St. Petersburg, FLA (AP) The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said the center of the massive hurricane made landfall on Cudjoe Key in the lower Florida Keys at 9:10 a.m.
Its top sustained winds are 130 mph (215 kph). Forecasters say a gust of 106 mph (171 kph) was reported on Big Pine Key.
The Florida Highway Patrol says two people have died in a head-on crash in a county where Hurricane Irma’s wind and rain have started to blow in.
Agency spokesman Greg Bueno said the crash happened Sunday morning in Hardee County, which is southeast of Tampa. It wasn’t immediately clear what role the weather may have played. He says troopers are investigating the crash and no further details were immediately available.
Bueno said in an email that the area is starting to feel the effects of Hurricane Irma.
The National Weather Service has issued a tornado warning for the county, saying a severe thunderstorm was in the area.
The National Hurricane Center forecasts that the core of Hurricane Irma will likely chug directly for the highly populated Tampa-St. Petersburg region after it gets through raking the Keys, but the storm is so massive all of Florida will be feeling the Category 4 hurricane’s fury. The center of the storm was just off Key West Sunday morning.
The latest forecast of Irma’s eye — which still can change — keeps the nearly 400-mile wide (640-kilometer) storm in the water, barely off the coast of southwestern Florida’s Fort Myers and Naples.
But that also puts that region in the strongest northeast quadrant of the storm, where storm surge, wind, rain and tornado threats are highest.
And a few miles wiggle could bring Irma’s eye — which has measured 30 miles wide (48 kilometers) — inland.
The storm is moving slowly, about 8 mph (13 kilometers per hour) so its eye is likely to hit the Tampa region around 2 a.m. Monday, but damaging winds, storm, surge, rain and tornadoes will reach the area long before then.
Doctors were forced to talk a Florida woman through delivering her baby at home while Hurricane Irma’s outer bands lashed Miami.
The City of Miami said on its Twitter account early Sunday that firefighters couldn’t respond in time to the woman in the Little Haiti neighborhood. So doctors from Jackson Health System talked her through the birth of the baby girl at home.
Authorities say firefighters were able to make it to the woman Sunday morning and take her to the hospital after the girl was born.
Miami-Dade fire spokeswoman Erika Benitez said the fire department is responding to calls on a case-by-case basis as strong winds and rain lash the area. They are encouraging residents to stay inside because of downed power lines and debris.
Florida authorities have issued another stern warning about Hurricane Irma: Shooting bullets into the storm won’t help keep you safe.
The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office tweeted late Saturday: “DO NOT shoot weapons @ (hashtag) Irma. You won’t make it turn around (and) it will have very dangerous side effects.”
The sheriff’s office, which is in the Tampa Bay-area, was responding to a Facebook event page created two Florida men inviting people to shoot at Irma.
The page reads: “YO SO THIS GOOFY … LETS SHOW IRMA THAT WE SHOOT FIRST …”
The invitation presumably was a joke, but 80,000 people indicated they were “going” or “interested” in the event.
In a tweet early Sunday, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office asked the thousands of people who had shared the page to also share their request for volunteers needed at hurricane shelters.