The latest on Hurricane Irma - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

The latest on Hurricane Irma

Posted: Updated:

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- The Latest on Hurricane Irma (all times local):

1:30 p.m.

Florida Power & Light says it will be weeks, not days, before electricity is fully restored because of the damage being done by Hurricane Irma.

Spokesman Rob Gould said Sunday that an estimated 3.4 million homes and businesses will lose power once the worst of Irma reaches the Florida mainland. He expects thousands of miles (kilometers) of poles and lines will need to be replaced, particularly on the Gulf coast. As of Sunday afternoon, about 1.5 million customers were without power.

He said 17,000 restoration workers from as far away as California and Massachusetts are already stationed around the state, but it will take time to rebuild the system.

The utility covers much of the state, including most cities on the Atlantic coast and the Gulf coast south of Tampa. It does not cover Tampa and St. Petersburg, two major cities in Irma's forecast path.

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1:30 p.m.

At least 25 people in one Florida county have been arrested for violating a curfew imposed as Hurricane Irma approached the state.

Palm Beach County authorities say the arrests were made after a 3 p.m. Saturday curfew was imposed. The misdemeanor charge can carry a fine of up to $500 and potentially 60 days in jail.

Officials announced the curfew as a safety measure and to prevent looting and other crimes. They say some of those arrested could face other charges, such as drug possession or drunken driving.

The curfew will be lifted after a storm damage assessment is done.

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1:30 p.m.

A meteorologist calculates that Hurricane Irma will dump about 10 trillion gallons (38 trillion liters) of rain on Florida over a day-and-a-half time period. That's about 500,000 gallons (1.9 trillion liters) for every Florida resident.

Private meteorologist Ryan Maue of WeatherBell Analytics based his calculations on weather service forecasts. He also calculates it will dump 6 trillion gallons (23 trillion liters) on Georgia.

By comparison, Hurricane Harvey, which stalled over the Texas coast, dumped about 20 trillion gallons (76 trillion liters) on Texas and 7 trillion gallons (26 trillion liters) of rain on Louisiana in about five days. One place around Houston got more than 50 inches (130 centimeters) of rain. Irma is expected to crawl steadily through the Sunshine State.

The National Hurricane Center projects 15 to 20 inches (38 to 50 centimeters) of rain with spots up to 25 inches (64 centimeters) for the Florida Keys. Western Florida is forecast to get 10 to 15 inches of rain (25 to 38 centimeters), with as much as 20 inches (50 centimeters) in spots. The rest of Florida and southeastern Georgia is projected to get 8 to 12 inches (20 to 30 centimeters) of rain, with isolated outbursts up to 16 inches (40 centimeters).

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1:30 p.m.

Emergency workers in inflatable boats are navigating flooded streets along Havana's coast, where thousands of people left their homes for safer ground before Hurricane Irma hit Cuba.

Seawater has penetrated as much as 1,600 feet (500 meters) inland in parts of the city. Trees are toppled, roofs have been torn off, cement water tanks have fallen from roofs to the ground and electrical lines are down.

Elena Villar is a Havana resident whose home of 30 years filled with more than 6 feet (2 meters) of water.

She was on the edge of tears Sunday as she said: "I have lost everything."

Villar and her mother spent the night huddling in the lobby of a higher building nearby as the storm raked the city.

In her words: "I have never seen a disaster like this."

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1:30 p.m.

Thanks to Hurricane Irma, Savannah, Georgia, has been evacuated for the second time in less than a year. Atlanta, meanwhile, is under a tropical-storm warning for the first time ever.

Nearly all of Georgia was under some type of severe-weather warning Sunday as Irma churned near Florida. The National Hurricane Center predicted the storm's center to cross Monday into southwest Georgia, where a hurricane warning was issued for communities including Albany and Valdosta.

Portions of western Alabama and coastal South Carolina were also under tropical-storm warnings.

The National Weather Service confirmed it had never before issued a tropical-storm warning for Atlanta, where wind gusts could reach 55 mph (88 kph). That's nothing new to Savannah and the rest of coastal Georgia, which evacuated last October for Hurricane Matthew.

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   1:10 p.m.
   The White House says President Donald Trump has received a "comprehensive update" on Hurricane Irma.
   Irma plowed into the Florida Keys Sunday and was forecast to march up the state's west coast.
   Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and several Cabinet members participated in the briefing from Camp David -- the presidential retreat where Trump has spent the weekend monitoring the storm.
   Other administration officials joined in from the White House or Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters in Washington.
   Pence and several Cabinet secretaries are planning to visit FEMA headquarters later Sunday.
   The White House says Trump has spoken with the governors of Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee. Irma could affect all four states.
   Florida Gov. Rick Scott says he also spoke with Trump on Sunday.

