of 110 mph, but the storm’s winds may slow down if its stays on land, forecasters said.
“The eye just passed over Naples, ” a 5 p.m. advisory from the National Hurricane Center said. Interaction with land and countervailing wind forces pushing against it “should cause
significant weakening, but Irma’s large and powerful circulation will likely maintain hurricane strength until Monday morning at the earliest,” the advisory said.
The latest predictions show top sustained winds slowing to 85 mph in 12 hours and 65 mph in 24 hours, which would make it still dangerous and damaging but no longer a hurricane.
Meanwhile, the threat of a storm surges still poses a big danger for southwest Florida.
“The threat of catastrophic storm surge flooding is highest along the southwest coast of Florida, where 10 to 15 feet of inundation above ground level is expected,” officials said. “This is a life-threatening situation.”
Update 4 p.m.: The center of Hurricane Irma has moved inland about 10 miles southeast of Naples, the National Hurricane Center said.
It is moving north at 12 mph. Maximum sustained winds are 115 mph, making it a Category 3 storm.
Naples is the home of Florida Gov. Rick Scott.
“It’s clear that the entire country is standing with Florida as Hurricane Irma batters our state right now, ” Scott said in a statement. “I have heard from people all across the world that want to help and support Florida. It’s encouraging, and on behalf of all Floridians – we appreciate the support and constant collaboration.”
President Donald Trump approved a major disaster declaration, Scott’s office said. The declaration authorizes federal funding to flow directly to Floridians impacted by Hurricane Irma and reimburses local communities and the state government to aid in response and recovery from Hurricane Irma.
A wind gust of 142 mph was reported at the Naples airport. A flash flood warning has been issued for the area.
Update 3:35 p.m.: Hurricane Irma has made landfall at Marco Island. the National Hurricane Center said.
A 130 mph wind gust was reported by the Marco Island Police Department.
UPDATE, 2 p.m.: Hurricane Irma, located about 35 miles south of Naples, has top winds at 120 mph as it picks up speed heading toward southwest Florida.
The National Hurricane Center reported a sustained wind of 62 mph at Miami International Airport, with a 99 mph gust. An 81 mph gust was recorded at the NHC office in Miami.
The storm, now with Category 3 winds, is moving north at about 12 mph, with a turn to the north-northwest and an increase in speed expected to start later today and continue through Monday, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Forecasters expect Irma to continue weakening some but, with its massive wind field, will remain powerful while it traces the west coast of Florida.
Storm surge remains a major hazard with the storm along the west coast of Florida. The current forecast calls for water reaching 10-15 feet above ground from Cape Saple to Captiva if the peak surge happens at high tide.
Hurricane-force winds extend nearly 80 miles from the center, with tropical storm-force winds out to 220 miles from the eye.
Update 12:05 p.m.: Hurricane Irma is 65 miles south-southeast of Naples with maximum sustained windsd of 130 mph and moving north at 9 mph.
Update 11 a.m.: Hurricane Irma is still a Category 4 storm with 130 mph winds moving north at 9 mph.
That means a second landfall is likely in Naples or Fort Myers today.
Irma’s center wobbled north over the past few hours as it embeds with in a broad mild-level gyre over the Gulf of Mexico.
Update: 10:06 a.m.: Irma’s eye is beginning to move away from the lower Florida Keys. A 93 mph gust was recently measured at Carysfort Reef Light near Key Largo. A National Ocean Service station in Key West just reported a sustained wind of 67 mph and a gust to 89 mph.
In West Palm Beach, winds are gusting to 62 mph at the Palm Beach International Airport with sustained winds of 43 mph.
Update 9:44 a.m.: The National Hurricane Center reports that Hurricane Irma made landfall at Cudjoe Key at 9:10 a.m.
A second Florida landfall is possible near Naples or Fort Myers.
Irma landfall is 1st Cat 4 in the Florida Keys since 1960’s Donna.
Update 9 a.m.: The lower Florida Keys is in the eye of Hurricane Irma, which is maintaining strength as a 130 mph Category 4 hurricane.
