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Hurricane Irma Is Downgraded but Has Miami in Its Sights

MIAMI (NBC) - (UPDATE: 5:30 a.m.) -  Irma was downgraded to a Category 4 storm early Friday but the hurricane appeared on track to slam into Miami this weekend after cutting a fatal and destructive path through the Caribbean.

At 5 a.m. ET, the storm — which has already been blamed for at least 12 deaths and left more than a million people in the dark in Puerto Rico — was about 495 miles southeast of Miami with winds of 155 mph.

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Hurricane warnings were in effect across southern Florida early Friday as Irma was on a track to slam into Miami after cutting a fatal and destructive path through the Caribbean.

At 2 a.m. ET, the storm — which has already been blamed for at least 12 deaths in the Caribbean and has left more than a million people in the dark in Puerto Rico — was about 535 miles east-southeast of Miami with winds of 160 mph.

Hurricane warnings were issued Thursday night from Jupiter Inlet south around the Florida peninsula to Bonita Beach, as well as for the Florida Keys, Lake Okeechobee and Florida Bay.

The National Weather Service said that "locations may be uninhabitable for weeks or months" due to extreme winds, adding that "structural damage to buildings, with many washing away" was possible in some coastal areas.

The National Hurricane Center said a slight westward shift in Irma's projected path indicated that it could make landfall just east of Key Largo, bringing its eye wall, which carries the most destructive winds, over Miami with major hurricane winds. Conditions could start to deteriorate over South Florida before dawn Saturday as Irma approaches, it said.

The good news is that Irma "has peaked in intensity" and is likely to weaken very slowly over the next four days. But even a slightly weaker Irma could do serious damage to Miami and lash the low-lying city with 129-mph winds and gusts of up to 159 mph.

Turn to 18 News TODAY for full coverage of Irma, Friday morning.


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