The fierce winds of Hurricane Irma regained Category 4 strength early Sunday as the storm’s eye made it to the lower Florida Keys just before 9 a.m. The massive storm already has caused hundreds of thousands of power outages across South Florida, as it violently brushes through major population centers.
The National Weather Service said the storm made landfall at 9:10 a.m. on Cudjoe Key, with wind gusts reaching 130 mph. Forecasters warn that a second landfall could happen later on Sunday as Irma heads north to the U.S. mainland, according to a report from WSVN in South Florida.
Officials said storm surges in the Keys could reach a devastating five to 10 feet there before the hurricane slowly proceeds up the state’s west coast.
“A very dangerous day is unfolding in the Florida Keys and much of West Florida,” Michael Brennan, a senior hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center, said in an early morning update Sunday. “It certainly could inundate the entire island. That’s why everyone in the Keys was urged so strongly to evacuate.”
Florida’s east coast may not be in the hurricane’s direct path, but residents and homes are in great danger from the extreme winds and storm surges expected to overwhelm some areas. Officials fears the storm could ravage the state with destruction not seen in a generation.
While the National Hurricane Center had downgraded Irma to a Category 3 storm Saturday, the storm was upgraded again to Category 4 early Sunday. At 5 a.m., weather officials said the storm was plodding northwest at about 8 miles per hour, placing it on pace to reach Naples by about 5 p.m. The storm could potentially make a second landfall further north on Sunday.
The following video was taken by meteorologist Juston Drake, who is featured on the The Weather Channel show Storm Riders. It’s unclear where the video was shot, but from his Twitter account, it looks like Drake was filming in Key West on Sunday morning.
— Jeremy! at the Wawa (@king_jeremy_b) September 10, 2017
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