Nearly 430,000 Floridians lose power as Irma approaches

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.

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).

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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