After blowing through the Caribbean and Florida Keys on Saturday, Hurricane Irma made landfall in Florida’s Gulf Coast with life-threatening winds and storm surges.
At least 24 people were killed after Irma’s destructive trek across the Caribbean. Florida Highway Patrol confirmed that a Hardee County sheriff’s deputy and a corrections officer were killed in a head-on crash that was likely storm related, bringing the death toll to at least 26.
Follow along for updates (all times EDT):
According to an update from the National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Irma is weakening as it moves over the western Florida peninsula.
As of 2 a.m., Irma was downgraded to a Category 1 with winds of 85 mph. The storm continues to turn north-northwest at 15 mph.
A private observer in Clearwater Beach measured a wind gust on 96 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.
A private weather station in Egmont Channel reported sustained winds of 72 mph with a gust of 91 mph.
The National Hurricane Center says the core of Irma is now nearing Tampa in an area south of Lakeland — a community inland and to the east of the heavily populated Tampa Bay region.
The eye of Hurricane Irma continues to drift farther inland over Florida on a track that brings the storm toward Orlando and Central Florida.
Hurricane Irma remains a dangerous Category 2 hurricane despite weakening a bit more to 100 mph. It’s now bearing down on the Tampa-St. Petersburg region.
The National Hurricane Center says Irma’s eye is about 50 miles southeast of Tampa and moving at a fast clip of 14 mph. Still a large hurricane, its tropical storm force winds extend out 415 miles.
Forecasters say they expert Irma’s center to stay inland over Florida and then move into Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee.
They also expect Irma to weaken further into a tropical storm over far northern Florida or southern Georgia on Monday as it speeds up its forward motion. The hurricane center says the storm is still life-threatening with dangerous storm surge, wind and heavy rains.
The hurricane warning has been changed to a tropical storm warning from Jupiter Inlet southward around the Florida peninsula to Bonita Beach, as well as for the Florida Keys and Florida Bay.
A third construction crane has toppled in Florida in the powerful winds of Hurricane Irma. Officials say it happened at a project on Fort Lauderdale…