TAMPA (WFLA) – Irma is expected to bring a life-threatening storm surge to the Florida Keys and the west coast of Florida, according to the latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center.
Maximum sustained winds from Hurricane Irma remain at 120 mph as the storm sits about 90 miles southeast of Key West.
“The track has shifted again farther west with the 11 p.m. update,” said Storm Team 8 Meteorologist Julie Phillips. “There is now a potential landfall as a Category 3 in Sarasota County, or it’s still possible that the eye could remain off the west coast of Florida as it moves northwest.”
“That’s skirting the coast, pushing it off-shore and you can see, essentially moving Pinellas County,” said Storm Team 8 Chief Meteorologist Steve Jerve.
“The max winds are at 120 mph and it is expected to maintain Category 3 strength as it moves northwest toward the western coast of Florida,” Phillips added.
The National Weather Service says the first hurricane-force wind gust was recorded in the Florida Keys Saturday night ahead of Hurricane Irma, according to the Associated Press.
The AP says the gust, recorded at the Smith Shoal Light station, was 74 mph.
At 9 p.m., the National Hurricane Center said wind gusts near hurricane force had been occurring in the Florida Keys.
A National Ocean Service station in Vaca Key recently reported sustained winds of 48 mph with a gust to 66 mph. Marathon reported winds of 51 mph with a gust of 71 mph.
A northwest motion is expected to begin Saturday night with a turn toward the north-northwest on Sunday, according to the latest update from the National Hurricane Center.
Irma is expected to be near the Florida Keys by Sunday morning, and move along or near the southwest coast of Florida Sunday afternoon.