Tropical storm-force winds approached Apalachicola late Sunday, and many businesses, school districts and government offices in the Panhandle announced they will be closed Monday due to the storm.

PANAMA CITY — Hurricane Irma was slowly weakening late Sunday as she moved toward the I-4 corridor in Central Florida.

As of 10 p.m. CDT, the National Hurricane Center reported Irma’s winds had fallen to 100 mph. The center of Irma was located 50 miles southeast of Tampa, moving north at 14 mph.

Irma’s path late Sunday had taken her a little farther east than initially projected, and forecasters in turn slightly lowered the chance of tropical storm-force winds in the eastern Florida Panhandle. As of the 10 p.m. Sunday advisory, the National Hurricane Center gave Bay County a 20 to 30 percent chance of sustained tropical storm-force winds Monday. Those chances increase quickly east, with Calhoun and Gulf counties at 30 to 40 percent and Franklin County at 50 to 60 percent.

As of 10 p.m., no bridges had been closed in the Panhandle. State bridges will be closed only if sustained winds reach 40 mph. County bridges require 55 mph. (Sustained means that winds stay at a certain speed for a certain period of times; wind gusts do not count.)

• 9:30 P.M. UPDATE: Tropical storm-force winds approach Apalach

APALACHICOLA — A slowly weakening Hurricane Irma approached the Tampa Bay area late Sunday, and the storm’s outer bands approached the Florida Big Bend region, bringing nearly 30 mph sustained winds with tropical storm-force gusts.

In Bay County, the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport had seen 22 mph winds with gusts to 32 mph as of 9 p.m., and Tyndall Air Force Base measured 20 mph winds with gusts to 30.

A new advisory from the National Hurricane Center is expected shortly before 10 p.m. CDT.

• 7:45 P.M. UPDATE: Winds pick up in Bay County; more power outages expected

PANAMA CITY — Wind gusts increased to the mid-20s Sunday evening, and Gulf Power predicted approximately 20,000 customers in Northwest Florida may lose power as a result of severe winds — with the majority of the outages occurring in and around the Bay County area, according to a news release.

As the storm continues to move and shift, that number may change, according to Gulf Power, which said hardest hit areas should prepare to be without power for up to two days.

“Irma has the potential to cause significant outages in Gulf Power’s service footprint, especially in the Bay County area,” Rick DelaHaya, Gulf Power spokesman, said in a news release. “Crews are already responding to smaller outages caused by feeder bands from the storm in Panama City, and are ready for severe winds as well.”

Gulf Power line crews will work as quickly and safely as possible to restore power. However, there’s a point where it is no longer safe for crews to work.

“Due to the predicted winds, there may be a time when our crews have to hunker down and wait out the storm,” DelaHaya said in the release. “Winds must be below 35 mph for crews to safely begin restoring power and they will resume restoration when we can safely get our trucks back on the road.”

Delahaya added that Gulf Power is bringing additional lineworkers from the western end of their service area to ensure there are enough resources to get the lights back on quickly and safely, and then the plan is to deploy crews to help in other affected areas in the Southeast that are predicted to have major to catastrophic damage.

“Restoring power to our Gulf Power customers will be our priority. After we take care of everyone right here at home, we are prepared to send more than 100 personnel to assist with power grid rebuilding and restoration in the southeast,” DelaHaya said. “But our priority is to restore our customers’ power, and we will work day and night until everyone’s lights are back on.”

As of 7:50 p.m. Sunday, only 20 customers were without power, Gulf Power reported. Several neighborhoods lost power earlier in the day, but the power has been restored.

Along with crew and team member preparedness, Gulf Power has invested more than $225 million in storm hardening projects across the region, according to the release.

Meanwhile, The Associated Press reported two manatees stranded after Hurricane Irma sucked the water out of Sarasota Bay, in Florida’s Manatee County, have been saved.

Several people posted photos of the mammals on Facebook on Sunday, hoping rescue workers or wildlife officials would respond. Michael Sechler posted that the animals were far too massive to be lifted, so they gave them water.

Marcelo Clavijo posted that a group of people eventually loaded the manatees onto tarps and dragged them to deeper water.

• 6 P.M. UPDATE: Bay Countians ready to ride out Irma; Tampa Bay braces for impact

Hurricane Irma should be moving directly over the Tampa Bay area around midnight, The Associated Press reported, and residents of the highly populated area are fearing the worst.

Meanwhile, an airborne relief mission is bringing emergency supplies to the Florida Keys, where Hurricane Irma made landfall Sunday morning. Monroe County spokeswoman Cammy Clark said help is coming in C-130 cargo planes and other air resources.

Monroe County Emergency Management Director Martin Senterfitt calls it a humanitarian crisis.

• 5 P.M. UPDATE: Bay Countians ready to ride out Irma

PANAMA CITY — Hours of tropical storm-force winds with gusts approaching hurricane strength were forecast Monday as Hurricane Irma makes her way up the Florida Peninsula.

At 5 p.m. Sunday, Irma was a Category 2 hurricane with 110 mph winds, moving north at 14 mph after a direct hit on Marco Island and Naples. Irma is forecast to weaken into a tropical storm by Monday night, and the Florida Panhandle is forecast to see several hours of tropical storm-force winds beginning in the early morning hours Monday, perhaps lasting until the evening, depending on how far east the center of the storm tracks.

