Hurricane Irma weakens to category 2 as it approaches Naples

FILE - In this Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2012 file photo, waves from the Santa Rosa Sound crash over the Navarre Beach causeway in Navarre, Fla., as Isaac approaches the Gulf Coast. The National Hurricane Center warns that the worst damage from 2017′s Hurricane Irma could be from storm surge that could top 12 feet high in some areas of the Florida coast. (Nick Tomecek/Northwest Florida Daily News via AP)

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WATE/AP) — The Latest on Hurricane Irma (all times local):

5 p.m.

Hurricane Irma has weakened to a Category 2 storm, technically losing its major hurricane status, after making landfall in southwestern Florida. It is hugging the coast as it moves north. The National Hurricane Center said Irma’s winds were at 110 mph (177 kph), just below major hurricane status, as the center of the still dangerous and wide storm moved farther inland late Sunday afternoon. It was smacking Naples after coming ashore in Marco Island at 3:35 p.m. The hurricane center says “although weakening is forecast, Irma is expected to remain a hurricane at least through Monday morning.” The center says the eye of Irma should hug Florida’s west coast through Monday morning and then push more inland over northern Florida and southwestern Georgia Monday afternoon.

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4:30 p.m. The Marco Island police department is warning people who didn’t evacuate to get to higher floors in their buildings. The department issued the warning in a tweet on Sunday just as Hurricane Irma made landfall on the island. Forecasts have called for life-threatening storm surge of up to 15 feet (4.5 meters) along the coast.

3:45 p.m.

Irma has made landfall on Marco Island, Florida, as a Category 3 hurricane. The National Hurricane Center in Miam said the storm made landfall at 3:35 p.m. Category 3 storms have winds from 111 to 129 mph, but 130-mph wind gust was recently reported by the Marco Island Police Department.

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3:30 p.m. More than 2.1 million customers have lost power in Florida with Hurricane Irma striking the state. Florida Power & Light reported the numbers Sunday afternoon. The utility, which services much of south Florida, says more than 845,000 of those customers are in Miami-Dade County. Duke Energy, the dominant utility in the northern half of Florida, has about 13,000 outages with the outer bands of Irma sweeping across the region. The power companies say they have extra crews on hand to try to restore power – when it becomes safe to do so. FPL spokesman Rob Gould says an estimated 3.4 million homes and businesses will lose power once the worst of Irma reaches the Florida mainland.

1:59 p.m.

Monroe County, Florida Sheriff’s Office said the county is closed for re-entry. They said residents should not return until further notice and they would put out more information as it becomes available.

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1:55 p.m.

There are more than 7,000 National Guard members activated. More than 1.6 million people are without Florida.

There are 530 shelters open. More than 116,000 people are at shelters.

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1:05 p.m.

Deputies shot and wounded a burglar and arrested his accomplice at a Florida home as Hurricane Irma blew in.

The Broward Sheriff’s Office said in a news release Sunday that the homeowners in Weston were out of town but saw the burglars remotely inside the house through a home surveillance system.

Deputies responded shortly before 3 a.m. and one of the two juvenile males was shot outside the home. He was taken to a local hospital for treatment of non-life threatening injuries. The other person was arrested.

Their names were not immediately released.

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12:55 p.m.

High winds are impeding Miami authorities’ ability to reach a construction crane toppled by Hurricane Irma.

The crane fell onto a high-rise building that’s under construction. It’s in a bayfront area filled with hotels and high-rise condo and office buildings, near AmericanAirlines Arena.

Miami-Dade County Director of Communications Mike Hernandez said emergency personnel couldn’t immediately respond to the scene because of high winds. Authorities urged people to avoid the area after the Sunday morning collapse. It wasn’t clear if there were any injuries.

Miami City Manager Daniel Alfonso said the approximately two-dozen other cranes in the city are still upright and built to withstand significant wind gusts.

The tower cranes working on construction sites throughout the city were a concern ahead of Irma. Moving the massive equipment, weighing up to 30,000 pounds, is a slow process that would have taken about two weeks, according to city officials.

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12:20 p.m.

Florida sheriff’s deputies rescued a couple who tried to ride out Hurricane Irma on a small sailboat.

Christine Weiss of the Martin County Sheriff’s Office said a passer-by noticed the couple was in trouble Sunday. It happened just off Jensen Beach, which is on the Atlantic Coast north of Palm Beach.

Video shows a Martin County patrol boat manned by deputies John Howell and James Holloran and Detective Mathew Fritchie pulling up next to the sailboat.

The task of helping the couple onto their boat was precarious as both boats bobbed in choppy water. Deputies then took them to shore.

