Wind gusts near hurricane strength recorded in Florida Keys, says NHC

Deadly Hurricane Irma is expected to make landfall in the Florida Keys early Sunday before moving up the Gulf Coast on a rare course for Tampa Bay.

Click here for a map showing all watches/warnings regarding Irma.

Follow along for updates (all times EDT):

10:00 p.m.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center says wind gusts near hurricane strength have been recorded in the Florida Keys as the center of Irma moves closer to the state.

Forecasters said Saturday night that Marathon had reported a wind gust of 71 mph and sustained winds of 51 mph. Irma is about 105 miles southeast of Key West.

8 p.m.

The National Hurricane Center says heavy squalls embedded with tornadoes are sweeping across South Florida.

Irma is forecast to restrengthen once it moves away from Cuba and remain a powerful hurricane as it approaches Florida.

The storm is expected to remain a very dangerous hurricane while it moves across or near the Florida Keys and Florida Peninsula, the National Hurricane Center says. After 48 hours, Irma will move farther inland and weaken.

Irma is expected bring life-threatening wind and storm surge to the Florida Keys and southwestern Florida, according to the hurricane center.

7:45 p.m. Hurricane Irma slams Cuba

Irma collapsed buildings and battered Cuba with deafening winds and relentless rain Saturday, while a second hurricane, Jose, threatened to lash already-reeling islands elsewhere in the Caribbean.

Across a swath of Cuba, utility poles were toppled, trees uprooted and roads blocked. Witnesses said a provincial museum near the eye of the storm was in ruins. And authorities in the city of Santa Clara said 39 buildings collapsed.

There were no immediate reports of casualties in Cuba in addition to the 22 dead left in Irma’s wake across the Caribbean, where the storm ravaged such lush resort islands as St. Martin, St. Barts, St. Thomas, Barbuda and Anguilla.

7:30 p.m. Storm heading toward Tampa, but Miami not out of danger

Hurricane Irma’s leading edge whipped palm trees and kicked up the surf as it spun toward Florida with 125 mph winds Saturday on a projected new track that could subject Tampa — not Miami — to the storm’s worst fury.

Tampa has not taken a direct hit from a major hurricane in nearly a century.

The westward swing away from Miami in the overnight forecast caught many people off guard along Florida’s Gulf coast and triggered an abrupt shift in storm preparations. A major round of evacuations was ordered in the Tampa area, and shelters…

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