Bay County Emergency Services chief Mark Bowen said at a news conference Sunday evening that anyone who is uncomfortable in their home or needs shelter for 40 mph sustained winds should come to the shelter at Deane Bozeman School on State 77 in the Sand Hills area. Staff and security are on hand, he said.

“This is not a surge event for Bay County,” he said. “This is not a big rain event for Bay County. It is a wind event, so … 40 mph sustained winds is going to — things like objects in people’s yards, lawn furniture, things that are outside the home that are not secured are going to become airborne. We’re probably going to experience some sporadic power outages because dead wood is going to fall; old trees are going to fall. … We are very prepared for this event, but we obviously are not going to see the issues South Florida has seen from this storm.”

Many school districts, including Bay District Schools, as well as businesses and government offices in the Panhandle have announced they will be closed Monday due to the storm, which is forecast to exit the area by Monday night.

Below is an earlier story by Tamara Lush and Jay Reeves of The Associated Press:

Category 4 Hurricane Irma slams Florida Keys

ST. PETERSBURG — Residents huddled in shelters watching for updates as Hurricane Irma began its assault on Florida early Sunday as a Category 4 storm, lashing the area with winds near 130 mph (215 kph) and drenching rain.

Irma's northern eyewall reached the lower Florida Keys and the U.S. National Hurricane Center said the hurricane was expected to remain a powerful storm as it moved through the Florida Keys and near the state's west coast.

As of 8 a.m. EDT Sunday, the hurricane was centered about 20 miles (30 kilometers) east-southeast of Key West, Florida, and was moving north-northwest at 8 mph (13 kph). The Key West International Airport measured sustained winds of 50 mph (80 kph) with a gust of up to 70 mph (113 kph), according to the hurricane center.

The National Weather Service issued tornado warnings for a wide swath of Monroe, Miami-Dade and Broward counties in South Florida. The band of rain and tornado producing cells was moving quickly, officials said. There were no immediate reports of tornadoes touching down.

In the Tampa Bay area, access to all of Pinellas County's barrier islands, including the popular spring break destination of Clearwater Beach, was shut off.

The leading edge of the immense storm bent palm trees and spit rain across South Florida, knocking out power to hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses, as the eye approached Key West.

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 message just before 5:30 a.m. "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."

However, Key West Police urged anyone riding out the storm in that city to "resist the urge" to go outside during the eye. "Dangerous winds will follow quickly," police said in a Facebook post.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott had warned residents in the state's evacuation zones Saturday that "this is your last chance to make a good decision." About 6.4 million people were told to flee.

But because the storm is 350 to 400 miles wide, the entire Florida peninsula was exposed. Forecasters said the greater Miami area of 6 million people could still get life-threatening hurricane winds and storm surge of 4 to 6 feet.

Irma was at one time the most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the open Atlantic with a peak wind speed of 185 mph (300 kph) last week. It left more than 20 people dead across the Caribbean and as it moved north over the Gulf of Mexico's bathtub-warm water of nearly 90 degrees, it was expected to regain strength.

Meteorologists predicted Irma would plow into the Tampa Bay area Monday morning. The area has not been struck by a major hurricane since 1921, when its population was about 10,000, National Hurricane Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen said. Now around 3 million people live there.

The latest course also still threatens Naples' mansion- and yacht-lined canals, Sun City Center's retirement homes, and Sanibel Island's shell-filled beaches.

Irma's course change caught many off guard and triggered a major round of last-minute evacuations in the Tampa area. Many businesses had yet to protect windows with plywood or hurricane shutters. Some locals grumbled about the forecast, even though Florida's west coast had long been included in the zone of probability.

"For five days, we were told it was going to be on the east coast, and then 24 hours before it hits, we're now told it's coming up the west coast," said Jeff Beerbohm, a 52-year-old entrepreneur in St. Petersburg. "As usual, the weatherman, I don't know why they're paid."

Nearly the entire Florida coastline remained under hurricane watches and warnings, and the latest projections could shift again, aiming the worst of the storm at other parts of the state.

Forecasters warned of storm surge as high as 15 feet (4.5 meters).

"This is going to sneak up on people," said Jamie Rhome, head of the hurricane center's storm surge unit.

The westward shift prompted Pinellas County, home to St. Petersburg, to order 260,000 people to leave, while Georgia scaled back evacuation orders for some coastal residents. Motorists heading inland from the Tampa area were allowed to drive on the shoulders.

At Germain Arena not far from Fort Myers, on Florida's southwestern corner, thousands waited in a snaking line for hours to gain a spot in the hockey venue-turned-shelter.

"We'll never get in," Jamilla Bartley lamented in the parking lot.

The governor activated all 7,000 members of the Florida National Guard, and 30,000 guardsmen from elsewhere were on standby.

In the Orlando area, Walt Disney World, Universal Studios and Sea World all were closing Saturday. The Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa and Orlando airports shut down.

Given its mammoth size and strength and its course up the peninsula, it could prove one of the most devastating hurricanes ever to hit Florida, and inflict damage on a scale not seen here in 25 years.

Hurricane Andrew smashed into suburban Miami in 1992 with winds topping 165 mph (265 kph), damaging or blowing apart over 125,000 homes. The damage in Florida totaled $26 billion, and at least 40 people died.

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Reeves reported from Naples. Associated Press writers Seth Borenstein in Washington; Terry Spencer in Palm Beach County; Gary Fineout in Tallahassee; Terrance Harris and Claire Galofaro in Orlando; and Freida Frisaro, Jason Dearen, Jennifer Kay and David Fischer in Miami contributed to this report.