TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The center of Category 4 Hurricane Irma is about to make landfall in the lower Florida Keys.
As of 8 a.m. Sunday, Irma was about 20 miles east-southeast of Key West and 110 miles south of Naples.
“Irma still has winds of 130 mph as it batters the Florida Keys at 8 am,” said Storm Team 8 Meteorologist Leigh Spann.
Hurricane Irma could possibly make landfall as a Category 4 storm in the Manatee, Sarasota, or Fort Myers areas around 10 to midnight on Sunday night.
“The Sarasota area could begin feeling tropical storm force winds in the next few hours. Tropical storm winds start at 39 mph. By the afternoon, wind speeds will increase to hurricane force. As the storm moves north, the strong winds will arrive in places farther north as well,” said Spann.
The monster storm could then move into Pinellas and Hillsborough counties as a strong Category 3 hurricane.
Irma strengthened in the Florida Straits early Sunday morning and became a Category 4 storm again.
Tropical force winds are felt 220 miles away from the center of the storm.
“Because the tropical storm force winds extend 220 miles from the center of the storm, the entire Tampa Bay area should feel at least 39 mph winds by midday today. Winds reach hurricane strength later this evening and overnight,” said Spann.
“Thankfully, once it gets going, it’s fast moving. There will be flooding, but it will not be an extended flooding,” said Spann of the impact on the Tampa Bay area.