Hurricane Irma heads away from Cuba

Bossert

Bossert

He said the numbers are early estimates and could change.

With Irma now heading toward Florida's west coast, Tampa, which last witnessed a category 3 hurricane nearly a hundred years ago, risks failing the Irma test with an ominous forecast estimating the damage at half a million of homes and hundreds of casualties.

Hurricane Irma's current forecast track is not looking good for Florida.

After waiting for hours, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster evacuated seven barriers islands and a beach. Reports of fallen trees and downed power lines are emerging.

Jacksonville grappled with a record storm surge on Monday, prompting the Coast Guard to deploy boats to rescue residents. But more inland communities could see heavy winds and rain along with an elevated risk of tornadoes. But officials urged patience.

But unlike with Harvey, unsafe winds will barely abate once Irma makes landfall on Sunday morning. "Let's just say a prayer we hope we make it through". "We've got debris all over the state".

"Our hurricane-proof door was bending in, it was warping. and the entire house was shaking like it was an natural disaster", she said.

Irma, which prompted one of the largest evacuations in U.S. history, was a Category 4 hurricane about 20 miles (30 km) east-southeast of Key West, Florida, as of 8 a.m. EDT (1200 GMT), the NHC reported.

- Five storm-related deaths have been reported.

Given its mammoth size and strength and its projected course, Irma could prove one of the most devastating hurricanes ever to hit Florida.

The National Weather Service said a wind gust of 74 miles per hour, the first hurricane-force wind gust, was recorded at the Smith Shoal Light station in the Florida Keys on Saturday night.

Thompson, the head of the English department at Anguilla's only high school, said: "I don't even know something that's not destroyed".

Officials in Florida have ordered a total of 6.3 million people, or about a third of the state's population, to evacuate, creating massive traffic jams on highways and overcrowding shelters.

Tampa Electric announced Saturday afternoon that it's preparing for extensive power outages that could affect 300,000 to 500,000 customers - or 45 to 70 percent of the entire system. Now the area has around 3 million people. This represents over 59% of all power company accounts in the state, the Florida Division of Emergency Management said.

Florida outages for Duke Energy Corp, which serves the northern and central parts of the state, held at around 1.2 million, according to the company's website, and Duke's outages in North and SC eased below a peak of 160,000.

- All storm surge warnings and tropical storm warnings were discontinued Monday night.

The westward shift prompted Pinellas County, home to St. Petersburg, to order 260,000 people to leave, while Georgia scaled back evacuation orders for some coastal residents.

The full extent of the damage is still unknown.

Rain from Irma could reach north Alabama by Monday evening.

More than 180,000 people huddled in shelters in Florida, and officials warned it could take weeks for electricity to be restored to everyone.

Wind gusts near hurricane force began to batter the Florida Keys late on Saturday, the NHC said, with Key West seeing gusts of up to 89 miles per hour on Sunday morning and water levels about 2 feet (61 cm) above normal.

Operations at the airport resumed at 4 a.m. EDT, but a check of the airport's website Tuesday morning showed many flights still canceled. But they fear Irma could prove more risky.

Officials in other states also were preparing Saturday for Irma. The storm is expected to have a storm surge anywhere from 5 feet to over 12 feet in some regions.

"I kept saying, 'Lord, please stop this, and soon, soon, '" said Basch, who was evacuated to Puerto Rico.

Irma turned Jacksonville's Memorial Park into an unrecognizable lake.

Tampa has not taken a direct hit from a major hurricane in almost a century.

Irma flooded portions of the Battery, the downtown Charleston neighborhood, prompting police to ask residents to avoid the area.

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