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Hurricane Irma's northern eyewall reaches Florida Keys; 430K without power

Hurricane Irma's northern eyewall reached the lower Florida Keys Sunday morning, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.

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).

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7:00 a.m.

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.

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6:30 a.m.

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.

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6:10 a.m.

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.

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6:10 a.m.

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.

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5:10 a.m.

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.

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5:10 a.m.

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.

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4:10 a.m.

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).

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3:15 a.m.

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.

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2:10 a.m.

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).

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1:40 a.m.

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.

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