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   1:05 p.m.
   Deputies shot and wounded a burglar and arrested his accomplice at a Florida home as Hurricane Irma blew in.
   The Broward Sheriff's Office said in a news release Sunday that the homeowners in Weston were out of town but saw the burglars remotely inside the house through a home surveillance system.
   Deputies responded shortly before 3 a.m. and one of the two juvenile males was shot outside the home. He was taken to a local hospital for treatment of non-life threatening injuries. The other person was arrested.
   Their names were not immediately released.
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   12:55 p.m.
   High winds are impeding Miami authorities' ability to reach a construction crane toppled by Hurricane Irma.
   The crane fell onto a high-rise building that's under construction. It's in a bayfront area filled with hotels and high-rise condo and office buildings, near AmericanAirlines Arena.
   Miami-Dade County Director of Communications Mike Hernandez said emergency personnel couldn't immediately respond to the scene because of high winds. Authorities urged people to avoid the area after the Sunday morning collapse. It wasn't clear if there were any injuries.
   Miami City Manager Daniel Alfonso said the approximately two-dozen other cranes in the city are still upright and built to withstand significant wind gusts.
   The tower cranes working on construction sites throughout the city were a concern ahead of Irma. Moving the massive equipment, weighing up to 30,000 pounds, is a slow process that would have taken about two weeks, according to city officials.
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   12:20 p.m.
   Florida sheriff's deputies rescued a couple who tried to ride out Hurricane Irma on a small sailboat.
   Christine Weiss of the Martin County Sheriff's Office said a passer-by noticed the couple was in trouble Sunday. It happened just off Jensen Beach, which is on the Atlantic Coast north of Palm Beach.
   Video shows a Martin County patrol boat manned by deputies John Howell and James Holloran and Detective Mathew Fritchie pulling up next to the sailboat.
   The task of helping the couple onto their boat was precarious as both boats bobbed in choppy water. Deputies then took them to shore.
   The names of the couple were not released. They were not injured.
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   12:10 p.m.
   Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte says the death toll caused by Hurricane Irma on the Caribbean territory of St. Maarten has risen to four.
   Rutte said Sunday, "unfortunately there are more victims to mourn" after the bodies of two people washed up on the island. He says the identities of the victims are not yet known.
   One of the four people listed as victims by the Dutch authorities died of natural causes as the Category 5 hurricane lashed St. Maarten, badly damaging or destroying 70 percent of homes on the Dutch part of the Caribbean island.
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   11:40 a.m.
   Some Miami Police officers remembered to pack an essential in their hurricane survival pack: Cuban coffee known as cafecito.
   The department tweeted a picture showing a coffee maker atop a camp stove. It read: "As our officers ride out the storm, some have brought the (hashtag) Miami essentials to help them get through the night."
   The strongly caffeinated brew is a staple in Miami.
   Former FEMA administrator Craig Fugate said this week he'd check Cuban coffee stands to gauge Irma's impacts on Miami.
   Fugate is known for creating the so-called "Waffle House Index." Fugate used the Southern restaurant chain as a benchmark for how quickly local communities could rebound from hurricanes.
   Waffle House are known for being open most of the time. Under the index, a closed Waffle House was a bad sign. There are no Waffle Houses in Miami, so Fugate suggested an alternative.
   "Cuban coffee stands - if those are closed, it is bad," he told AP.
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   11:25 a.m.
   President Donald Trump has spoken with the governors of Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee as Hurricane Irma moves north.
   All four states could be affected by the storm, which struck the Florida Keys on Sunday.
   The White House says Trump spoke with the officials Sunday from the Camp David presidential retreat, where he was spending the weekend.
   Trump has been in regular contract with Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Sen. Marco Rubio over the past week. Chief of staff John Kelly spoke Sunday with Florida Sen. Bill Nelson.
   Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were scheduled to receive an updated Irma briefing on Sunday.
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   11:15 a.m.
   As Hurricane Irma evacuees fill up Atlanta hotels and shelters, folks are getting creative to offer them a hand.
   About 100 of America's top chefs who had gathered for their annual summit changed gears. They pivoted their planned Monday agenda on "heritage grains" and "how to cut food waste." Now, instead, the chefs will prepare a gourmet feast for Irma refugees and serve it at a church.
   Hotels were full Sunday morning. At the luxury Georgian Terrace Hotel, staff were flexible with rules to accommodate evacuees. Guests walked pit bulls through the lobby. Large families pulled roller bags and clutched blankets as they squeezed into small rooms without enough beds.
   A block away, a church offered free hugs for evacuees.
   And a chalkboard sign outside a restaurant offered a discount: "30% OFF Food with FLORIDA ID for Hurricane evacuees."
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   11:05 a.m.
   The National Hurricane Center says Category 4 Hurricane Irma is now "headed for the southwest Florida coast" as winds continue to pick up speed in all of South Florida.
   Irma continues to be armed with 130 mph winds as its large eye passes north of the Keys.
   Storm surge is forecast for 10 to 15 feet in southwestern Florida.
   Hurricane-force winds are continuing throughout southern Florida, including the Keys. The hurricane center warns that winds affecting upper floors of high-rise building will be much stronger than at ground level.
   The hurricane center also emphasizes that Irma will bring life-threatening wind to much of Florida regardless of the exact track of its center.
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   10:55 a.m.
   Puerto Rico's governor says there will be no classes on Monday because hundreds of schools still do not have power or water after the island took a hit from Hurricane Irma.
   Ricardo Rossello said Sunday that more than 600 schools don't have power and more than 400 don't have water. Another nearly 400 schools don't have either, and dozens are flooded.
   Nearly 600,000 people in the U.S. territory remain without power, representing 40 percent of customers of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority.
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   10:50 a.m.
   The National Weather Service says that a crane has collapsed in Miami as strong wind from Hurricane Irma blows in.
   It's one of two-dozen in the city.
   The weather service's Miami office said in a Tweet that one of its employees witnessed the crane boom and counterweight collapse in downtown Miami. The employee captured video of the collapse.
   It wasn't immediately clear if the collapse caused damage or injuries.
   The cranes have been a concern.
   Construction sites across Irma's potential path in Florida were locked down to remove or secure building materials, tools and debris that could be flung by Irma's winds.
   But the horizontal arms of the tall tower cranes remained loose despite the potential danger of collapse. According to city officials, it would have taken about two weeks to move the cranes and there wasn't enough time.
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   10:40 a.m.
   Hurricane Irma's large eye is beginning to move slowly away from the Florida Keys as it continues north with 130 mph (215 kph) winds.
   The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami reported that the center of core of Irma is about 25 miles (40 km) northeast of Key West.
   Irma is so wide that a gust of 93 mph (150 kph) was measured near Key Largo at the other end of the Florida Keys.
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   10:35 a.m.
   A Florida Keys refuge for a unique subspecies of deer is in the crosshairs of Hurricane Irma.
   The Florida Key Deer Refuge on Big Pine Key is about 10 miles from where the storm made landfall Sunday morning.
   It's the only place in world where you find Key deer, a unique subspecies of white-tailed deer about 3 feet tall at the shoulder -- the size of a large dog.
   The herd faced a potential extinction event last year when the first screwworm infestation in the U.S. in 30 years. Fewer than 1,000 of the endangered deer remain, and the parasites that eat the flesh of living mammals killed 135 Key deer before state and federal agriculture authorities stopped the infestation earlier this year.
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   10:30 a.m.
   France's Interior Minister expressed relief that Hurricane Jose spared French Caribbean islands St. Martin and St. Barts further devastation.
   Gerard Collomb, speaking at a press conference in Paris Sunday, said that Jose passed miles away.
   Meanwhile, a spokesman for France's government defended its handling of the hurricane crisis in St. Martin and St. Barts amid criticism that many in the local population felt abandoned by authorities.
   Christophe Castaner, speaking in an interview with Europe1-CNews-Les Echos on Sunday, said he "perfectly (understood) the anger" of residents after Hurricane Irma tore through the French Caribbean islands, killing several people, destroying houses and cutting off the water supply. Some shops were subsequently looted by locals.
   But he insisted the means deployed by the government were robust -- with emergency help given "first priority."
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   10:25 a.m.
   Florida officials say 127,000 people across the state have taken refuge in more than 500 shelters as Hurricane Irma takes aim at the state.
   The state Division of Emergency Management did not specify which shelters had the most people.
   Meanwhile, utility officials were warning that the storm could leave millions without power by the time it finishes moving through the state. Already, more than 1.3 million Florida customers were in the dark on Sunday morning as the hurricane made landfall in the Florida Keys.
   Florida Power & Light, the state's largest utility, is reporting on Sunday that many people living in the three populous south Florida counties of Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach are without power. State officials say another 64,000 customers who rely on smaller utilities have also lost electricity.
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   10:10 a.m.
   For the first time, a tropical storm warning has been issued for the city of Atlanta.
   The National Weather Service in Peachtree City, Georgia, said Sunday it was the first time such a warning had been issued for the metro Atlanta area. High wind warnings have been issued in previous storms.
   The warning means that tropical storm conditions are expected within the next 36 hours. Peak winds were expected to reach 30 to 40 mph (48 to 64 kph) with gusts of up to 55 mph (88 kph).
   The weather service says storm threats include damage to porches, carports, sheds and unanchored mobile homes. Roads may become impassable due to debris. Power outages could occur.
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   9:50 a.m.
   Hurricane Irma became tied for the seventh strongest storm to make landfall in U.S. history by a key measurement of atmospheric pressure.
   Hurricane Irma made landfall at Cudjoe Key at 9:10 a.m. with a minimum central pressure of 929 millibars. Atmospheric pressure is one of the major measurements meteorologists use to describe storms. The lower the pressure, the stronger the storm.
   Only six storms on record had lower pressures when striking the United States, including Katrina. When Katrina hit in 2005, it had lower pressure but its wind speed kept it at Category 3.
   The 929 pressure mark ties Irma with the deadly 1928 Lake Okeechobee hurricane.
   Irma's arrival also marks another first.
   Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach says this is the first year on record that the United States has been hit by two storms that were Category 4 upon landfall: Harvey and Irma.
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   9:45 a.m.
   As Hurricane Irma threatened to wallop the St. Petersburg area, several folks got out on the beach ahead of the storm.
   As they milled about Sunday morning, they looked at sailboats bobbing in the wind as the sun rose and took selfies and photos of the beach.
   St. Petersburg resident John Leuders says he feels safe. With stores out of plywood, he tore down part of his fence to board up windows. He came down to the beach out of curiosity and noted the strong winds along the water.
   Another resident, Sally Carlson, says she's been around for other storms and hurricanes, but this one scares her. She says she wanted to see the city one more time before any problems.
   She adds: "I'm hoping it comes out unscathed, but I know better."
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   9:40 a.m.
   Florida utility officials say more than 1 million customers have lost power as Hurricane Irma hits the state.
   Florida Power & Light Company said that nearly 1.1 million customers statewide were without power Sunday morning.
   About 574,000 of those outages were in Miami-Dade County, while there were 360,000 in Broward and nearly 136,000 in Palm Beach County.
   The massive storm made landfall in the Florida Keys, and its center was forecast to move up the state's Gulf Coast. But the effects are being felt far from the center because of Irma's size.
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9:25 a.m.
   Hurricane Irma has made landfall in the Florida Keys.
   The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said the center of the massive hurricane made landfall on Cudjoe Key in the lower Florida Keys at 9:10 a.m.
   Its top sustained winds are 130 mph (215 kph).
   Forecasters say a gust of 106 mph (171 kph) was reported on Big Pine Key.
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9:00 a.m.
   The Florida Highway Patrol says two people have died in a head-on crash in a county where Hurricane Irma's wind and rain have started to blow in.
   Agency spokesman Greg Bueno said the crash happened Sunday morning in Hardee County, which is southeast of Tampa.
   It wasn't immediately clear what role the weather may have played. He says troopers are investigating the crash and no further details were immediately available.
   Bueno said in an email that the area is starting to feel the effects of Hurricane Irma.
   The National Weather Service has issued a tornado warning for the county, saying a severe thunderstorm was in the area.
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   8:55 a.m.
   The National Hurricane Center forecasts that the core of Hurricane Irma will likely chug directly for the highly populated Tampa-St. Petersburg region after it gets through raking the Keys, but the storm is so massive all of Florida will be feeling the Category 4 hurricane's fury.
   The center of the storm was just off Key West Sunday morning.
   The latest forecast of Irma's eye -- which still can change -- keeps the nearly 400-mile wide (640-kilometer) storm in the water, barely off the coast of southwestern Florida's Fort Myers and Naples.
   But that also puts that region in the strongest northeast quadrant of the storm, where storm surge, wind, rain and tornado threats are highest.
   And a few miles wiggle could bring Irma's eye -- which has measured 30 miles wide (48 kilometers) -- inland.
   The storm is moving slowly, about 8 mph (13 kilometers per hour) so its eye is likely to hit the Tampa region around 2 a.m. Monday, but damaging winds, storm, surge, rain and tornadoes will reach the area long before then.
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   8:45 a.m.
   Doctors were forced to talk a Florida woman through delivering her baby at home while Hurricane Irma's outer bands lashed Miami.
   The City of Miami said on its Twitter account early Sunday that firefighters couldn't respond in time to the woman in the Little Haiti neighborhood. So doctors from Jackson Health System talked her through the birth of the baby girl at home.
   Authorities say firefighters were able to make it to the woman Sunday morning and take her to the hospital after the girl was born.
   Miami-Dade fire spokeswoman Erika Benitez said the fire department is responding to calls on a case-by-case basis as strong winds and rain lash the area. They are encouraging residents to stay inside because of downed power lines and debris.
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8:20 a.m.
   Florida authorities have issued another stern warning about Hurricane Irma: Shooting bullets into the storm won't help keep you safe.
   The Pasco County Sheriff's Office tweeted late Saturday: "DO NOT shoot weapons @ (hashtag) Irma. You won't make it turn around (and) it will have very dangerous side effects."
   The sheriff's office, which is in the Tampa Bay-area, was responding to a Facebook event page created two Florida men inviting people to shoot at Irma.
   The page reads: "YO SO THIS GOOFY ... LETS SHOW IRMA THAT WE SHOOT FIRST ..."
   The invitation presumably was a joke, but 80,000 people indicated they were "going" or "interested" in the event.
   In a tweet early Sunday, the Pasco County Sheriff's Office asked the thousands of people who had shared the page to also share their request for volunteers needed at hurricane shelters.
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   8 a.m.
   Forecasters say Hurricane Irma's center is poised to blow across the Florida Keys.
   The northern eyewall of the storm reached the island chain early Sunday.
   The U.S. National Hurricane Center said in a public advisory that the center of the storm remained offshore but was going to make landfall soon. The storm was centered about 20 miles east (30 km) of Key West, and it was moving north-northwest at 8 mph (13 kph)
   The storm had maximum sustained winds of 130 mph (215) kph. The National Weather Service reported wind gusts of 90 mph (145 kph) near its Key West office.
   After hitting the Florida Keys, Irma was forecast to move up the state's Gulf Coast later Sunday.
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   7:55 a.m.
   The National Weather Service in Miami has issued tornado warnings for a wide swath of Monroe, Miami-Dade and Broward counties in South Florida.
   Officials say the band of rain and tornado producing cells is moving quickly.
   There have been no reports of tornadoes touching down.
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   7:50 a.m.
   Authorities are urging people who chose to ride out Hurricane Irma in the Florida Keys to remain indoors until the storm passes.
   The storm's eyewall reached the chain of islands Sunday morning. The National Weather Service reported wind gusts of 90 mph (145 kph) near its Key West office.
   In a Facebook post early Sunday, Key West Police urged people who stayed for the hurricane to remain where they took shelter until the storm had passed completely. They also urged people not to go outside when the eye of the storm is over there area, a time period when conditions can seem deceptively calm.
   John Huston, who is riding out the storm from his home in Key Largo in the upper Keys, says the wind gusts are strong in his area.
   "Water level is higher today," he said via text message Sunday morning. "Incredible wind that won't stop."
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   7:05 a.m.
   Hurricane Irma's eyewall has reached the Florida Keys.
   The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami says the storm's northern eyewall reached the lower Florida Keys Sunday morning. The eyewall is a band of clouds surrounding the center of the storm that has intense winds and strong rain.
   The hurricane center says Key West International Airport has measured sustained winds of 50 mph (80 kph).
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   7:00 a.m.
   Hundreds of thousands of people are without power in Florida as Hurricane Irma's winds and rain lash the state.
   Irma's center was over water off Key West early Sunday, but places including Miami were being hit with strong winds and rain.
   Florida Power & Light Company said that about 430,000 customers were without power Sunday morning. Miami-Dade County had the most outages with about 250,000. Broward County had 130,000 outages. Palm Beach County had more than 40,000 outages.
   The utility said that it has mobilized crews and is working to restore power as it can.
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   6:30 a.m.
   With Hurricane Irma closing in on Florida, the storm's winds are already lashing parts of the state.
   In Key West, Carol Walterson Stroud and her family are huddled in a third floor apartment at a senior center.
   Stroud said early Sunday that the wind was blowing hard, but her family was OK. In a text message to a reporter, she said: "We are good so far."
   As of 6 a.m. EDT, forecasters say the Category 4 storm is centered about 30 miles (50 kilometers) south of the island.
   The 60-year-old is with her husband and granddaughter and their dog. Stroud says she plans to step outside once the "eye" of the hurricane passes over later Sunday.
   Meanwhile, to the north, access to all of Pinellas County's barrier islands, including the popular spring break destination of Clearwater Beach, has been shut off.
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   6:10 a.m.
   The eye of Hurricane Irma is very close to the lower Florida Keys.
   As of 6 a.m. EDT, the U.S. National Hurricane Center says the Category 4 storm is centered about 30 miles (50 kilometers) south-southeast of Key West, Florida, and is moving northwest at 8 mph (13 kph).
   Irma's maximum sustained winds are near 130 mph (215 kph). The hurricane center says weakening is forecast but Irma is expected to remain a powerful hurricane as it moves through the Florida Keys and near Florida's west coast.
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   6:10 a.m.
   France and the Netherlands say their islands in the Caribbean were spared major damage from Hurricane Jose, which passed farther away from the islands than expected.
   The Sunday announcements -- coming from France's national weather service and the Dutch navy -- were good news for islands that had already been devastated by Hurricane Irma last week.
   Meteo-France said Jose's center passed overnight about 75 miles (125 kilometers) from St. Martin and 80 miles (135 kilometers) from St. Barts, though it still produced gales of up to 48 mph (80 kph) around the islands.
   In a tweet Sunday, the Netherlands' navy says the situation after Jose passed north of the islands overnight is "better than expected." Scores of marines and troops will resume their efforts to restore vital infrastructure and distribute food and water on St. Maarten, Saba and St. Eustatius.
   In a separate tweet, the navy said the security situation on St. Maarten, which saw widespread looting and robberies after Hurricane Irma, has improved thanks to patrols by marines and police flown to the island to help overwhelmed local law enforcement.
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   5:10 a.m.
   Hurricane Irma has sped up slightly and its eye is about to move across the lower Florida Keys early Sunday.
   The hurricane is centered about 40 miles (65 kilometers) south-southeast of Key West, Florida, and is moving north-northwest near 8 mph (13 kph).
   Irma is a Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds near 130 mph (215 kph). The U.S. National Hurricane Center says weakening is forecast but Irma is expected to remain a powerful hurricane as it moves through the Florida Keys and near Florida's west coast.
   Tens of thousands in Florida are huddled in shelters as the hurricane threatens to make a catastrophic hit on the state.

