ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The Latest on Hurricane Irma (all times local):
Hurricane Irma's large eye is beginning to move slowly away from the Florida Keys as it continues north with 130 mph (215 kph) winds.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami reported that the center of core of Irma is about 25 miles (40 km) northeast of Key West.
Irma is so wide that a gust of 93 mph (150 kph) was measured near Key Largo at the other end of the Florida Keys.
A Florida Keys refuge for a unique subspecies of deer is in the crosshairs of Hurricane Irma.
The Florida Key Deer Refuge on Big Pine Key is about 10 miles from where the storm made landfall Sunday morning.
It's the only place in world where you find Key deer, a unique subspecies of white-tailed deer about 3 feet tall at the shoulder — the size of a large dog.
The herd faced a potential extinction event last year when the first screwworm infestation in the U.S. in 30 years. Fewer than 1,000 of the endangered deer remain, and the parasites that eat the flesh of living mammals killed 135 Key deer before state and federal agriculture authorities stopped the infestation earlier this year.
France's Interior Minister expressed relief that Hurricane Jose spared French Caribbean islands St. Martin and St. Barts further devastation.
Gerard Collomb, speaking at a press conference in Paris Sunday, said that Jose passed miles away.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for France's government defended its handling of the hurricane crisis in St. Martin and St. Barts amid criticism that many in the local population felt abandoned by authorities.
Christophe Castaner, speaking in an interview with Europe1-CNews-Les Echos on Sunday, said he "perfectly (understood) the anger" of residents after Hurricane Irma tore through the French Caribbean islands, killing several people, destroying houses and cutting off the water supply. Some shops were subsequently looted by locals.
But he insisted the means deployed by the government were robust — with emergency help given "first priority."
Florida officials say 127,000 people across the state have taken refuge in more than 500 shelters as Hurricane Irma takes aim at the state.
The state Division of Emergency Management did not specify which shelters had the most people.
Meanwhile, utility officials were warning that the storm could leave millions without power by the time it finishes moving through the state. Already, more than 1.3 million Florida customers were in the dark on Sunday morning as the hurricane made landfall in the Florida Keys.
Florida Power & Light, the state's largest utility, is reporting on Sunday that many people living in the three populous south Florida counties of Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach are without power. State officials say another 64,000 customers who rely on smaller utilities have also lost electricity.
For the first time, a tropical storm warning has been issued for the city of Atlanta.
The National Weather Service in Peachtree City, Georgia, said Sunday it was the first time such a warning had been issued for the metro Atlanta area. High wind warnings have been issued in previous storms.
The warning means that tropical storm conditions are expected within the next 36 hours. Peak winds were expected to reach 30 to 40 mph (48 to 64 kph) with gusts of up to 55 mph (88 kph).
The weather service says storm threats include damage to porches, carports, sheds and unanchored mobile homes. Roads may become impassable due to debris. Power outages could occur.
Hurricane Irma became tied for the seventh strongest storm to make landfall in U.S. history by a key measurement of atmospheric pressure.
Hurricane Irma made landfall at Cudjoe Key at 9:10 a.m. with a minimum central pressure of 929 millibars. Atmospheric pressure is one of the major measurements meteorologists use to describe storms. The lower the pressure, the stronger the storm.
Only six storms on record had lower pressures when striking the United States, including Katrina. When Katrina hit in 2005, it had lower pressure but its wind speed kept it at Category 3.
The 929 pressure mark ties Irma with the deadly 1928 Lake Okeechobee hurricane.
Irma's arrival also marks another first.
Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach says this is the first year on record that the United States has been hit by two storms that were Category 4 upon landfall: Harvey and Irma.
As Hurricane Irma threatened to wallop the St. Petersburg area, several folks got out on the beach ahead of the storm.
As they milled about Sunday morning, they looked at sailboats bobbing in the wind as the sun rose and took selfies and photos of the beach.
St. Petersburg resident John Leuders says he feels safe. With stores out of plywood, he tore down part of his fence to board up windows. He came down to the beach out of curiosity and noted the strong winds along the water.
Another resident, Sally Carlson, says she's been around for other storms and hurricanes, but this one scares her. She says she wanted to see the city one more time before any problems.
