ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The Latest on Hurricane Irma (all times local):
Hurricane Irma has regained Category 4 strength as it moves toward Florida, where it’s feared to make a devastating hit.
Irma’s maximum sustained winds increased early Sunday to near 130 mph (210 kph) and it’s expected to gain a little more strength as it moves through the Straits of Florida and remain a powerful hurricane as it approaches Florida.
Irma is centered about 70 miles (115 kilometers) south-southeast of Key West, Florida, and is moving northwest near 6 mph (9 kph).
Hurricane Irma is closing in on the Florida Keys with top winds of 120 mph (190 kph) early Sunday as forecasters monitored a crucial shift in its trajectory that could keep its ferocious eye off the southwest Florida coast and over warm gulf water.
Tens of thousands of people huddling in shelters watched for updates as the storm swung to the west, now potentially sparing Tampa as well Miami the catastrophic head-on blow forecasters had been warning about.
But those few miles meant St. Petersburg could get a direct hit, rather than its more populous twin across Tampa Bay.
The leading edge of the immense storm bent palm trees and spit rain across South Florida, knocking out power to more than 170,000 homes and businesses, as the eye approached Key West.