Stay with 27 News and Wake Up Wisconsin at 6 a.m., with the latest from Meteorologist Star Derry.

  ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- The Latest on Hurricane Irma (all times local):

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- The Latest on Hurricane Irma (all times local):
   2:10 a.m.
   Hurricane Irma has regained Category 4 strength as it moves toward Florida, where it's feared to make a devastating hit.
   Irma's maximum sustained winds increased early Sunday to near 130 mph (210 kph) and it's expected to gain a little more strength as it moves through the Straits of Florida and remain a powerful hurricane as it approaches Florida.
   Irma is centered about 70 miles (115 kilometers) south-southeast of Key West, Florida, and is moving northwest near 6 mph (9 kph).
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   1:40 a.m.
   Hurricane Irma is closing in on the Florida Keys with top winds of 120 mph (190 kph) early Sunday as forecasters monitored a crucial shift in its trajectory that could keep its ferocious eye off the southwest Florida coast and over warm gulf water.
   Tens of thousands of people huddling in shelters watched for updates as the storm swung to the west, now potentially sparing Tampa as well Miami the catastrophic head-on blow forecasters had been warning about.
   But those few miles meant St. Petersburg could get a direct hit, rather than its more populous twin across Tampa Bay.
   The leading edge of the immense storm bent palm trees and spit rain across South Florida, knocking out power to more than 170,000 homes and businesses, as the eye approached Key West.
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Midnight
   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).
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   11:10 p.m.
   More than 170,000 homes and businesses in Florida have lost power and the center of Irma is about 90 miles southeast of Key West.
   Florida Power and Light said on its website that more than half of those outages were in the Miami-Dade area, where about 600,000 people have been ordered to evacuate.
   The company has said it expects millions of people to lose power, with some areas experiences prolonged outages.
   The company said it has assembled the largest pre-storm workforce in U.S. history, with more than 16,000 people ready to respond.
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   As Irma's hurricane-force winds started to whip the Florida Keys, the storm stayed at a weakened 120 mph (190 kph) and took slow aim at Florida.
   The National Hurricane Center says the storm's forward motion fell to 6 mph (10 kph) as the storm stuttered off the coast of Cuba. Forecasters say it could still increase in strength, but their forecast didn't show it.
   The hurricane-force wind field stretched well over 100 miles. Forecasters say they are moving the forecast track slight west again.
   ------
   10:15 p.m.
   The National Weather Service says the first hurricane-force wind gust has been recorded in the Florida Keys as Irma inches closer to the state.
   The weather service says the Smith Shoal Light station recorded a 74 mph (119 kph) wind gust on Saturday night.
   The center of Irma is headed toward the Keys and has sustained winds of 120 mph (193.11 kph).
   ------
   9:10 p.m.
   The U.S. National Hurricane Center says wind gusts near hurricane strength have been recorded in the Florida Keys as the center of Irma moves closer to the state.
   Forecasters said Saturday night that Marathon had reported a wind gust of 71 mph (114 kph) and sustained winds of 51 mph (82 kph). Irma is about 105 miles (170 kilometers) southeast of Key West.
   It has winds of 125 mph (200 kph).
   ------
   8:15 p.m.
   Prime Minister William Marlin of St. Maarten says about 1,600 tourists who were in the Dutch Caribbean territory have been evacuated and efforts are being made to move 1,200 more.
   Marlin says many nations and people have offered help to St. Maarten, but weather conditions will determine how this can be coordinated.
   Authorities are still trying to determine the extent of damage to the island, but he said 28 police officers lost homes during Hurricanes Irma and Jose.
   The prime minister said Saturday that St. Maarten remains under curfew and looting that took place immediately after the storm has subsided.
   ------
   8 p.m.
   Meteorologists say heavy rain squalls spawning tornadoes are hitting South Florida part of Hurricane Irma's leading edge.
   The National Hurricane Center says a hurricane hunter airplane found Irma's winds dropped from 125 mph to 120 mph, but that's likely to soon increase again now that the center of the storm is over bathtub-warm water.
   Hurricane force winds extend 70 miles (110 kilometers) out from the 30-mile (48-kilometer) wide storm eye.
   Marathon International Airport recently reported a sustained wind of 48 mph (77 kilometers per hour) and a gust to 67 mph (108 kilometers per hour).
   ------
   7:30 p.m.
   Hurricane Irma is starting to spin up funnel clouds and at least one tornado, leading to warnings for parts of South Florida.
   The National Weather Service in Miami posted on Twitter Saturday evening that a tornado had touched the ground in the Fort Lauderdale suburb of Oakland Park. It wasn't immediately clear how much damaged was caused.
   Tornado warnings have been issued for Fort Lauderdale, Coral Springs, Pompano Beach and Sunrise in Broward County, as well as parts of nearby Palm Beach and Hendry Counties.
   Meanwhile, Florida Gov. Rick Scott is urging Floridians to be "patient" and not quickly rush back to their homes once Irma passes. He says the massive storm is likely to cause widespread damage and that people should stay away until they are told by local officials that they can return.



