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Lowcountry still in tropical storm warning as Hurricane Irma moves slowly toward Florida

NOAA Irma Forecast, Saturday, 11 p.m. (NOAA)

Hurricane Irma is moving slowly Saturday night into its northward turn toward Florida, with extreme high winds and deadly storm surge now threatening the Florida Keys and Gulf Coast.

As of 11 p.m., the Category 3 storm was about 90 miles southeast of Key West, moving northwest at 6 mph with maximum sustained winds of 120 mph.

The National Hurricane Center says Irma’s is expected to restrengthen while it moves through the Straits of Florida and remain a powerful hurricane as it approaches the Florida Keys Sunday morning.

Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 70 miles from the center, and tropical-storm-force winds are being felt out to 205 miles from the storm’s center.

(TRACK HURRICANE IRMA | CLICK HERE)

The storm is likely to make landfall in Florida as a major hurricane, tracking northward Sunday along Florida’s Gulf Coast, then over the Florida Panhandle and into west-central Georgia by Monday afternoon.

All of South Carolina’s Lowcountry is under a tropical storm warning because of Hurricane Irma, with parts of the area also under a storm surge warning and hurricane watch.

Allendale, Beaufort, Berkeley, Charleston, Colleton, Dorchester, Hampton and Jasper counties are all included in the tropical storm warning issued Saturday afternoon by the National Weather Service.

All of Beaufort County, along with coastal portions of Berkeley, Charleston, Colleton and Jasper are under storm surge warnings. Beaufort, Colleton, Jasper are also under a hurricane watch.

Allendale, Beaufort, Berkeley, Charleston, Colleton, Jasper, Dorchester and Hampton counties also are under a flash flood watch until Monday.

Irma’s eye is not expected to approach South Carolina, but the large storm will produce far-reaching effects regardless of where the exact center of the storm moves.

High winds will be a significant danger. Sustained Category 1 hurricane-force winds are possible near the coast northward to Edisto Beach, with sustained tropical storm-force winds of 39-73 mph possible farther north and inland.

The storm is expected to cause numerous downed trees and power lines, leading to power outages and property damage.

Storm surge of 2-4 feets is likely in vulnerable areas near the coast, mainly south of the Isle of Palms. Major rainfall up to 10 inches is expected in Beaufort and Jasper counties, with 4-8 inches forecast north of those areas.

The heavy rains could lead to flash flooding and river flooding. Tornadoes are also possible.

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