She adds: "I'm hoping it comes out unscathed, but I know better."
Florida utility officials say more than 1 million customers have lost power as Hurricane Irma hits the state.
Florida Power & Light Company said that nearly 1.1 million customers statewide were without power Sunday morning.
About 574,000 of those outages were in Miami-Dade County, while there were 360,000 in Broward and nearly 136,000 in Palm Beach County.
The massive storm made landfall in the Florida Keys, and its center was forecast to move up the state's Gulf Coast. But the effects are being felt far from the center because of Irma's size.
Hurricane Irma has made landfall in the Florida Keys.
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.
Forecasters say Hurricane Irma's center is poised to blow across the Florida Keys.
The northern eyewall of the storm reached the island chain early Sunday.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said in a public advisory that the center of the storm remained offshore but was going to make landfall soon. The storm was centered about 20 miles east (30 km) of Key West, and it was moving north-northwest at 8 mph (13 kph)
The storm had maximum sustained winds of 130 mph (215) kph. The National Weather Service reported wind gusts of 90 mph (145 kph) near its Key West office.
After hitting the Florida Keys, Irma was forecast to move up the state's Gulf Coast later Sunday.
The National Weather Service in Miami has issued tornado warnings for a wide swath of Monroe, Miami-Dade and Broward counties in South Florida.
Officials say the band of rain and tornado producing cells is moving quickly.
There have been no reports of tornadoes touching down.
Authorities are urging people who chose to ride out Hurricane Irma in the Florida Keys to remain indoors until the storm passes.
The storm's eyewall reached the chain of islands Sunday morning. The National Weather Service reported wind gusts of 90 mph (145 kph) near its Key West office.
In a Facebook post early Sunday, Key West Police urged people who stayed for the hurricane to remain where they took shelter until the storm had passed completely. They also urged people not to go outside when the eye of the storm is over there area, a time period when conditions can seem deceptively calm.
John Huston, who is riding out the storm from his home in Key Largo in the upper Keys, says the wind gusts are strong in his area.
"Water level is higher today," he said via text message Sunday morning. "Incredible wind that won't stop."
Hurricane Irma's eyewall has reached the Florida Keys.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami says the storm's northern eyewall reached the lower Florida Keys Sunday morning. The eyewall is a band of clouds surrounding the center of the storm that has intense winds and strong rain.
The hurricane center says Key West International Airport has measured sustained winds of 50 mph (80 kph).
Hundreds of thousands of people are without power in Florida as Hurricane Irma's winds and rain lash the state.
Irma's center was over water off Key West early Sunday, but places including Miami were being hit with strong winds and rain.
Florida Power & Light Company said that about 430,000 customers were without power Sunday morning. Miami-Dade County had the most outages with about 250,000. Broward County had 130,000 outages. Palm Beach County had more than 40,000 outages.
The utility said that it has mobilized crews and is working to restore power as it can.
With Hurricane Irma closing in on Florida, the storm's winds are already lashing parts of the state.
In Key West, Carol Walterson Stroud and her family are huddled in a third floor apartment at a senior center.
Stroud said early Sunday that the wind was blowing hard, but her family was OK. In a text message to a reporter, she said: "We are good so far."
As of 6 a.m. EDT, forecasters say the Category 4 storm is centered about 30 miles (50 kilometers) south of the island.
The 60-year-old is with her husband and granddaughter and their dog. Stroud says she plans to step outside once the "eye" of the hurricane passes over later Sunday.
Meanwhile, to the north, access to all of Pinellas County's barrier islands, including the popular spring break destination of Clearwater Beach, has been shut off.
The eye of Hurricane Irma is very close to the lower Florida Keys.
As of 6 a.m. EDT, the U.S. National Hurricane Center says the Category 4 storm is centered about 30 miles (50 kilometers) south-southeast of Key West, Florida, and is moving northwest at 8 mph (13 kph).
Irma's maximum sustained winds are near 130 mph (215 kph). The hurricane center says weakening is forecast but Irma is expected to remain a powerful hurricane as it moves through the Florida Keys and near Florida's west coast.
France and the Netherlands say their islands in the Caribbean were spared major damage from Hurricane Jose, which passed farther away from the islands than expected.