********

MIAMI (AP) -- The Latest on Hurricane Irma (all times local):  

Updated: Sep 09, 2017 3:08 PM CDT          

The National Hurricane Center says it's looking more likely that the eye of powerful Hurricane Irma will strike the Keys, southwestern Florida and the Tampa Bay region starting Sunday. But that doesn't mean Miami area is in the clear. It's not.

The western part of the state will most likely get the worst of Irma. And even though Irma weakened when it raked the Cuban coast and islands, it's expected to get its strength back over the ultra-toasty Florida Straits and hit the Sunshine State as a dangerous Category 4 storm.

"Cuba has given it a blow but it's nowhere near being knocked out," said private meteorologist Ryan Maue of WeatherBell Analytics. "You're still taking a Category 4 hurricane up across the entire west coast of Florida and you're not weakening it very fast."

Look for Irma to hit the lower Florida Keys on Sunday morning, the southwest coast of Florida on Sunday afternoon and the Tampa region on Sunday night into Monday morning, said National Hurricane Center spokesman and meteorologist Dennis Feltgen.

The latest hurricane center forecast - which still can change a bit and has a margin of error of dozens of miles - projects Irma's potent eye to make three landfalls into Florida: The Keys, around Fort Myers inland to Tampa and then out to open Gulf of Mexico waters briefly before returning inland, north of Homosassa Springs.

While Irma's core likely won't hit Southeast Florida, "that doesn't mean we won't have 20 inches of rain, storm surge," said Feltgen, who is based in Miami. "We're going to have a hurricane here." That includes high winds, just not as high as what the west coast of the state will experience.

Feltgen said he worries that people will misinterpret the forecast track change that puts Miami out of predicted area for Irma's eye. Irma is so large that even if the eye is to the west, Southeast Florida will get dangerous winds and water.

The Tampa region looks likely to get a direct hit, although that could still change, Feltgen said Saturday.

For decades disaster officials and meteorologists have put the Tampa region as one of their worst-case scenarios, along with Miami, New Orleans, Houston and New York. The other four cities have been hit in the last 25 years but Tampa has not been hit by a major hurricane since 1921 when its population was about 10,000, Feltgen said. Now it has around 3 million people.

"It's certainly one of those metropolitan areas where we have one of the greatest concerns, particularly with storm surge, particularly with inexperience," Feltgen said.

Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach especially worries about storm surge on the west coast, calling southwest Florida "surge central."

"The surge damage is going to be bad," Klotzbach said. "That honestly more than the wind is going to be the story."

Looking at hurricane center storm surge maps splashed with bright yellows and reds for deep surges, Klotzbach said Naples makes him especially nervous.

"Look at Naples, the entire town of Naples is underwater," Klotzbach said. "That is horrible. God that looks awful."

The hurricane center forecasts 8 to 12 feet (2.4 to 3.7 meters) of storm surge in extreme southwestern Florida, an area that includes Naples. Experts say the area from Venice to Captiva Island will get about 5 to 8 feet (1.5 to 2.4 meters), with the Tampa Bay region getting about 3 to 5 feet (0.9 to 1.5 meters) further north. Southeast Florida up to Boca Raton can expect 5 to 10 feet (1.5 to 3 meters) of storm surge, with areas further north on the east coast of Florida forecast to get 2 to 4 feet (0.6 to 1.2 meters) of storm surge.

High wind, tornadoes and heavy rainfall of up to 20 inches (0.5 meters) are forecast for most of Florida.

Overall, it will likely be less costly if Irma hits the west rather than east coast because the east coast has more people and more buildings, said University of Miami senior hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy.

But with hurricane-force winds that can stretch more than 100 miles (160 kilometers) wide, all of Florida can be under Irma at any given time, McNoldy said.

Meteorologists still disagree about how strong Irma will be when it hits Florida. Maue sees Irma strengthening a lot more over "bathtub"-like warm waters that are pushing 90 degrees. The Hurricane Center projects the storm hitting as a Category 4 storm, but Jeff Masters, meteorology director at the private Weather Underground, said he wouldn't be surprised if Irma hit as a Category 3 hurricane.

Irma is likely to remain a hurricane as it continues to chug up through Florida perhaps to the Georgia line, Feltgen said. Georgia will at least get tropical-storm-force winds.

It's a few days out and it can still change, but forecasters worry that the remnants of Irma will stall out in the Tennessee Valley and bring lots of rain and potential flooding.

If the forecast track doesn't change - it is likely to shift - the Nashville area will end up getting the remnants of both Harvey and Irma.

___

    6:25 a.m.
   France's public insurance agency estimates that Hurricane Irma inflicted 1.2 billion euros ($1.44 billion) in damage on infrastructure in the French overseas islands of Saint Martin and Saint Barthelemy.
   In a statement Saturday, the Caisse Central de Reassurance, France's public-sector reinsurer that provides coverage for natural disasters, said that amount covers damage to houses, vehicles and businesses.
   It added that Hurricane Irma is "one of the biggest natural catastrophes to have occurred in France in 35 years."
   The agency said affected residents have 10 days to make a claim starting from Saturday, when the status of a natural disaster was officially declared
   ------
   6:10 a.m.
   France's Director of Public Safety has held a press conference in Paris on the recovery efforts in the French overseas island territories of Saint Martin and Saint Barthelemy that are reeling from Hurricane Irma.
   Jacques Witkowski said Saturday that "there are 1,100 people, both civilian and military, deployed on the islands" to help with recovery.
   But he said they were also tasked with evacuation of residents ahead of another hurricane, Jose, which is expected to violently pummel islands in the Caribbean later on Saturday.
   Witkowski said the eye of Hurricane Jose will pass close to the islands of Saint Martin and Saint Barthelemy.
   ------
   5:20 a.m.
   The National Hurricane Center says Irma has weakened slightly to a Category 4 hurricane, as it moves over the Camaguey Archipelago of Cuba.
   Irma had briefly regained Category 5 strength late Friday, but now has maximum sustained winds of 155 mph (249 kph). The hurricane is about 245 miles (394 kilometers) from Miami and moving about 12 mph (19.3 kph) toward the west-northwest.
   In the Atlantic, Hurricane Jose is a Category 4 hurricane, about 190 miles (306 kilometers) east-southeast of The Northern Leeward Islands, moving toward the islands at 13 mph (20.92 kph) with winds reaching 150 mph.
   In the Gulf of Mexico, Hurricane Katia made landfall late Friday north of Tecolutla, Mexico and weakened to a tropical storm. By early Saturday morning it was 135 miles (217 kilometers) south of Tampico, Mexico, moving sluggishly at only 2 mph (3.2 kph) near the Sierra Madre Mountains with maximum winds of 40 mph (64.4 kph). It was expected to weaken further throughout the day.
   ------
   3:20 a.m.
   Dutch marines have dropped flyers from a helicopter warning beleaguered inhabitants on the devastated nation of St. Maarten to head to shelters as Hurricane Jose barrels through the Caribbean.
   Jose, a Category 4 storm with 150 mph winds, was forecast to pass close to St. Maarten over the weekend, delivering a second damaging blow to the former Dutch colony that suffered catastrophic damage when Category 5 Hurricane Irma slammed into it on Wednesday.
   Peter Jan de Vin, a Dutch military commander on the island of Curacao who is helping coordinate relief efforts on St. Maarten, tweeted a picture Saturday morning of a marine dropping flyers out of a helicopter flying low over one of St. Maarten's shattered seafront neighborhoods.
   ------
   2:20 a.m.
   The National Hurricane Center says the eye of Irma is moving over the Camaguey Archipelago of Cuba as a Category 5 hurricane.
   The center says Irma made landfall there late Friday and has maximum sustained winds of 160 mph (257 kph). The hurricane is about 275 miles (443 kilometers) from Miami and moving about 12 mph (19.3 kph) toward the west.
   In the Gulf of Mexico, Hurricane Katia made landfall late Friday north of Tecolutla, Mexico and weakened to a tropical storm, with winds reaching 45 mph (72.4 kph).
   In the Atlantic, Hurricane Jose is a Category 4 hurricane, about 240 miles (386 kilometers)east-southeast of the Northern Leeward Islands, moving roughly westward at 14 mph  (23 kph)with winds reaching 150 mph.
   ------
   12:35 a.m.
   A newly strengthened Irma is taking aim at south Florida with 160 mph (257 kph) winds after battering Cuba and leaving more than 20 dead across the Caribbean, as another hurricane follows close behind.
   Irma regained Category 5 status late Friday. Thousands of people in the Caribbean fought desperately to find shelter or escape their storm-blasted islands, and more than 6 million people in Florida and Georgia were warned to leave their homes.
   Many residents and tourists were left reeling after the storm ravaged some of the world's most exclusive tropical playgrounds, known for their turquoise waters and lush green vegetation. Among them: St. Martin, St. Barts, St. Thomas, Barbuda and Anguilla.
   Irma threatened to push its way northward from one end of Florida to the other beginning Sunday morning.

