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Hurricane Irma’s path shifts west, now on track to hit St. Petersburg

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The National Hurricane Center says Irma’s projected path is continuing to shift to the west, just a few crucial miles, that should keep its eye just off Florida’s west coast on a track to hit St. Petersburg, not Miami or even Tampa.

The hurricane’s leading edge was already lashing the Florida Keys with hurricane force winds. If the center of the storm keeps moving over warm Gulf of Mexico water, it may regain more strength before making landfall again.

St. Petersburg, like Tampa, has not taken a head-on blow from a major hurricane in nearly a century. Clearwater would be next, and then the storm would finally go inland northwest of Ocala.

The storm currently has top sustained winds of 120 mph (193 kph) and is moving northward at about 6 mph (10 kph).