The Sunday announcements — coming from France's national weather service and the Dutch navy — were good news for islands that had already been devastated by Hurricane Irma last week.
Meteo-France said Jose's center passed overnight about 75 miles (125 kilometers) from St. Martin and 80 miles (135 kilometers) from St. Barts, though it still produced gales of up to 48 mph (80 kph) around the islands.
In a tweet Sunday, the Netherlands' navy says the situation after Jose passed north of the islands overnight is "better than expected." Scores of marines and troops will resume their efforts to restore vital infrastructure and distribute food and water on St. Maarten, Saba and St. Eustatius.
In a separate tweet, the navy said the security situation on St. Maarten, which saw widespread looting and robberies after Hurricane Irma, has improved thanks to patrols by marines and police flown to the island to help overwhelmed local law enforcement.
Hurricane Irma has sped up slightly and its eye is about to move across the lower Florida Keys early Sunday.
The hurricane is centered about 40 miles (65 kilometers) south-southeast of Key West, Florida, and is moving north-northwest near 8 mph (13 kph).
Irma is a Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds near 130 mph (215 kph). The U.S. National Hurricane Center says weakening is forecast but Irma is expected to remain a powerful hurricane as it moves through the Florida Keys and near Florida's west coast.
Tens of thousands in Florida are huddled in shelters as the hurricane threatens to make a catastrophic hit on the state.
Dutch King Willem-Alexander is flying to the Caribbean to meet survivors of Hurricane Irma who were evacuated there from the hard-hit island of St. Maarten.
Meanwhile, Dutch tourists stranded for days on St. Maarten are hoping to finally get flights home.
Willem-Alexander was to fly Sunday to the island of Curacao to visit a hospital where more than 60 patients from St. Maarten who require kidney dialysis were flown for treatment over the last two days by the Dutch military.
If the weather is good enough, the monarch will later fly onward to St. Maarten and two other smaller islands hit by Irma on Wednesday to offer his support to the thousands of residents and Dutch marines helping to clear the island, where some 70 percent of homes were badly damaged or destroyed by the Category 5 storm.
The Dutch navy tweeted Sunday that it plans to evacuate tourists from the island's shattered resorts.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Irma is bearing down on the lower Florida Keys early Sunday.
A National Ocean Service station on a coral reef near the Keys has recorded sustained winds of 66 mph (105 kph) with a gust up to 85 mph (137 kph). Key West International Airport has measured sustained winds of 43 mph (69 kph) with a gust up to 73 mph (117 kph).
Irma is centered about 55 miles (90 kilometers) south-southeast of Key West, Florida, and is moving northwest near 6 mph (9 kph).
A re-strengthened Hurricane Irma is continuing to move toward the western Florida Keys early Sunday.
The hurricane has regained Category 4 status with maximum sustained winds near 130 mph (210 kph) and is centered about 65 miles (105 kilometers) southeast of Key West, Florida.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center says the Miami Executive Airport has measured a sustained wind speed of 46 mph (74 kph) with a gust of up to 61 mph (98 kph).
Tens of thousands in Florida are huddled in shelters as the hurricane threatens to make a catastrophic hit on the state.
Hurricane Irma has regained Category 4 strength as it moves toward Florida, where it's feared to make a devastating hit.
Irma's maximum sustained winds increased early Sunday to near 130 mph (210 kph) and it's expected to gain a little more strength as it moves through the Straits of Florida and remain a powerful hurricane as it approaches Florida.
Irma is centered about 70 miles (115 kilometers) south-southeast of Key West, Florida, and is moving northwest near 6 mph (9 kph).
Hurricane Irma is closing in on the Florida Keys with top winds of 120 mph (190 kph) early Sunday as forecasters monitored a crucial shift in its trajectory that could keep its ferocious eye off the southwest Florida coast and over warm gulf water.
Tens of thousands of people huddling in shelters watched for updates as the storm swung to the west, now potentially sparing Tampa as well Miami the catastrophic head-on blow forecasters had been warning about.
But those few miles meant St. Petersburg could get a direct hit, rather than its more populous twin across Tampa Bay.
The leading edge of the immense storm bent palm trees and spit rain across South Florida, knocking out power to more than 170,000 homes and businesses, as the eye approached Key West.