   ------

11:10 p.m.
   The National Hurricane Center says Irma has strengthened back into a Category 5 storm. Forecasters also extended hurricane and storm surge warnings and watches farther north in Florida.
   The center says Irma made landfall on the Camaguey Archipelago of Cuba late Friday and has maximum sustained winds of 160 mph (260 kph).
   The hurricane is about 300 miles (485 kilometers) from Miami and moving about 13 mph (20 kph) toward the west.
   In the Gulf of Mexico, Hurricane Katia is making landfall north of Tecolutla, Mexico. Katia is still a Category 1 hurricane with winds of 75 mph (120 kph). Forecasters expect the hurricane to weaken quickly over the next 24 hours.
   In the Atlantic, Hurricane Jose has almost hit Category 5 strength, with tops winds of 155 mph (250 kph). Jose is about 265 miles (430 kilometers) east-southeast of the northern Leeward Islands.
   ------
   8:15 p.m.
   South Carolina's governor has ordered the evacuation of seven barrier islands, including Hilton Head Island, because they could be inundated by Hurricane Irma.
   Gov. Henry McMaster said Friday that 4 to 6 feet (1.2 to 1.8 meters) of storm surge is possible on the islands in the southern part of the state even though the center of Irma is forecast to move 200 miles to the west.
   With about 40,000 residents, Hilton Head Island is by far the largest island evacuated. It also has a number of resorts, golf courses and hotels.
   South Carolina Adjutant General Robert Livingston estimates 20,000 people have already left Hilton Head Island.
   Edisto Beach is also being evacuated, along with Harbor, Hunting, Fripp, Daufuskie, Tullifini and Knowles islands.
   McMaster says a change in Irma's track back east might require more evacuations.
   ------
   8:05 p.m.
   Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has issued a state of emergency ahead of Hurricane Irma.
   The remnants of the deadly hurricane are currently projected to sweep into Alabama and Georgia by Monday morning, bringing strong winds and rain.
   The governor said even though it appears Alabama will escape the brunt of the storm, the state will certainly be affected by the tropical system.
   "We must be ready to respond, no matter what comes our way," Ivey said.
   Under the projected track released Friday, the tropical system is expected to sweep into Alabama Monday morning bringing sustained winds of up to 30 mph, with higher gusts in the eastern part of the state.
   Alabama Emergency Management Agency meteorologist Jim Stefkovich says the greater inland threat for severe weather is in Georgia, but emphasized that could shift.
   ------
   8:05 p.m.
   A handwritten sign on the door of an Orlando Home Depot reads "sorry, out of plywood" -- a nearly universal problem at stores across the city as residents scrambled to collect supplies, board up their houses and wait out the storm.
   Victor Hernandez wandered through the lumber racks just before closing time Friday evening, trying to think up a makeshift solution to protect two big windows at the front of his house.
   Hernandez thinks people might be overreacting in the wake of Hurricane Harvey in Houston, which sat over that city for days, dumping rain and causing rushing floods. He doesn't believe this storm, moving more quickly, will be so devastating.
   "I'm from Cuba, we're used to hurricanes. I grew up ready for storms," said Hernandez, who's lived in Orlando seven years and works as a real estate agent and valet driver.
   After his wood run, Hernandez had two more stops to make: Wal-Mart, for some board games, then the liquor store, for a bottle of rum.
   ------
   7:10 p.m.
   Florida has asked 5.6 million people to evacuate ahead of Hurricane Irma, or more than one quarter of the state's population, according to state emergency officials.
   Andrew Sussman, the state's hurricane program manager, said Friday the total includes people throughout the southern half of the state as well as those living in inland Florida in substandard housing who were also told leave due to the dangerous storm that will slam the state this weekend.
   Florida is the nation's third-largest state with nearly 21million people according to the U.S. Census.
   For days Gov. Rick Scott has been urging residents to evacuate, especially those who live in coastal areas that could be flooded due to the walls of water expected from Irma's arrival.
   ------

6:45 p.m.

The National Hurricane Center is warning Floridians that even if the storm seems to moving away from the East Coast in the latest tracks, don't get complacent.

"This is a storm that will kill you if you don't get out of the way," said National Hurricane Center meteorologist and spokesman Dennis Feltgen.

Feltgen says the storm has a really wide eye, with hurricane-force winds that cover the entire Florida peninsula and potentially deadly storm surges on both coasts.

"Everybody's going to feel this one," Feltgen said.
   ------
   6:45 p.m.

As Florida deals with a catastrophic, dangerous hurricane, it may have a financial storm to deal with.

The annual budget forecast released this week shows, despite an ongoing economic recovery, Florida is expected to bring in just enough money to meet its spending needs.

That forecast shows the state will have a surplus of just $52 million during the fiscal year that starts in July 2018. The new estimate does not take into account the potential effects that will come from Hurricane Irma.

In the past some have speculated hurricanes help the economy because of increased spending. But Amy Baker, the state economist whose office helps put together the forecast, says a look at previous hurricanes showed that the state wound up spending more as a result of the disaster.

   ------

6:15 p.m.

Hurricane Irma's predicted path continues to inch west as the massive storm, still armed with 155 mph winds, approaches Florida.

The National Hurricane Center's latest track brings the Category 4 hurricane into southwest Florida, up the state a tad west of the center region, and further east than earlier forecasts.

However, the margin of error is still large enough that the entire state may get Irma's powerful core. Taking into account Irma's 100-mile-wide hurricane-force winds, University of Miami researcher Brian McNoldy says most of the state will feel Irma's wrath.

McNoldy says the storm will be "less costly (and) less deadly" on the state's west coast, in comparison to Florida's east coast, where there are more people.

Forecasters keep moving Irma's projected track a bit west because its long-anticipated turn north keeps getting pushed back.

McNoldy says forecasters had expected a high-pressure system to weaken further north, allowing Irma to make the turn, but it is not weakening as fast as originally forecast.
   ------
   5:50 p.m.

Agricultural charity organization Heifer International said heavy rain and floodwaters from Hurricane Irma has devastated bean and corn crops and pasture land in northern Haiti.

Hurricane Irma skirted the northwestern coast of the impoverished Caribbean country. There were no immediate reports of any deaths.

In a statement, Heifer country director Hervil Cherubin says local farmers that the organization works with were able to protect their goats and other livestock thanks to preparations ahead of time.

Cherubin warned that the flooded pasture land is expected to cause a shortage of forage in the coming months.

That and the crop loss will mean that farmers will likely require assistance in the coming months.
   ------
   5:50 p.m.

When Alix Agudelo heard Hurricane Irma was barreling toward Orlando, her mind turned to the images she recalled from Hurricane Harvey: people stranded on rooftops as the floodwaters raged around them, clinging to tree branches, wading through neck-deep, rushing water.

She bought three life jackets, just in case, one for herself, one for her 10-year-old daughter, and one for her fiance, Gia Rodriguez. They plan to hunker down in their house, with a little dog named Picasso.

Agudelo's daughter Alix Balcazar shoveled sand into bags as a city distribution center late Friday afternoon.

"I'm not scared," the girl declared, and her mother smiled.

 "We don't want her to know much," she whispered. "We pretend to be calm for the little one. She shouldn't have to feel fear."
   ------   

5:25 p.m.

Researchers calculated that Friday has had the most hurricane activity in the history of the Atlantic region.

Scientists use a measurement called Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) to give a good snapshot of hurricane activity because it combines storms' wind speeds and how long they spin at such speeds.

With Irma and Jose Category 4 storms and Katia knocking on the door Category 3, Colorado State University hurricane expert Phil Klotzbach calculated that the entire day -- based on universal time -- Friday had an ACE of 16.

That beat out the region's record of 14.3 set on Sept. 11, 1961. Thursday now ranks third for ACE with 14.2 and Wednesday ranks fourth at 14.1.

