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Irma done with Cuba, chugs toward Florida Keys - KOAA.com | Continuous News | Colorado Springs and Pueblo

Irma done with Cuba, chugs toward Florida Keys

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(AP) - Hurricane Irma is done with Cuba and is slowly chugging to the Florida Keys and the state's west coast.
    
The National Hurricane Center extended storm surge and hurricane warnings on both sides of Florida's coasts.
    
The center warns the threat of catastrophic storm surge flooding is highest along the southwest coast of Florida, where 10 to 15 feet of inundation above ground level is expected.
    
Southwest Florida is sometimes called "surge central" by storm experts.
    
Irma continues to have 125 mph (200 kph) winds, but forecasters say it should regain some of its lost strength and eventually hit Florida probably as a Category 4 hurricane.
    
Strong hurricane-force winds will reach the Florida Keys by Sunday morning. Already Fort Lauderdale's airport reported sustained winds of 47 mph (76 kilometers per hour).
    
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4:20 p.m.
    
The general in charge of the Ohio National Guard says 7,000 soldiers from several states will be sent to Florida to help with the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.
    
Maj. General Mark Bartman told The Associated Press Saturday that the Ohio National Guard will be part of a contingent that also includes National Guard units from Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan. The Ohio National Guard is sending as many as 3,500 Ohio soldiers.
    
Bartman says Ohio Guard soldiers will head to Florida starting sometime next week. It's the Ohio National Guard's first large deployment of soldiers for U.S. disaster relief since Hurricane Katrina along the Gulf Coast in 2005.
    
The general says Ohio Guard soldiers will be involved in varying missions that could include providing security alongside local law enforcement and helping transport stranded people to shelters.
    
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4:15 p.m.
    
Florida officials have started allowing people to drive on the shoulders of Interstate 4, the main highway that links Tampa to Orlando.
    
The Florida Department of Transportation and the Florida Highway Patrol announced the move on Saturday. It came in the aftermath of updated forecasts that show Hurricane Irma taking aim at Tampa.
    
State officials have been permitting motorists to use shoulders instead of allowing one-way flow on the state's highways. Florida has told more than 6 million to evacuate ahead of the killer storm and the mass exodus has jammed the roads.
    
Gov. Rick Scott has resisted calls to reverse the flow of lanes. Georgia's governor authorized one-way traffic in order to help with evacuations in that state. State officials cautioned that driving on the left-hand shoulder is only allowed when motorists are directed to do so by police and highway signs.
    
 

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