11 a.m. update: Hurricane Irma's winds at 150 mph; watch extended Pinellas-Pasco border
Portions of the Tampa Bay area are now under a hurricane watch, and Floridians remained focused Friday morning on just how soon Hurricane Irma would make the turn north that will dictate just how devastating one of the strongest storms ever to tear through the Atlantic will be on the peninsula.
“It’s not a question of if Florida is going to be impacted; It’s a question of how bad Florida is going to be impacted,” Florida Emergency Management Agency administrator Brock Long said during a news conference Friday morning.
Long said 8,000 government workers have been deployed: some working to stabilize the islands the once Category 5 hurricane already ripped through, others preparing to help Florida and the other southern states that could feel Irma’s wrath.
Irma weakened to a Category 4 on Friday, but is still immensely powerful as it batters the Caribbean on its path closing in on Florida.
A hurricane watch has been extended north along the west coast to the Anclote River, and on the east coasat to the Flagler/Volusia County Line.
The latest projections put Irma making landfall in South Florida over the weekend. Long reminded Floridians that there’s still time to prepare, get supplies or evacuate. He expects power outages to last days — if not longer — across the state. The storm’s width is as big as all of Florida.
“I can guarantee you no one in Florida has experienced what’s about to hit South Florida,” Long said.
Hurricane Irma continues to be a strong Category 4 hurricane with winds at 150 mph. It is located 80 miles northeast of Lucrecia, Cuba, and about 450 miles southeast of Miami and is moving west-northwest at 14 mph.
The core of Hurricane Irma is forecast to more between the central Bahamas and the north coast of Cuba today, and a turn toward the northwest is expected by late Saturday. It is forecast to be near the Florida Keys by Sunday morning.
Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 70 miles from the center and tropical storm-force winds up to 185 miles from the center.