The Latest: Hurricane-force wind gust reported in Keys

MIAMI (AP) – The Latest on Hurricane Irma (all times local):

10:15 p.m. The National Weather Service says the first hurricane-force wind gust has been recorded in the Florida Keys as Irma inches closer to the state.

The weather service says the Smith Shoal Light station recorded a 74 mph (119 kph) wind gust on Saturday night. The center of Irma is headed toward the Keys and has sustained winds of 120 mph (193.11 kph).

9:10 p.m. The U.S. National Hurricane Center says wind gusts near hurricane strength have been recorded in the Florida Keys as the center of Irma moves closer to the state.

Forecasters said Saturday night that Marathon had reported a wind gust of 71 mph (114 kph) and sustained winds of 51 mph (82 kph). Irma is about 105 miles (170 kilometers) southeast of Key West. It has winds of 125 mph (200 kph).

8:15 p.m. Prime Minister William Marlin of St. Maarten says about 1,600 tourists who were in the Dutch Caribbean territory have been evacuated and efforts are being made to move 1,200 more.

Marlin says many nations and people have offered help to St. Maarten, but weather conditions will determine how this can be coordinated.

Authorities are still trying to determine the extent of damage to the island, but he said 28 police officers lost homes during Hurricanes Irma and Jose. The prime minister said Saturday that St. Maarten remains under curfew and looting that took place immediately after the storm has subsided.

8 p.m. Meteorologists say heavy rain squalls spawning tornadoes are hitting South Florida part of Hurricane Irma’s leading edge.

The National Hurricane Center says a hurricane hunter airplane found Irma’s winds dropped from 125 mph to 120 mph, but that’s likely to soon increase again now that the center of the storm is over bathtub-warm water.

Hurricane force winds extend 70 miles (110 kilometers) out from the 30-mile (48-kilometer) wide storm eye. Marathon International Airport recently reported a sustained wind of 48 mph (77 kilometers per hour) and a gust to 67 mph (108 kilometers per hour).

7:30 p.m. Hurricane Irma is starting to spin up funnel clouds and at least one tornado, leading to warnings for parts of South Florida.

The National Weather Service in Miami posted on Twitter Saturday evening that a tornado had touched the ground in the Fort Lauderdale suburb of Oakland Park

It wasn’t immediately clear how much damaged was caused. Tornado warnings have been issued for Fort Lauderdale, Coral Springs, Pompano Beach and Sunrise in Broward County, as well as parts of nearby Palm Beach and Hendry Counties.

Meanwhile, Florida Gov. Rick Scott is urging Floridians to be “patient” and not quickly rush back to their homes once Irma passes. He says the massive storm is likely to cause widespread damage and that people should stay away until they are told by local officials that they can return.

7:10 p.m. The center of Hurricane Irma has now cleared the Cuban coast and entered the Florida Straits, where bathtub-warm water of nearly 90 degrees (32 degrees Celsius) will enable the storm to intensify. Irma had fallen to a Category 3 storm with 125 mph winds, but National Hurricane Center spokesman and meteorologist Dennis Feltgen says it’s already showing signs at high altitudes of regaining its previous powerhouse strength and becoming better organized.

And because this storm is more than 350 miles (563 kilometers) wide, the Miami area is NOT in the clear just because Irma’s eye is shifting to the west. The forecasts even have Irma maintaining hurricane strength well into Georgia on Monday.

6:40 p.m. Florida Gov. Rick Scott says at least 76,000 people are without power as Irma unleashes winds and rain on the state. Scott said Saturday night that the outages expected to grow as Irma moves closer to the state. He warned people that the storm is life-threatening.

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