"I can't keep up with all the records," says Klotzbach, who keeps numerous hurricane records.
   ------
   5:15 p.m.
   Hurricane Irma has caused extensive flooding and damaged many homes in the Turks and Caicos Islands southeast of the Bahamas.
   Minister of Instructure Gold Ray Ewing says damage on the most populated island of Providenciales will total at least half a billion dollars.
   He says no one has yet been able to assess damage on Grand Turk and South Caicos islands.
   In an interview with The Associated Press, Ewing said that a community known as Blue Hill on the northwestern side of Providenciales is "gone" and that homes have been destroyed across the island.
   The Disaster Management Agency says it has no reports yet of any deaths in the British territory.
   Flooding is widespread and power is out throughout the island chain. There are many downed trees and utility poles, making some roads impassable.
   The storm passed near uninhabited West Caicos on Friday afternoon as it headed toward Florida.
   ------
   5:15 p.m.
   Emergency officials in Georgia are ordering the state's coastal residents to evacuate ahead of Hurricane Irma. But where should they go?
   The storm's unpredictable path beyond Florida is making that a tough question to answer. A westward shift in the storm forecast Friday put Irma's potential path in the same direction many coastal evacuees had been told to flee.
   On Thursday, when the forecast showed Irma coming up the coastline, Chatham County emergency management director Dennis Jones had told people in Savannah to "just move west."
   Jones was asked again Friday where residents should head after the National Hurricane Center moved its predicted storm track far inland into southern central Georgia.
   Jones' reply: "Honestly, I can't tell you where safe is."
   ------
   5 p.m.
   The U.S. Navy says four ships are ready to assist with Hurricane Irma relief.
   The U.S. Navy Fleet Forces Command said in a statement Friday that Adm. Phil Davidson ordered the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, the transport dock ship USS New York and the assault ship USS Iwo Jima to be in position to provide humanitarian relief if requested.
   The statement says the destroyer USS Farragut is already "conducting local operations" and has been ordered to join the group.
   The ships are capable of providing medical support, maritime security and logistical support.
   Irma, which was churning along Cuba's northern coast Friday afternoon, is expected to hit Florida early Sunday morning.
   ------
   5 p.m.
   Miami Beach resident George Neary was on one of the last flights out of Miami International Airport before it closed in preparation for Hurricane Irma.
   The American Airlines flight left for New York around noon Friday.
   "Everyone cheered when we got the OK to take off," Neary said. "It was kind of emotional for a lot of us. We didn't know until it finally left if it was actually going to leave."
   Neary says the checking-in and boarding processes were well organized Friday morning.
   Neary was planning to attend a business convention in New York and had booked his flight long before a hurricane was forecast to hit Florida. Still, he considered staying.
   "I thought about canceling my flight and staying, but I wouldn't be in my condo anyway," Neary said. "I might as well watch it from New York with my fingers crossed."
   ------
   4:45 p.m.
   Gov. Terry McAuliffe has declared a state of emergency in Virginia so officials can better prepare for Hurricane Irma and help other affected states.
   The governor's office said in a statement that the order issued Friday allows the state to mobilize resources including the Virginia National Guard. It also allows people and equipment to be staged to assist in storm response and recovery efforts.
   The statement says that while the track of Hurricane Irma is still uncertain, it appears increasingly likely that Virginia will see "significant" impacts. It says the whole state should prepare for possible flooding, high winds and storm surge.
   The governor is also urging coastal residents to know what hurricane evacuation zone they live in under the state's new plan unveiled earlier this year. A tool to look up that information is available online.
   ------
   4:45 p.m.
   Dozens of people swarmed like ants Friday filling up white bags with free sand from a huge pile dumped at the Flagler County Airport in Palm Coast, Florida, as they prepared for Hurricane Irma.
   Sheriff's deputies watched as four minimum-security county prisoners helped carry bags to residents' cars and trucks.
   Daniel Nobles needed the assistance, wincing visibly as he scoped sand into a bag.
   "It's a struggle. I have a torn muscle that goes all the way from my chest down to my ribs, and just bending over doing this is a lot of stress," said Nobles, 27. "But I have to protect my property."
   Palm Coast is located about 70 miles (113 kilometers) south of Jacksonville.
   ------
   4:30 p.m.
   The operator of two nuclear power plants in Florida says the plants will be shut down well before Hurricane Irma makes landfall.
   Florida Power and Light President Eric Silagy said Friday that the company will shut the Turkey Point and St. Lucie plants down 24 hours before the onset of hurricane-level winds. Turkey Point is located south of Miami in Homestead. St. Lucie is on the state's east coast.
   Silagy says the two plants are among the strongest structures in the world and are encased in a 6-foot-thick (1.8 meters) cement structure reinforced by steel. The plants also have multiple safety systems and are elevated about 20 feet (6.1 meters) above sea level to protect against flooding and extreme storm surges.
   Turkey Point took a direct hit from Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
   Silagy said officials "will not take any chances, and those plants will be secure."
   ------
   4:20 p.m.
   The death toll from Hurricane Irma has risen to 22 as the storm continues its destructive path through the Caribbean.
   The dead include 11 on St. Martin and St. Barts, four in the U.S. Virgin Islands and four in the British Virgin Islands. There was also one each in Barbuda, Anguilla, and Barbados.
   The toll is expected to rise as rescuers reach some of the hardest-hit areas.
   Irma weakened from a Category 5 to a still-fearsome Category 4 on Friday morning with winds of 155 mph (250 kph) as it churns along Cuba's northern coast.
   ------
   4:15 p.m.
   Uncertainty over the path of Hurricane Irma has prompted Georgia's governor to expand a pre-emptive emergency declaration to cover more than half of the state.
   By Friday afternoon, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal had declared a state of emergency for 94 of Georgia's 159 counties. The National Weather Service predicts Irma's center will cross the state line Monday as the storm churns northward from Florida. But it could arrive anywhere from the coast near Savannah to inland communities near the Georgia-Alabama line.
   Evacuations have been ordered only for six counties directly on the Georgia coast, affecting nearly 540,000 people.
   Meanwhile, President Donald Trump signed an emergency declaration Friday authorizing federal disaster aid for 30 southeast Georgia counties bracing for possible destruction from Irma.
   ------
   4:05 p.m.
   The Palm Beach Post newspaper is evacuating its building in Palm Beach County, Florida, due to Hurricane Irma.
   Publisher Timothy Burke informed the staff in a memo on Thursday night. In the memo, Burke acknowledged that some employees had arranged to have their families stay at the building while they worked.
   In a Friday email, Burke said the decision was made to allow employees to evacuate to "safer locations." He says the Post building may not be able to withstand a storm above a Category 2 hurricane. Burke says the organization had been helping staff and their families find accommodations.
   In his memo, Burke told the staff the media organization would return to its building "as soon as possible."
   ------
   3:55 p.m.
   The Homeland Security Department is temporarily waiving federal restrictions on foreign ships' transportation of cargo in order to help distribute fuel to states and territories affected by hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
   In a statement Friday, acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke said, "This is a precautionary measure to ensure we have enough fuel to support lifesaving efforts, respond to the storm, and restore critical services and critical infrastructure." The seven-day waiver specifically affects shipments of refined products, such as gasoline, in hurricane-affected areas.
   The Jones Act prohibits such shipments between U.S. points aboard foreign vessels. The last such waiver was in December 2012, for petroleum products delivered after Hurricane Sandy.
   ------
   3:45 p.m.
   Florida Gov. Rick Scott is warning that residents in South Florida only have hours left to evacuate.
   Scott on Friday told residents from seven counties that they should leave by midnight or should not get on the road.
   "If you are planning to leave and do not leave tonight, you will have to ride out this extremely dangerous storm at your own risk," Scott said.
   Hurricane Irma is expected to rip into the state over the weekend. The looming threat of the dangerous storm has triggered a massive evacuation. Those trying to flee have encountered traffic jams and there have been fuel shortages, especially in south Florida.
   Scott has urged Floridians for days to heed evacuation orders, but he has also told residents they don't need to leave the region, but instead to seek out nearby shelters.
   ------
   3:35 p.m.
   President Donald Trump says the U.S. is "prepared at the highest level" to deal with Hurricane Irma.
   Trump spoke briefly to reporters Friday before boarding Marine One to travel to Camp David for the weekend. He told reporters, "Hopefully everything will go well."
   After struggling to hear the shouted questions from reporters, he says that while the storm is "a really bad one," the U.S. is prepared for the dangerous major hurricane heading toward Florida.
   Trump received a briefing on Irma earlier in the day. He is spending the weekend at the government-owned mountain retreat in Maryland where he'll monitor the storm and hold a Cabinet meeting on Saturday.
   ------
   3:25 p.m.
   Florida's major theme parks are planning to close as Hurricane Irma approaches the state.
   Officials at Walt Disney World in Orlando announced Friday afternoon that its parks will close on Saturday and remain closed through Monday.
   Universal Orlando announced on its website that it will close at 7 p.m. Saturday and will remain closed through Monday. Officials said they anticipate reopening on Tuesday.
   SeaWorld in Orlando and Busch Gardens, which is in Tampa, also announced plans to shut down at 5 p.m. Saturday and remain closed through Monday.
   Last October, the theme parks also closed down for Hurricane Matthew, which skirted Florida's southeast coast.
   ------
   3:10 p.m.
   Florida Gov. Rick Scott is urging residents along the state's Gulf Coast to get out of evacuation zones as Hurricane Irma's path has moved slightly west.
   During a news conference on Friday afternoon in Lee County in southwest Florida, Scott warned of storm surge which could be between 6 and 12 feet.
   "You are not going to survive this if it happens," Scott told residents. "Now is the time to evacuate."
   Scott says the state hasn't closed southbound lanes on interstates because of the need to continue getting supplies into South Florida. But he says they've opened the shoulder of Interstate 75's northbound lanes from Wildwood in central Florida to the Georgia line, north of Lake City.
   ------
   3 p.m.
   South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster has yet to decide whether to order residents to evacuate ahead of Hurricane Irma.
   McMaster said he is awaiting the next update from the National Hurricane Center. He has scheduled another news conference at 6 p.m. Friday.
   Federal forecasters have shifted the center of Irma well west of South Carolina. But western parts of the state are still in Monday's forecast cone as Irma diminishes from a hurricane to a tropical depression.
   McMaster says if he orders people to leave their homes, the evacuation would take effect at 10 a.m. Saturday.
   The governor also rescinded parts of an order signed Thursday requiring health care facilities in all coastal counties to move patients inland and not take new, non-emergency patients. The order still applied to three counties.
   ------
   2:30 p.m.
   A top homeland security adviser to President Donald Trump is urging those in the path of Hurricane Irma to stay vigilant and listen to the directions of their local and state officials.
   Tom Bossert says at the White House that people in Florida and elsewhere should not be focused on the specific track of the storm, but should make preparations now to take care of themselves and their families.
   As Florida deals with gasoline shortages, Bossert says responders are bringing in as much fuel as possible.
   Bossert says the Trump administration is thankful that Congress passed the $15.3 billion disaster aid package. He says Trump may sign the bill on Friday.
   ------
   2:30 p.m.
   A top U.S. homeland security adviser says President Donald Trump's administration wants some hurricane-ravaged areas to rebuild with potential flooding in mind.