The names of the couple were not released. They were not injured.

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12:01 p.m.

A sheriff’s officer in Hardee County, Florida has been helping at an evacuation shelter was killed on her way home to pick up supplies for the shelter. The person in the other car was also killed. That person was a department of corrections officer.

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11:40 a.m.

Some Miami Police officers remembered to pack an essential in their hurricane survival pack: Cuban coffee known as cafecito.

The department tweeted a picture showing a coffee maker atop a camp stove. It read: “As our officers ride out the storm, some have brought the (hashtag) Miami essentials to help them get through the night.”

The strongly caffeinated brew is a staple in Miami.

Former FEMA administrator Craig Fugate said this week he’d check Cuban coffee stands to gauge Irma’s impacts on Miami.

Fugate is known for creating the so-called “Waffle House Index.” Fugate used the Southern restaurant chain as a benchmark for how quickly local communities could rebound from hurricanes.

Waffle House are known for being open most of the time. Under the index, a closed Waffle House was a bad sign. There are no Waffle Houses in Miami, so Fugate suggested an alternative.

“Cuban coffee stands – if those are closed, it is bad,” he told AP.
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11:25 a.m.

President Donald Trump has spoken with the governors of Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee as Hurricane Irma moves north.

All four states could be affected by the storm, which struck the Florida Keys on Sunday.

The White House says Trump spoke with the officials Sunday from the Camp David presidential retreat, where he was spending the weekend.

Trump has been in regular contract with Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Sen. Marco Rubio over the past week. Chief of staff John Kelly spoke Sunday with Florida Sen. Bill Nelson.

Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were scheduled to receive an updated Irma briefing on Sunday.

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11:15 a.m.

As Hurricane Irma evacuees fill up Atlanta hotels and shelters, folks are getting creative to offer them a hand.

About 100 of America’s top chefs who had gathered for their annual summit changed gears. They pivoted their planned Monday agenda on “heritage grains” and “how to cut food waste.” Now, instead, the chefs will prepare a gourmet feast for Irma refugees and serve it at a church.

Hotels were full Sunday morning. At the luxury Georgian Terrace Hotel, staff were flexible with rules to accommodate evacuees. Guests walked pit bulls through the lobby. Large families pulled roller bags and clutched blankets as they squeezed into small rooms without enough beds.

A block away, a church offered free hugs for evacuees.

And a chalkboard sign outside a restaurant offered a discount: “30% OFF Food with FLORIDA ID for Hurricane evacuees.”

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11:05 a.m.

The National Hurricane Center says Category 4 Hurricane Irma is now “headed for the southwest Florida coast” as winds continue to pick up speed in all of South Florida.

Irma continues to be armed with 130 mph winds as its large eye passes north of the Keys.

Storm surge is forecast for 10 to 15 feet in southwestern Florida.

Hurricane-force winds are continuing throughout southern Florida, including the Keys. The hurricane center warns that winds affecting upper floors of high-rise building will be much stronger than at ground level.

The hurricane center also emphasizes that Irma will bring life-threatening wind to much of Florida regardless of the exact track of its center.

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10:55 a.m.

Puerto Rico’s governor says there will be no classes on Monday because hundreds of schools still do not have power or water after the island took a hit from Hurricane Irma.

Ricardo Rossello said Sunday that more than 600 schools don’t have power and more than 400 don’t have water. Another nearly 400 schools don’t have either, and dozens are flooded.

Nearly 600,000 people in the U.S. territory remain without power, representing 40 percent of customers of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority.

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10:50 a.m.

The National Weather Service says that a crane has collapsed in Miami as strong wind from Hurricane Irma blows in.

It’s one of two-dozen in the city.

The weather service’s Miami office said in a Tweet that one of its employees witnessed the crane boom and counterweight collapse in downtown Miami. The employee captured video of the collapse.

It wasn’t immediately clear if the collapse caused damage or injuries.

The cranes have been a concern.

Construction sites across Irma’s potential path in Florida were locked down to remove or secure building materials, tools and debris that could be flung by Irma’s winds.

But the horizontal arms of the tall tower cranes remained loose despite the potential danger of collapse. According to city officials, it would have taken about two weeks to move the cranes and there wasn’t enough time.

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10:40 a.m.

Hurricane Irma’s large eye is beginning to move slowly away from the Florida Keys as it continues north with 130 mph (215 kph) winds.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami reported that the center of core of Irma is about 25 miles (40 km) northeast of Key West.

Irma is so wide that a gust of 93 mph (150 kph) was measured near Key Largo at the other end of the Florida Keys.

