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Robert Namer
Voice Of America
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SEPTEMBER 11, 2017

     Tampa and surrounding areas were bracing late Sunday for the brunt of Hurricane Irma after the Category-2 storm walloped South Florida with menacing winds and powerful storm surge.  Hurricane Irma made landfall on Marco Island Sunday afternoon -- its second landfall in the state.  Florida as the state continues to brace for the now-Category 2 storm's strong, 105-mph winds and flooding. The storm ravaged the Florida Keys as a Category 4 hurricane earlier in the day before being downgraded.

     In its 8 p.m. ET advisory, the National Hurricane Center said Irma was about 15 miles east-northeast of Fort Meyers and about 30 miles southeast of Port Charlotte, with maximum sustained winds of 105 miles per hour, and heading north at 14 mph.  "Dangerous storm surges expected immediately after" the eye of the storm moves up the Florida coast, the NHC said. Storm surge warnings were in effect for South Santee River to Jupiter Inlet, North Miami Beach to the Ochlockonee River, as well as for the Florida Keys and Tampa Bay.
     Water levels were rapidly riding in Naples, the NHC reported. A federal tide gauge in Naples reported a 7 foot ride of water in just 90 minutes.  The nearly 400-mile-wide storm was expected to increase its speed Sunday night on its move north through Monday, according to the NHC. Irma is forecast to move inland toward north Florida and southwest Georgia Monday afternoon. At least 28 people have died as Hurricane Irma barreled through the Caribbean this week, destroying buildings and uprooting trees on its path toward Florida.

     Officials were urging people to stay sheltered in protected areas, even if it looks like the storm has passed.

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