   Thomas Bossert told reporters Friday that officials are reconsidering Trump's executive order last month that rolled back President Obama's directive for flood plain buildings to adhere to tighter standards. Bossert said that people "need to build back smarter and stronger against flood plain concerns when we use federal dollars." He added that the administration will decide new standards over the next month or so.
   Trump's order last month revoked Obama's directive requiring that such projects built with federal aid take rising sea levels into account. Trump suggested the predicted risks from sea level rise driven by climate change are overblown.
   ------
   2:30 p.m.
   Authorities in Florida say a man trying to install hurricane shutters in preparation for Hurricane Irma fell from a ladder and died.
   Davie Police Sgt. Mark Leone said in an email that a 57-year-old man had been hired to install hurricane shutters Thursday morning. He fell about 15 feet (5 meters) from a ladder and hit his head on a pool deck.
   The man was taken to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
   The man's name wasn't immediately released.
   ------
   2:30 p.m.
   A 16-year-old junior professional surfer in Barbados died this week while surfing large swells generated by Hurricane Irma.
   Zander Venezia was surfing on the island's east coast when he drowned Tuesday as the hurricane churned several hundred miles away.
   Family friend and surfing instructor Alan Burke said Venezia hit his head and lost consciousness. He said it was a freak accident that occurred under blue skies and ideal surfing conditions.
   Burke said Venezia told a friend in his last words that he was surfing the best waves of his life.
   Venezia had represented Barbados on its national surfing team as a junior pro.
   ------
   2:30 p.m.
   Laura Strickling and her husband, Taylor, moved to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands three years ago from Washington, D.C., so he could take a job first as a law clerk and then with a law firm.
   They rented an apartment at the top floor of a house with a stunning view of the turquoise water of Megan's Bay, which is surrounded by low hills covered in deep green trees. The couple is used to living in tough circumstances: Taylor Strickling worked in Afghanistan for three years, helping to set up a law school, and Laura, an opera singer, visited him there often. They've also lived in Morocco.
   But she says nothing prepared them for the stress of spending the night, huddled with their 1-year-old daughter and another couple and their 1-year-old son, inside the basement apartment of the house while Hurricane Irma raged outside for 12 hours.  Strickling says she has sat through a Taliban gunfight "and this was scarier."
   When they emerged, they found that their apartment on the top floor was unscathed. All around them, though, was destruction, roofs torn from houses, the lush vegetation gone, and power lines strewn about, including across their driveway.
   Strickling says she and her husband have no plans to leave St. Thomas, although she admits she is worried about the impending approach of Hurricane Jose.
   "It's not good."
   ------
   2 p.m.
   Stevet Jeremiah lost her 2-year-old son, her house and all her belongings when Hurricane Irma slammed into the tiny island of Barbuda.
   Now she is leaving the island for good.
   Jeremiah said her mother and other son had been sent to Antigua and she and her husband were going to follow.
   She said she has "nothing, not even an ID to say my name."
   When it was still a Category 5 storm, the hurricane ripped the roof off her house and filled it with water. Jeremiah says there was "so much water beating past us, we had to crawl to get to safety." Her son was swept away in floodwaters.
   In Antigua, she planned to look for her surviving son and her mother, and start making arrangements for the 2-year-old's funeral.
   She said she has experienced hurricanes before, but "never anything like this in my life ... and I don't ever, ever, ever want to see something like this again."
   Irma practically decimated houses and other infrastructure on Barbuda, and damaged telecommunications equipment, roads and public utilities. The government has since declared the island a disaster zone and declared a state of emergency.
   Officials in Antigua launched a national campaign to open their homes to hurricane victims from Barbuda.
   ------
   1:40 p.m.
   Pope Francis is expressing solidarity with earthquake victims in Mexico as well as those in the path of Hurricane Irma.
   Francis spoke after a mass in Villavicencio, Colombia, where he said he's praying those who had lost loved ones or their homes in the disasters.
   The pope's visit to Colombia was intended to be a celebration of the country's steps toward peace. But the rising death toll from Irma and the magnitude 8.1 earthquake Thursday night in southern Mexico have somewhat dampened the spirited mood surrounding Francis' visit.
   Speaking to the disaster victims, the pope said: "I have you in my heart and am praying for you."
   ------
   1:30 p.m.
   As hundreds of thousands of people evacuate coastal Florida ahead of Hurricane Irma, Tony Marcellus was struggling to figure out how to get his elderly mother and grandfather from their home near the ocean in West Palm Beach to his place in Atlanta, 600 miles away. Flights and rental cars were sold out, so he hired an Uber driver to take them 170 miles to meet him in Orlando.
   He says he gave the driver a very nice tip.
   Getting out is requiring creative methods. Some are taking any available flight, even to random destinations. Others are combining buses, carpools, and hitching rides with strangers.
   Tony's mom Celine says she's been worried sick for days, since her father is in a wheelchair. Now she says she's got peace of mind.
   ------
   1:20 p.m.
   President Donald Trump says Hurricane Irma "is a storm of absolutely historic destructive potential."
   In a video posted to Facebook, the president urges those in Irma's path to be vigilant and heed the recommendations of all government officials.
   The storm remains a powerful threat to Florida and the Southeast Atlantic coast.
   Trump says his administration is doing all it can to help with disaster preparations, and the U.S. "stands united" to address the storm.
   He says, "We will endure and come back stronger than ever before."
   ------
   1 p.m.
   Mayor Carlos Gimenez says more than 660,000 residents of Miami-Dade County must evacuate and find hurricane-proof shelter as Irma bears down on Florida. The county plans to open 43 shelters with room for more than 100,000 people by Friday night.
   That includes the homeless. The Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust says more than 1,000 people live on the streets in Miami, and only 300 have been evacuated so far. Many are willingly moving to shelters, but some have to be detained using the `Baker Act',  a law which allows officers to hospitalize people with mental illness against their will.
   The Associated Press was there as Miami police handcuffed one man to evacuate a waterfront park. Another man resisted until police threatened to hospitalize him instead.
   Ron Book with the homeless trust says anybody who stays on the streets during this storm is "going to die."
   ------
   12:45 p.m.
   Florida's theme parks are staying open until what seems to be the last moment before Hurricane Irma carves up the peninsula.
   Universal Orlando has announced it is closing its parks Sunday, just ahead of when damaging winds should reach central Florida.
   Universal Orlando says it's closing all three of its parks at 7 p.m. on Saturday and will remain closed through Monday.
   Earlier Friday, Sea World said it will be closing its park on Sunday and Monday, as well. Disney World still has not confirmed its plans.
   At this point, all of these parks anticipate re-opening on Tuesday.
   ------
   12:15 p.m.
   Florida's emergency management division says nearly 6,000 people are already huddling in shelters ahead of Hurricane Irma.
   Most of the evacuees are gathered in shelters in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, where catastrophic Category 4 winds are expected to hit this weekend.
   Hundreds of thousands of residents have fled in anticipation of Irma's winds and storm surge, which have already killed at least 20 people in the Caribbean. Many roads leaving the state have been jammed with traffic.
   Gov. Rick Scott has directed all public schools, colleges and universities and state offices to close through Monday at least to make them available for shelter and staging of recovery efforts.
   ------
   12:10 p.m.
   Floridians fleeing Hurricane Irma have turned Atlanta's freeways into a ribbon of red neon brake lights, with traffic in some spots barely moving.
   Thousands of the evacuees have been funneled to the city, since so many them are heading north on Interstate 75 straight to Atlanta.
   Some ended up at Atlanta Motor Speedway, which opened its vast camp grounds to anyone trying to escape Irma.
   It took 21 hours for Suzanne Pallot of Miami to reach Atlanta Thursday, in an SUV packed with four other people, their luggage and two cats.
   After a night at a relative's house, she heard weather forecasts predicting tropical storm force winds for Atlanta on Monday. So the group decided Friday to keep moving, this time to Memphis, Tennessee.
   ------
   12:05 p.m.
   Georgia's governor is still urging nearly 540,000 residents of the state's coast to evacuate ahead of Hurricane Irma, even as forecasts show the storm's center could enter the state far inland after churning up the Florida peninsula.
   Gov. Nathan Deal told a news conference Friday he's not expanding his evacuation order affecting Georgia's six coastal counties.
   But Deal notes that Irma's path remains unpredictable, and forecasts show it could enter Georgia anywhere from the Atlantic coast to the Alabama state line.
   The National Weather Service says Irma could still slam coastal Georgia with dangerous storm surge. And while the storm could arrive as a weakened tropical storm, some areas would still face heavy rains and an elevated risk of tornadoes.
   ------
   11:55 a.m.
   Meteorology director Jeff Masters at Weather Underground says Hurricane Jose, now a Category 4 storm, will definitely add insult to the injuries caused by Hurricane Irma in the Caribbean.           But he says the islands that got nailed -- namely Barbuda, St. Martin and Anguila -- will mostly suffer tropical storm force winds and heavy rains.
   That will hamper relief efforts so it's a big deal, but he says it's "nothing compared to what they already went through."
   ------
   11:40 a.m.
   Hurricane Jose has now become an extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane, threatening Caribbean islands already devastated by Hurricane Irma.
   Jose now has top sustained winds of 150 mph (240 kph) and as it moves toward the northern leeward islands at a speedy 18 mph.
   A Tropical Storm Watch has been issued for St. Thomas and St. John.
   The government of Antigua has issued a Tropical Storm Watch for the British Virgin Islands
   The government of France has issued a Tropical Storm Warning for St. Martin and St. Barts.
   The government of Sint Maarten has issued a Tropical Storm Warning as well.
   ------
   11:30 a.m.
   The latest storm discussion is out from National Hurricane Center reminding people in Florida that Hurricane Irma will likely hit land as a dangerous major hurricane.
   Irma is so immense that it will bring life-threatening wind impacts to much of the state regardless of exactly where its center moves.
   The storm surge also could be deadly across southern Florida and the Florida Keys during the next 36 hours. The threat of significant storm surge flooding along the southwest coast of Florida has now increased, with 6 to 12 feet of inundation above ground level possible in this area.
   Again, the hurricane center says this is a life-threatening situation, so everyone in these areas should take all actions to evacuate before rising water makes it impossible.
   ------
   11:20 a.m.
   Associated Press videos show the destruction Hurricane Irma brought to the Caribbean island of St. Martin.
   Gnarled black branches of leafless trees, street after street now littered with piles of corrugated tin, plywood, wrought iron, battered cars and unidentifiable objects that were once parts of someone's life.
   Handfuls of people are stumbling through the debris. One reaches the property where her home has now disappeared and says "Oh my God ... Where did you go?"
   There's little left of the Hotel Mercure -- just its sign, painted on one of the walls that still stand amid the ruins. As some begin to clean up, others line up outside a hospital, where the first two syllables of an "EMERGENCY" sign lie on the ground.
   ------
   11:10 a.m.
   Authorities on the Dutch territory of St. Maarten say it will take months before people can recover from Hurricane Irma. Prime Minister William Marlin told the Dutch military that the Caribbean island lost many, many homes; schools are destroyed; both government buildings are severely damaged; many people have lost their homes; hotels are so damaged that tourists won't come; the electricity company lost its roof so generators aren't working; nearly half the water tanks are gone; and all the gas stations are destroyed.
   He also confirms that people have been looting. He calls it "a psychological thing that happens anywhere in the world following a major disaster like this. People become kind of hopeless and there is no communication."
   ------
   11 a.m.

