Sep 7, 2017 - Science

Irma tears through Caribbean en route to Florida

Rescue staff from the Municipal Emergency Management Agency investigate an empty flooded car during the passage of Hurricane Irma through the northeastern part of the island in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017 (Carlos Giusti / AP)

Hurricane Irma, one of the strongest storms to ever form in the Atlantic, is continuing to tear through the Caribbean as a Category 5 storm, having already devastated several islands, including Barbuda, St. Martin, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. Under the current forecast, the core of the storm, which has maintained its intensity with winds above 180 mph, is expected to hit Florida and the Southeast U.S. this weekend.

Where Irma is now: Raining down on northern parts of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, it lies between Hispaniola and the Turks and Caicos Islands. It may hit the Bahamas Thursday night. It's expected to approach Cuba Friday or Saturday. As of publishing, the National Weather Service said Irma was about 660 miles east-southeast of Key Largo, Florida, and the National Hurricane Center reports Miami is in Irma's direct path. Irma is expected to move southeast of the Upper Keys Saturday night.

The death toll: Irma has killed at least 10 people, officials said. Meanwhile, the UN estimates that up to 37 million people across different countries, states, and territories could be affected.

The other two active hurricanes in the Atlantic: Hurricane Jose strengthened into a Category 3 storm Thursday afternoon with maximum sustained winds at about 120 mph, and is heading toward the same islands already hit by Irma. Antigua and Barbuda issued a hurricane watch Thursday afternoon. They expect Jose to make landing Saturday. Meanwhile Hurricane Katia is building momentum in the Gulf of Mexico, expected to hit Veracruz Friday evening.

Islands already hit by Irma: Anguilla, Antigua, Barbuda, Saint Martin, St Barts, British Virgin Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Haiti, the Dominican Republic

Places still at risk: Turks and Caicos, Cuba, Bahamas, Florida and the Southeast U.S.

Live updates:

  • Florida is on high alert and has ordered evacuations, with mandatory evacuations for the Florida Keys and parts of Miami-Dade and Broward counties. Gov. Rick Scott said Thursday, "Regardless of which (Florida) coast you live on, be prepared to evacuate"
  • The Carolinas and Georgia have also declared emergencies. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal issued mandatory evacuations for Savannah and other coastal areas, starting Saturday.
  • Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne said the island suffered from "unprecedented" destruction, estimating that roughly 95% of its buildings are damaged. "The island is literally under water," said Browne. "In fact, I'm of the view that, as it stands now, Barbuda is barely habitable."
  • France's interior minister, Gerard Collomb, said Thursday that at least eight people were killed and 23 injured in French Caribbean island territories. But the death toll is expected to rise as rescue teams are still conducting their inspection of the islands.
  • Irma blacked out much of Puerto Rico. Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said nearly 70 percent of households were without power in the wake of Hurricane Irma, which otherwise left the island largely unscathed, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said Thursday and officials warned that the power could remain off for several days.
  • President Trump, during a pool spray Thursday afternoon: "[Irma] is something that is probably bigger, not as much water, but more powerful, than Harvey," he said. He added that the U.S. is "as well prepared as we could possibly be" for Irma, especially Florida.

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