Irma weakens to Category 2; water empties from bay in Tampa, folks warned to stay out

 A boat rests on its side in what is normally six feet of water in Old Tampa Bay, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. Hurricane Irma, and an unusual low tide pushed water out into the Gulf of Mexico. (Chris O'Meara/AP Photo)

A boat rests on its side in what is normally six feet of water in Old Tampa Bay, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. Hurricane Irma, and an unusual low tide pushed water out into the Gulf of Mexico. (Chris O'Meara/AP Photo)

Hurricane Irma has weakened to a Category 2 storm, technically losing its major hurricane status, after making landfall in southwestern Florida. It is over land but hugging the coast as it moves north.

The National Hurricane Center said Irma’s winds were at 110 mph (177 kph), just below major hurricane status, as the center of the still dangerous and wide storm moved farther inland. It was 5 miles (8 kilometers) north of Naples late Sunday afternoon. It came ashore on Marco Island at 3:35 p.m.

The hurricane center says “although weakening is forecast, Irma is expected to remain a hurricane at least through Monday morning.”

Tampa Bay

Hurricane Irma has pushed water out of a bay in Tampa, but forecasters are telling people not to venture out there, because it’s going to return with a potentially deadly vengeance.

On Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa, about 100 people were walking Sunday afternoon on what was Old Tampa Bay — a body of water near downtown. Hurricane Irma’s winds and low tide have pushed the water unusually far from its normal position. Some people are venturing as far as 200 yards (180 meters) out to get to the water’s new edge. The water is normally about 4 to 5 feet (1 to 1.5 meters) deep and reaches a seawall.

The U.S. Hurricane Center has sent out an urgent alert warning of a “life-threatening storm surge inundation of 10 to 15 feet (3 to 5 meters) above ground level” and telling people to “MOVE AWAY FROM THE WATER!”

The waters retracted because the leading wind bands of Irma whipped the coastal water more out to sea. But once the eye passes and the wind reverses, the water will rush back in.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.