Hurricane Irma has sped up slightly and its eye is about to move across the lower Florida Keys early Sunday. The hurricane is near Key West, Florida, and is moving north-northwest near 8 mph.
Irma is a Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds near 130 mph The U.S. National Hurricane Center says weakening is forecast but Irma is expected to remain a powerful hurricane as it moves through the Florida Keys and near Florida's west coast. Tens of thousands in Florida are huddled in shelters as the hurricane threatens to make a catastrophic hit on the state.
"We lucked out, the fact that it turned west," said Justin Edwards in Port St. Lucie Florida
With Hurricane Irma closing in on Florida, the storm's winds are already lashing parts of the state. In Key West, Carol Walterson Stroud and her family are huddled in a third floor apartment at a senior center. Stroud said early Sunday that the wind was blowing hard, but her family was OK. In a text message to a reporter, she said: ``We are good so far.''
As of 6 a.m. EDT, forecasters say the Category 4 storm is centered about 30 miles (50 kilometers) south of the island. The 60-year-old is with her husband and granddaughter and their dog. Stroud says she plans to step outside once the ``eye'' of the hurricane passes over later Sunday.
Meanwhile, to the north, access to all of Pinellas County's barrier islands, including the popular spring break destination of Clearwater Beach, has been shut off.