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10:35 a.m.

A Florida Keys refuge for a unique subspecies of deer is in the crosshairs of Hurricane Irma.

The Florida Key Deer Refuge on Big Pine Key is about 10 miles from where the storm made landfall Sunday morning.

It’s the only place in world where you find Key deer, a unique subspecies of white-tailed deer about 3 feet tall at the shoulder — the size of a large dog.

The herd faced a potential extinction event last year when the first screwworm infestation in the U.S. in 30 years. Fewer than 1,000 of the endangered deer remain, and the parasites that eat the flesh of living mammals killed 135 Key deer before state and federal agriculture authorities stopped the infestation earlier this year.

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10:30 a.m.

France’s Interior Minister expressed relief that Hurricane Jose spared French Caribbean islands St. Martin and St. Barts further devastation.

Gerard Collomb, speaking at a press conference in Paris Sunday, said that Jose passed miles away.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for France’s government defended its handling of the hurricane crisis in St. Martin and St. Barts amid criticism that many in the local population felt abandoned by authorities.

Christophe Castaner, speaking in an interview with Europe1-CNews-Les Echos on Sunday, said he “perfectly (understood) the anger” of residents after Hurricane Irma tore through the French Caribbean islands, killing several people, destroying houses and cutting off the water supply. Some shops were subsequently looted by locals.

But he insisted the means deployed by the government were robust — with emergency help given “first priority.”

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10:25 a.m.

Florida officials say 127,000 people across the state have taken refuge in more than 500 shelters as Hurricane Irma takes aim at the state.

The state Division of Emergency Management did not specify which shelters had the most people.

Meanwhile, utility officials were warning that the storm could leave millions without power by the time it finishes moving through the state. Already, more than 1.3 million Florida customers were in the dark on Sunday morning as the hurricane made landfall in the Florida Keys.

Florida Power & Light, the state’s largest utility, is reporting on Sunday that many people living in the three populous south Florida counties of Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach are without power. State officials say another 64,000 customers who rely on smaller utilities have also lost electricity.

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10:10 a.m.

For the first time, a tropical storm warning has been issued for the city of Atlanta.

The National Weather Service in Peachtree City, Georgia, said Sunday it was the first time such a warning had been issued for the metro Atlanta area. High wind warnings have been issued in previous storms.

The warning means that tropical storm conditions are expected within the next 36 hours. Peak winds were expected to reach 30 to 40 mph (48 to 64 kph) with gusts of up to 55 mph (88 kph).

The weather service says storm threats include damage to porches, carports, sheds and unanchored mobile homes. Roads may become impassable due to debris. Power outages could occur.

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9:50 a.m.

Hurricane Irma became tied for the seventh strongest storm to make landfall in U.S. history by a key measurement of atmospheric pressure.

Hurricane Irma made landfall at Cudjoe Key at 9:10 a.m. with a minimum central pressure of 929 millibars. Atmospheric pressure is one of the major measurements meteorologists use to describe storms. The lower the pressure, the stronger the storm.

Only six storms on record had lower pressures when striking the United States, including Katrina. When Katrina hit in 2005, it had lower pressure but its wind speed kept it at Category 3.

The 929 pressure mark ties Irma with the deadly 1928 Lake Okeechobee hurricane.

Irma’s arrival also marks another first.

Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach says this is the first year on record that the United States has been hit by two storms that were Category 4 upon landfall: Harvey and Irma.

9:00 a.m.

The Florida Highway Patrol says two people have died in a head-on crash in a county where Hurricane Irma’s wind and rain have started to blow in.

Agency spokesman Greg Bueno said the crash happened Sunday morning in Hardee County, which is southeast of Tampa.

It wasn’t immediately clear what role the weather may have played. He says troopers are investigating the crash and no further details were immediately available.

Bueno said in an email that the area is starting to feel the effects of Hurricane Irma.

The National Weather Service has issued a tornado warning for the county, saying a severe thunderstorm was in the area.

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8:37 a.m.

Forecasters say Hurricane Irma’s center is poised to blow across the Florida Keys.

The northern eyewall of the storm reached the island chain early Sunday.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said in a public advisory that the center of the storm remained offshore but was going to make landfall soon. The storm was centered about 20 miles east (30 km) of Key West, and it was moving north-northwest at 8 mph (13 kph)

The storm had maximum sustained winds of 130 mph (215) kph. The National Weather Service reported wind gusts of 90 mph (145 kph) near its Key West office.

After hitting the Florida Keys, Irma was forecast to move up the state’s Gulf Coast later Sunday.

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7:49 a.m.