A weather station in Key West just measured sustained winds of 71 mph with a gust to 91 mph.
Irma is moving north-northwest at 8 mph.
“Regardless of its peak winds at landfall, Irma poses an extremely serious storm-surge threat to the highly populated, surge-vulnerable stretch of coastline from Fort Myers to Tampa,” wrote Bob Henson, a meteorologist and blogger for Weather Underground. “The westward-trending track also raises concerns for the eastern Florida Panhandle, where a direct hurricane landfall would be possible if Irma stayed just off the state’s northwest coast.”
Update 8 a.m.: The center of Category 4 Hurricane Irma is about to make landfall in lower Florida Keys.
As of the 8 a.m. advisory from the National Hurricane Center, the 130-mph hurricane was 20 miles east-southeast of Key west and about 110 miles south of Naples. It is moving north-northwest at 8 mph.
A wind gust of 91 mph was measured at the Key West National Weather Service office at 7:55 a.m.
An increase in forward speed is expected later today and should continue through Monday.
On the current track, Irma should move up the west coast of Florida today through tonight and inland over northern Florida and southwestern Georgia Monday afternoon.
Update 7 a.m.: The northern eyewall of Hurricane Irma has reached the lower Florida Keys.
The Category 4 storm with winds of 130 mph is moving northwest at 8 mph after making the long-awaited turn around the western edge of the Bermuda High.
The National Weather Service office in Key West is experiencing gusts to 89 mph. Key West International Airport is measuring sustained winds of 50 mph with gusts to 70 mph.
Update 5 a.m.: Hurricane Irma was 40 miles south-southeast of Key West at 5 a.m. with sustained winds of 130 mph.
It is a Category 4 hurricane moving at a crawling 8 mph. Hurricane force-winds extend 80 miles from Irma’s center with tropical storm force winds extending an incredible 220 miles.
Irma is triggering tornado warnings in Palm Beach County, and a wind gust of 66 mph was recorded at Palm Beach International Airport with a recent squall.
While some intensification of Irma could occur over the next several hours, the National Hurricane Center said increasing wind shear should keep it to a minimum or even begin to weaken the storm as it encounters land.
“The new intensity forecast is slightly lower than that of the previous advisory at those times, but it still calls for Irma to be a major hurricane at its closest approach to the Tampa Bay area,” forecasters wrote.
That is not good news to the storm vulnerable Gulf Coast.
“This is probably one of the worst tracks you can get for the west coast of Florida,” said Ken Clark, an expert meteorologist with AccuWeather. “It’s going to be bad.”
At its 11 p.m. advisory, the National Hurricane Center said Irma’s scrape of the Cuban coastline affected its intensity, dropping its winds to 120 mph temporarily.
Hurricane hunters reported a double eye wall, meaning a eye wall replacement cycle may have been underway – process that can weaken a storm.
Forecasters did not expect it to rebound so quickly, putting its max sustained winds at 125 mph before reaching land.
Although it’s likely Irma will move through or over the lower Keys this morning, the angle of approach makes it difficult to pinpoint exactly where Hurricane Irma will cross the Florida Gulf coast.
At Key West International Airport, a sustained wind speed of 43 mph with a gust to 73 mph was recorded this morning, while sustained winds of 66 mph were measured on Molasses Reef.
At Palm Beach International Airport, winds were gusting to 38 mph overnight with sustained winds measured at 29 mph.
Robert Molleda, warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Miami, ,said squally storms in Irma’s outer bands could send 90-mph gusts into West Palm Beach that would topple trees, tear up patio awnings, down fences and wreck mobile homes.
“No part of South Florida is going to skate by this without significant impacts,” Molleda said Saturday. “We are going to have strong damaging wind gusts at the very least and that’s what we should be preparing for.”
Irma’s hurricane force-winds extended 70 miles from its center Saturday, with tropical storm-force winds reaching a whopping 195 miles from the core of the storm. That means Irma will easily touch most of Florida’s peninsula and into the eastern part of the Big Bend area.