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Hurricane Irma makes landfall in Florida Keys as powerful Category 4

FLORIDA — Hurricane Irma began its assault on Florida early Sunday with the storm making landfall on Cudjoe Key in the lower Florida Keys.

Irma lashed the area with maximum sustained winds near 130 mph (215 kph) and the U.S. National Hurricane Center said it was expected to remain a powerful storm as it moved through the Florida Keys and near the state's west coast.

Below is a running timeline of Irma's impact on Florida:

  • The National Weather Service said the first hurricane-force wind gusts were recorded in the Florida Keys Saturday as of 10:15 p.m.
  • More than 170,000 homes and businesses in Florida were without power as Irma closed in with 120 mph winds Saturday night
  • The Category 4 storm reached winds of 130 mph as of 2:15 a.m. Sunday
  • The eyewall reached the lower Florida Keys by 7:10 a.m.
  • In addition to the storm, Miami was put under a tornado watch, the City of Miami tweeted around 8:50 a.m. It is expected to last through 2 p.m.
  • Hurricane Irma made landfall on Cudjoe Key in lower Florida Keys with sustained winds topping off at 130 mph at 9:30 a.m. The storm maintained its power as a Category 4 storm as it made landfall.

The major risk for the Keys and Florida's beaches will be the storm surge, which is like a storm-aided high tide. The highest point on the Florida Keys is about 18 feet above sea level, so a significant storm surge could flood the entire Keys.

In addition, the entire stretch of coast from Venice around the Florida peninsula to Sebastian Inlet is under a storm surge warning, which means there is a danger of life-threatening inundation from rising water. That stretch includes Cape Coral, Naples, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.

Because of Irma's monstrous size, all of southern Florida is expected to see heavy winds and rain. Irma's hurricane force winds stretch over 115 miles, and its tropical storm force winds stretch over 300 miles. Meanwhile, the average width of the Florida peninsula is about 130 miles

The storm is expected to continue moving north-northwest through Florida through Sunday and is likely to weaken as it moves over land.

Monday, September 11
By Monday morning at 8 a.m., Hurricane Irma is forecast to be nearing Gainesville in central-northern Florida. At that point, the storm will have maximum winds of 75 mph, which would make it a Category 1 storm, the NHC predicted on Friday afternoon.

From there, Irma is expected to continue weakening as it crosses through Florida. At that point, Irma could bring winds and rain to Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina, depending on its exact path.

CNN and the Associated Press contributed to this report.