There is now one confirmed weather related death from Hurricane Irma. The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office said a man was driving a truck with a generator in the back, lost control in strong winds and was killed.

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7:05 a.m.

Hurricane Irma’s eyewall has reached the Florida Keys.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami says the storm’s northern eyewall reached the lower Florida Keys Sunday morning. The eyewall is a band of clouds surrounding the center of the storm that has intense winds and strong rain.

The hurricane center says Key West International Airport has measured sustained winds of 50 mph (80 kph).

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7:00 a.m.

Hundreds of thousands of people are without power in Florida as Hurricane Irma’s winds and rain lash the state.

Irma’s center was over water off Key West early Sunday, but places including Miami were being hit with strong winds and rain.

Florida Power & Light Company said that about 430,000 customers were without power Sunday morning. Miami-Dade County had the most outages with about 250,000. Broward County had 130,000 outages. Palm Beach County had more than 40,000 outages.

The utility said that it has mobilized crews and is working to restore power as it can.

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6:30 a.m.

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.

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6:10 a.m.

The eye of Hurricane Irma is very close to the lower Florida Keys.

As of 6 a.m. EDT, the U.S. National Hurricane Center says the Category 4 storm is centered about 30 miles (50 kilometers) south-southeast of Key West, Florida, and is moving northwest at 8 mph (13 kph).

Irma’s maximum sustained winds are near 130 mph (215 kph). The 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.

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6:10 a.m.

France and the Netherlands say their islands in the Caribbean were spared major damage from Hurricane Jose, which passed farther away from the islands than expected.

The Sunday announcements — coming from France’s national weather service and the Dutch navy — were good news for islands that had already been devastated by Hurricane Irma last week.

Meteo-France said Jose’s center passed overnight about 75 miles (125 kilometers) from St. Martin and 80 miles (135 kilometers) from St. Barts, though it still produced gales of up to 48 mph (80 kph) around the islands.

In a tweet Sunday, the Netherlands’ navy says the situation after Jose passed north of the islands overnight is “better than expected.” Scores of marines and troops will resume their efforts to restore vital infrastructure and distribute food and water on St. Maarten, Saba and St. Eustatius.

In a separate tweet, the navy said the security situation on St. Maarten, which saw widespread looting and robberies after Hurricane Irma, has improved thanks to patrols by marines and police flown to the island to help overwhelmed local law enforcement.

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5:10 a.m.

Hurricane Irma has sped up slightly and its eye is about to move across the lower Florida Keys early Sunday.

The hurricane is centered about 40 miles (65 kilometers) south-southeast of Key West, Florida, and is moving north-northwest near 8 mph (13 kph).

Irma is a Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds near 130 mph (215 kph). 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.

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5:10 a.m.

Dutch King Willem-Alexander is flying to the Caribbean to meet survivors of Hurricane Irma who were evacuated there from the hard-hit island of St. Maarten.

Meanwhile, Dutch tourists stranded for days on St. Maarten are hoping to finally get flights home.

Willem-Alexander was to fly Sunday to the island of Curacao to visit a hospital where more than 60 patients from St. Maarten who require kidney dialysis were flown for treatment over the last two days by the Dutch military.

If the weather is good enough, the monarch will later fly onward to St. Maarten and two other smaller islands hit by Irma on Wednesday to offer his support to the thousands of residents and Dutch marines helping to clear the island, where some 70 percent of homes were badly damaged or destroyed by the Category 5 storm.

The Dutch navy tweeted Sunday that it plans to evacuate tourists from the island’s shattered resorts.

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4:10 a.m.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Irma is bearing down on the lower Florida Keys early Sunday.

A National Ocean Service station on a coral reef near the Keys has recorded sustained winds of 66 mph (105 kph) with a gust up to 85 mph (137 kph). Key West International Airport has measured sustained winds of 43 mph (69 kph) with a gust up to 73 mph (117 kph).

Irma is centered about 55 miles (90 kilometers) south-southeast of Key West, Florida, and is moving northwest near 6 mph (9 kph).

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3:15 a.m.

A re-strengthened Hurricane Irma is continuing to move toward the western Florida Keys early Sunday.

The hurricane has regained Category 4 status with maximum sustained winds near 130 mph (210 kph) and is centered about 65 miles (105 kilometers) southeast of Key West, Florida.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center says the Miami Executive Airport has measured a sustained wind speed of 46 mph (74 kph) with a gust of up to 61 mph (98 kph).

Tens of thousands in Florida are huddled in shelters as the hurricane threatens to make a catastrophic hit on the state.

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2:10 a.m.

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).

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1:40 a.m.

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.