Hurricane Irma continues to batter central Florida with heavy winds and rain that have damaged trees, power lines, homes and local businesses.
With an unidentifiable eye and hurricane-winds extending over 80 miles from its center, Irma has been downgraded to a Category 1 hurricane by the National Hurricane Center. The hurricane is still producing wind gusts in excess of 100 mph and sustained winds in excess of 70 mph.
The center of the hurricane passed over The Villages early this morning. According to the most recent release from the NHC, Irma continues to move toward the north-northwest at 18 mph.
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Although the hurricane was downgraded, the NHC urged that winds produced have been ranging upwards of 75 mph across central Florida, with hurricane-strength gusts and heavy rains throughout the state. The wind field is one of the largest in known history, with hurricane-force winds extending 80 miles from the center and tropical-storm force winds extending outward up to 415 miles.
Irma is expected to weaken further throughout the day, and should become a tropical storm once it reaches northern Florida and enters souther Georgia today. The forecast track indicates the center of the hurricane will continue to move over the western Florida peninsula through the morning and then into the southeastern United States late today and early Tuesday.
The hurricane has left a multitude of downed trees and power lines.
Power outages have been reported throughout the state, with millions effected. An estimated 60,404 power outages have occurred in Lake County alone. Power outages should be reported to Duke Energy (800-228-8485), Withlacoochee Electric (352-567-5133), City of Bushnell Electric (352-793-2591), or SECO Energy (800-732-6141 or http://www.secostormcenter.com/stormcenter.aspx) depending on your location.
Curfews have been issued across multiple counties. Lake County is currently under curfew in effect until 6:00 p.m. today. Marion County residents are under mandatory curfew from 10 p.m. tonight until 6 a.m. tomorrow morning.
Emergency services are severely limited during the storm. The Villages Firefighters issued the following statement on their Facebook page around 10:30 p.m. yesterday evening:
“All Villages Fire Rescue and Sumter EMS 911 responses are now shut down due to high winds, if you have an emergency still call 911, your call will be taken and triaged and units will respond to you when winds permit”
The Villages District Office customer service line will remain available throughout the day to answer questions. All recreation centers in The Villages will be closed today until further notice.
Entertainment at all three squares has been cancelled, as well as tonight’s Spanish Springs Farmer’s Market.
Have you experienced any power outages, debris, or other effects from Hurricane Irma? Please share your photos and information with us at www.villages-news.com/contact-us.