(Tactical Talk) – Hurricane Irma began its assault on Florida early Sunday with the storm’s northern eyewall reaching the lower Florida Keys as a powerful Category 4 storm. Irma lashed the area with maximum sustained winds near 130mph, reports the AP, and the US 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. As of 7am EDT Sunday, the hurricane was centered about 15 miles south-southeast of Key West, Fla., and was moving northwest at 8mph. The Key West International Airport measured sustained winds of 50mph with a gust of up to 70mph, according to the hurricane center, while the National Weather Service later tweeted that winds were gusting to 90mph at its Key West office.
The leading edge of the immense storm had knocked out power to more than 430,000 homes and businesses. As the hurricane’s eye approached the Florida Keys early Sunday, 60-year-old Carol Walterson Stroud and her family were huddled in a third floor apartment at a senior center in Key West. “We are good so far,” she said in a text just before 5:30am. “It’s blowing hard.” Stroud was with her husband, Tim Stroud, and granddaughter, Sierra Costello. Their dog Rocky was also riding out the storm. Stroud said she planned to step outside once the eye of the hurricane passed over. She said she has stood in the eye of a hurricane before and it’s “total peace and quiet.”