Hurricane Irma Looks Like It's Headed for Tampa
The storm is likely to be a Category 4 when it hits western Florida
By Josh Rosenblatt,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 9, 2017 11:33 AM CDT
   (David Santiago/Miami Herald via AP)

(Newser) – As Hurricane Irma moves away from Cuba and into the Florida Straits, the National Hurricane Center says it's looking more and more like the eye of the storm will bypass Miami and instead hit the Keys and the Tampa Bay area on Sunday, AP reports. Authorities now believe the storm, which was downgraded to a Category 3 after weakening over Cuba, will hit western Florida as a Category 4, with winds as high as 155 miles per hour. Authorities expect Irma to hit the Keys Sunday morning, the state's southwest coast that afternoon, and Tampa, with its population of 3 million, Sunday night into Monday morning. The extreme southwest of Florida could see storm surges of 12 feet, and the entire state is expected to get up to 20 inches of rain.

The announcement comes as the first gale-force winds start to lash southern Florida. 25,000 state residents are already without power and 50,000 have taken refuge in state shelters, the USA Today reports. "The storm is here," Governor Rick Scott said at a press conference this morning. Irma has already battered much of the Caribbean and killed at least 20 people. Thus far, however, no casualties or major damage have been reported in Puerto Rico or Cuba. As Irma descends on Florida, confusion and panic are starting to have an effect, with rumors and misinformation about pet care, fuel availability, and FEMA scams starting to fly around.

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