After days of saying they would continue with normal operations while monitoring Irma, Sea World and its properties on Friday announced closings for the weekend.

Sea World and Busch Gardens Tampa Bay will close down at 5 p.m. on Saturday, pending further updates on the storm. Both parks will remain closed Sunday and Monday.

Aquatics Orlando will be closed Saturday through Monday. Discovery Cove will be closed Sunday and Monday.

Disney World and Universal Orlando have not responded for requests on updated to their plans.

As of Thursday both parks said they will continue with normal business hours but are monitoring the storm.
   ------
   10:45 a.m.

The death toll from Hurricane Irma has increased to 20 with four more deaths reported in the British Virgin Islands.

The other lives lost include nine on the French Caribbean islands of St. Martin and St. Barts, four in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and one each on the islands of Anguilla, Barbuda and the Dutch side of St. Martin.

The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency gave no details about the latest confirmed deaths in the British territory of about 40 small islands, where Irma caused major damage late Wednesday, especially to the largest and most populated island of Tortola.

The British government has been coordinating relief efforts to the cluster of islands near Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The Caribbean disaster agency says the Tortola airport is operational but the tower has been "compromised."
   ------
   10:10 a.m.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott said traffic officials have decided against reversing the direction of southbound lanes because they still need to move gas and supplies south.

A massive evacuation has clogged Florida's major highways. Scott says most of the state will have hurricane impacts and "we are running out of time -- the storm is almost here." So what they are doing is opening up the shoulders to drivers on Interstate 75 from Wildwood, where the Florida turnpike ends, to the Georgia state line.

 In Georgia meanwhile, Gov. Nathan Deal just announced contraflow starting Saturday morning on Interstate 16 to ease the mandatory evacuation from Savannah and other coastal communities.
   ------
   9:50 a.m.

Harvey and Irma. Who knew? Certainly not Harvey and Irma Schluter of Washington state. Married 75 years now, they're wondering how it came to be that two major hurricanes bearing their names are poised to strike the U.S. back-to-back.

The New York Times reports 104-year-old Harvey married 92-year-old Irma in 1942.

There have been a few storms named Harvey since then, but none followed by an Irma.

And this is likely the last time a Harvey and Irma swirl through the Atlantic.

The World Meteorological Organization alternates men's and women's names in alphabetical order for Atlantic storms. But since these two have caused widespread damage, they are almost certain to be retired.
   ------
   9:45 a.m.
   The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has told Florida's governor that the structural integrity of the Herbert Hoover Dike containing Lake Okeechobee "will not be compromised" by Hurricane Irma. But voluntary evacuations for communities surrounding the lake's southern half are now mandatory, because it's possible Irma's winds will push water over the dike.
   The seven cities under mandatory evacuation orders are South Bay, Lake Harbor, Pahokee, Moore Haven, Clewiston, Belle Glade and Canal Point.
   The same area was hit back in 1928 by the Okeechobee hurricane, which made landfall with 145 mph winds. The dikes failed then and at least 2,500 people drowned, most of them farmworkers and their families. More than 1,700 buildings were destroyed by that storm. But the only reported impact on the nearby Mar-a-Lago mansion, now owned by President Donald Trump, was a damaged Roman-style window.
   ------
   9:25 a.m.

All five living former U.S. presidents have issued a joint "One America Appeal" for donations to support the staggering recovery needs from Hurricane Harvey.

Now that Hurricane Irma has damaged Puerto Rico and is closing in on Florida, the presidents are expanding the appeal to help its victims as well.

The appeal launched with a public service announcement focused on "Our Friends in Texas" during the NFL season opener, but a second PSA addressing both hurricanes is launching this weekend, and a website for tax-deductible donations related to both storms is now live at OneAmericaAppeal.org.

A special restricted account has been established through the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library Foundation to collect and quickly distribute donations to ensure 100 cents out of every dollar goes to assist hurricane victims.

The Carter Center says Harvey has displaced more than one million people and caused an estimated $180 billion in damage over its 300-mile path of destruction.

Some forecasters have predicted that Irma's economic toll could be even greater.

******

9:10 a.m.

UPDATE (AP) -- For an entire generation in South Florida, Hurricane Andrew was the definition of a monster storm.

For the people who led victims through that devastating aftermath, Hurricane Irma is looking far worse by nearly every measure.

Weather Channel senior hurricane specialist Bryan Norcross was a local television meteorologist hailed as a hero back then. He says Irma's impact on Florida will be much greater -- "an entirely different level of phenomenon."

Kate Hale grabbed attention as Miami-Dade's emergency management chief by saying "where the hell is the cavalry" after Andrew laid waste to half the county. She says nobody could make up a worse scenario than Irma right now. Combined with flooding from Hurricane Harvey and wildfires out west, she says the effect on the nation's economy is "potentially staggering."

******
9 a.m.

MIAMI (AP) --   President Donald Trump is urging people to "be safe" as Hurricane Irma approaches.

On Twitter Friday, Trump wrote, "Hurricane Irma is of epic proportion, perhaps bigger than we have ever seen. Be safe and get out of its way, if possible."

Trump added that the federal government is ready, and in another tweet, he said: "Our incredible U.S. Coast Guard saved more than 15,000 lives last week with Harvey. Irma could be even tougher. We love our Coast Guard!"

Coastal residents around South Florida have been ordered to evacuate as the killer storm closes in on the peninsula for what could be a catastrophic blow this weekend.

******

4:55 a.m.

UPDATE (AP) -- Hurricane Irma has weakened to a Category 4 storm Friday as it batters the Caribbean on a path toward Florida but remains a powerful hurricane.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center says Irma's maximum sustained winds have decreased to near 155 mph (250 kph). The hurricane center says some fluctuations in strength are likely over the next day or two but Irma is expected to stay a Category 4 storm.

Just before 5 a.m. EDT Friday, the hurricane was centered about 55 miles (90 kilometers) northwest of Great Inagua Island and 495 miles (795 kilometers) southeast of Miami.

******
3:15 a.m.

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) -- Hurricane Irma battered the Turks and Caicos Islands early Friday as the fearsome Category 5 storm continued a rampage through the Caribbean that has killed at least 11 people, with Florida in its sights.

Waves as high as 20 feet (6 meters) are expected in the Turks and Caicos. Communications went down as the storm slammed into the islands, and the extent of the devastation was unclear.

The first hurricane warnings were issued for parts of southern Florida as the state braced for what could be a catastrophic hit over the weekend. Following in Irma's wake was Hurricane Jose, with some of the islands hit hardest by Irma in its expected path.

******

11:20 p.m.

UPDATE (AP) -- The National Hurricane Center in Miami has issued hurricane warnings for South Florida and the Keys.

Forecasters on Thursday night issued a warning for a sizeable segment of Florida, including the Miami metro area and Lake Okeechobee, as Category 5 Hurricane Irma tracks toward the state with 165 mph (270kph) winds.

A storm surge has also been issued for the same area.

Irma was 585 miles (940 kilometers) east-southeast of Miami late Thursday. The Hurricane Center predicts severe conditions to begin Saturday in Florida.

******
10:45 p.m.

UPDATE (AP) -- Florida State canceled its home football game Saturday against Louisiana-Monroe because of impending Hurricane Irma.

The cancellation Thursday night came after Florida Gov. Rick Scott ordered all state colleges and universities closed through Monday to support shelter and emergency relief efforts.

The teams do not have open dates on the same week, preventing them from rescheduling the game.

Officials on Wednesday initially moved the start time for the game in Tallahassee from 7:30 p.m. to noon.

******
10:40 p.m.

UPDATE (AP) -- The U.S. Consulate General in Curaτao says it believes about 6,000 Americans are stranded on St. Martin after Hurricane Irma leveled the Caribbean island.

The consulate is collecting the names and locations of the stranded and says it is working with the U.S. and other governments to try to figure out how to get the Americans off the island either by air or boat.

Frantic Americans were calling relatives in the U.S. to try to get them off the island, especially because Hurricane Jose threatened a second blow to the tourist Mecca.

The island is split between French and Dutch control. French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said four people were confirmed dead and 50 injured on the French side of the island. The toll could rise because rescue teams had yet to get a complete look at the damage.

******
9:05 p.m.

UPDATE (AP) -- Florida Gov. Rick Scott is ordering the closing of all schools, colleges and universities throughout the state.

Scott announced late Thursday that all schools as well as state offices would be closed Friday through next Monday.

Many school districts and universities had already voluntarily agreed to close due to the looming arrival of Hurricane Irma over the weekend. But many school districts and colleges in north central and northwest Florida had remained open.

But in a brief statement Scott said he ordered all schools to shut down so that the buildings could be used potentially as shelters or as staging grounds for relief efforts.

He said Floridians "facing a life-threatening storm" and "every family must prepare to evacuate."

******
8:55 p.m.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) -- Florida officials want residents to evacuate the area directly south of Lake Okeechobee as Hurricane Irma approaches.

Gov. Rick Scott released a statement Thursday ordering an immediate voluntary evacuation for cities surrounding the southern half of the lake from Lake Port to Canal Point in Hendry, Palm Beach and Glades counties. Mandatory evacuations will be put in place beginning Friday morning.

The statement said Scott made the decision after discussing the Herbert Hoover Dike with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Col. Jason Kirk told Scott the structural integrity of the dike would not be compromised, but excessive could wind push some water over the dike.

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