TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Hurricane Irma made landfall on Marco Island at 3:35 p.m. as a Category 3 storm.
The storm is now weaker with 130 mph winds.
“The storm is expected to weaken but the Tampa Bay area is still under threat from high winds, tornadoes, flooding and on Monday, storm surges,” Chief Meteorologist Steve Jerve said.
The center of Hurricane Irma made landfall as a Category 4 storm at Cudjoe Key in the lower Florida Keys on Sunday morning and is now headed for the southwest Florida coast.
WHAT WE KNOW:
- Maximum sustained winds are 120 mph
- Irma is moving north at 12 mph
- All of the Tampa Bay area is under a tornado watch until midnight – quick tornadoes are possible in rain bands
- Pembroke Pines on the east coast reported a 109 mph gust
- There is currently a storm surge on Florida’s east coast
“You see the eye of the storm on the southwest coast of Florida and we’re seeing videos come in on social media of the storm surge on the opposite side of the coast and you can we’ve more recently noticed that jog more due north at this point, heading toward the southwest coastline,” said Storm Team 8 Meteorologist Julie Phillips. “You can see, still max winds at 130 mph, and still pretty well formed on the satellite imagery.”
“As the center of the circulation gets closer to us and we get these rain bands, a lot more of us now are getting close to and above tropical storm force [wind gusts] and it is only going to get faster,” said Storm Team 8 Meteorologist Leigh Spann.
The center of the hurricane made landfall in the Keys at 9:10 a.m. As of the 11 a.m. National Hurricane Center advisory, the storm is 80 miles from Naples and about 115 miles in Fort Myers.
“With Irma’s landfall in Cudjoe Key, it’s the first Category 4 hurricane to strike Florida since Charley in 2004. It’s also the first time back-to-back Category 4 hurricanes have made landfall. The back-to-back hurricanes are Harvey and Irma,” said Spann.
Hurricane Irma could possibly make landfall again as a Category 4 storm in the Manatee, Sarasota, or Fort Myers areas around 10 to midnight on Sunday.
“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.