As of Thursday evening, Irma is still a Category 5 hurricane with winds of about 175 mph. Irma is one of three active hurricanes in the Atlantic basin right now. US warships are beginning Irma relief operations in the Caribbean.
Where is the storm?
– Hurricane warnings are in effect for parts of Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, the Turks and Caicos Islands, and the southeastern, central and northwestern Bahamas.
– Irma moved in on the Turks and Caicos. Storm surges could reach up to 20 feet, the National Hurricane Center says – twice as high as some of the islands’ elevations.
– Irma could be near the central Bahamas on Friday. The Bahamas ordered evacuations for six southern islands:
- Crooked Island
- Long Cay
- Ragged Island
Destruction so far
– Irma ravaged Barbuda, St. Martin and the British Virgin Islands
– France’s Prime Minister revised the death toll after the storm, saying four people died on St. Martin. One, an infant, died on Barbuda; there has also been one death reported on Anguilla and four in the US Virgin Islands.
– Barbuda’s Prime Minister says the island is barely habitable – 95% of its buildings are damaged.
– Puerto Rico was not directly impacted, but strong winds and torrential rains left hundreds of thousands without power and more than 56,000 without water.
– In the Dominican Republic, at least 7,000 people have been displaced.
Florida under hurricane watch
– It is likely that Irma will make landfall in southern Florida as a dangerous hurricane, with Miami directly in its path. “Regardless of which (Florida) coast you live on, be prepared to evacuate,” Gov. Rick Scott said.
– Florida is under a state of emergency, with impact from Irma expected by late Saturday with potential landfall on Sunday.
– The National Hurricane Center issued hurricane watches for these parts of Florida:
- The Florida Keys
- Fort Lauderdale
- West Palm Beach
– 31,000 people have evacuated the Florida keys. So far, officials labeled these counties as evacuation zones:
- Palm Beach
– 12 shelters opened in Broward County. One of its smaller shelters, Pompano Beach High School, is full. They’re directing residents in that area to Lyons Creek Middle School.
– Florida’s Emergency Information Hotline number: 1-800-342-3557.
– 7,000 National Guard troops have been activated.
– Florida Gov. Rick Scott is asking for 17,000 volunteers.
Other states in Irma’s path prepare
– Georgia’s governor declared a state of emergency for 30 counties that could be affected by the storm, and ordered evacuations in these areas (starting Saturday):
- Chatham County (including Savannah)
- Everywhere along the coast east of Interstate 95
- Brunswick and St. Simons Island
– North Carolina and South Carolina are also getting ready. Both are under states of emergency
Irma is a monster
– Hurricane Irma has maintained wind intensity above 185 mph longer than any other storm on record around the world – a total of 37 hours.
– The storm’s cloud field is 300,000 square miles, which would cover the state of Texas.
This story has been updated to reflect a change in the death toll. The French government revised its count of the number of deaths attributed to Irma in the French Caribbean from eight to four.