Near hurricane force winds hitting the Keys - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

Near hurricane force winds hitting the Keys

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At 10 p.m. Saturday, the National Hurricane Center said Category 3 Hurricane Irma's winds slowed slightly to 120 mph.

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Heavy squalls with embedded tornadoes are sweeping across South Florida as the eye of Irma moves away from Cuba and closer to Florida. 

The National Weather Service in Miami said Saturday evening that a tornado had touched the ground in the Fort Lauderdale suburb of Oakland Park. It wasn't immediately clear how much damaged was caused.

Meanwhile, Florida Gov. Rick Scott is urging Floridians to be "patient" and not quickly rush back to their homes once Irma passes. He says the massive storm is likely to cause widespread damage and that people should stay away until they are told by local officials that they can return

The center of Hurricane Irma has now cleared the Cuban coast and entered the Florida Straits, where bathtub-warm water of nearly 90 degrees (32 degrees Celsius) will enable the storm to intensify.

National Hurricane Center spokesman and meteorologist Dennis Feltgen says Irma is already showing signs at high altitudes of regaining its previous powerhouse strength and becoming better organized as it reaches Florida.

And because this storm is more than 350 miles (563 kilometers) wide, the Miami area is NOT in the clear just because Irma's eye is shifting to the west.

The forecasts even have Irma maintaining hurricane strength well into Georgia on Monday.

Wind gusts near hurricane force are currently hitting the Florida Keys. Major hurricane force winds are expected there at daybreak. 

The track has the eye over Fort Myers Sunday at 8 p.m. and Tampa around 6 a.m. Monday. 

The WPTV-viewing area is completely out of the cone. However, winds on Sunday could still approach 70 mph to 80 mph with 10 to 15 inches of rain by Monday.

The hurricane is moving about 7 mph toward the northwest.

A Storm Surge Warning is in effect for...* South Santee River southward around the Florida peninsula to the Suwanee River* Florida Keys* Tampa BayA Storm Surge Watch is in effect for...* North of the Suwanee River to Ochlockonee RiverA Hurricane Warning is in effect for...* Fernandina Beach southward around the Florida peninsula to Indian Pass* Florida Keys* Lake Okeechobee* Florida Bay* Cuban provinces of Camaguey, Ciego de Avila, Sancti Spiritus, Villa Clara, Matanzas, and Havana* Andros Island, Bimini, and Grand BahamaA Hurricane Watch is in effect for...* North of Fernandina Beach to Edisto BeachA Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for...* West of Indian Pass to the Okaloosa/Walton County Line* North of Fernandina Beach to South Santee River
A Storm Surge Warning means there is a danger of life-threatening inundation, from rising water moving inland from the coastline, during the next 36 hours in the indicated locations. This is a life-threatening situation.  Persons located within these areas should take all necessary actions to protect life and property from rising water and the potential for other dangerous conditions.  Promptly follow evacuation and other instructions from local officials.A Storm Surge Watch means there is a possibility of life-threatening inundation, from rising water moving inland from the coastline, in the indicated locations during the next 48 hours.A Hurricane Warning means that hurricane conditions are expected somewhere within the warning area. Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion.A Hurricane Watch means that hurricane conditions are possible within the watch area. A watch is typically issued 48 hours before the anticipated first occurrence of tropical-storm-force winds, conditions that make outside preparations difficult or dangerous.A Tropical Storm Warning means that tropical storm conditions are expected somewhere within the warning area.
Associated Press 2017

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