Sept. 10 (UPI) — Hurricane Irma weakened to a Category 3 storm Sunday afternoon as it battered Florida’s west coast before heading north toward Naples, the National Hurricane Center said.
The NHC said in its 2 p.m. advisory the storm’s center was about 35 miles south of Naples ad 70 miles south of Fort Myers. The center said it expected Irma’s strongest winds in the Naples area “within the next couple of hours./”
The storm had 120 mph wind speeds and was moving north at 12 mph.
Irma made landfall at Cudjoe Key in the lower Florida Keys at 9:10 a.m.
A hurricane warning was in effect for Fernandina Beach south around the Florida peninsula to Indian Pass, the Florida Keys, Lake Okeechobee, Florida Bay, Andros Island, Bimini and Grand Bahama. A hurricane watch was in effect for north of Fernandina Beach to Edisto Beach, S.C.
Storm surge warnings were in effect for South Santee River south to Jupiter Inlet, North Miami Beach south around the Florida peninsula to the Ochlockonee River, the Florida Keys and Tampa Bay.
A tropical storm warning was in effect for west of Indian Pass to the Okaloosa/Walton county line and north of Fernandina Beach to South Santee River. A tropical storm watch was in effect for Bimini and Grand Bahama.
“On the forecast track, the center of Irma should move near or over the southwest and west coast of the Florida Peninsula later today through tonight. Irma should then move inland over northern Florida and
southwestern Georgia Monday afternoon,” the NHC said.
The NHC also said tornadoes were possible throughout Sunday across southern, central and eastern portions of the Florida peninsula.
Tornado watches have been issued for nine Florida counties.
Irma’s hurricane-force winds can be felt up to 80 miles from its center, and tropical-storm winds extend up to 220 miles. Irma’s wind speeds have made it the strongest hurricane in the Atlantic basin, outside the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea, in the NHC’s recorded history, the center said.