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HURRICANE IRMA: Florida Keys hit hard by Irma

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irma-florida.jpgHurricane Irma bludgeoned Florida on Sunday, snapping trees like matchsticks and knocking out power to more than 1 million people.

Hurling 130 mph winds, the Category 4 storm made landfall on Cudjoe Key, the National Hurricane Center said. But even more powerful could be the storm surges that threaten to swallow Florida's coastal cities. "There is imminent danger of life-threatening storm surge flooding along much of the Florida west coast, including the Florida Keys, where a storm surge warning is in effect," the hurricane center said.

"The threat of catastrophic storm surge flooding is highest along the southwest coast of Florida, where 10 to 15 feet of inundation above ground level is expected. This is a life-threatening situation." Still, not everyone heeded orders to evacuate coastal Florida.

Wayne Ploghoft is hunkered down on the third floor of a building on Marco Island -- where catastrophic storm surges are imminent.

Ploghoft said he wasn't able to evacuate because his flight plans didn't work out. Now Ploghoft and three others are holed up with stockpiles of water, canned food and battery power.

"We're all going to be OK," Ploghoft said.

But Gov. Rick Scott said Irma's wrath is unprecedented.

"We have never had anything like this before," he told CNN Sunday. In Florida and southern Georgia, more than 8 million people face hurricane-force winds topping 74 mph, said Ryan Maue of WeatherBell Analytics.

Almost the entire state of Florida is under a hurricane warning affecting at least 36 million people, with concerns of catastrophic gales, torrential rain rain and deadly storm surges.

Miami is also taking a beating from Irma. Ferocious winds knocked out power to more than 680,000 customers in the Miami-Dade area, and at least one construction crane snapped.





 

irma-florida.jpgHurricane Irma ripped roofs off houses, collapsed buildings and flooded hundreds of miles of coastline as it raked Cuba after cutting a trail of destruction across the Caribbean.

It has killed at least 22 people and has officials scrambling to bring aid on Sunday.

As Irma left Cuba and directed its 130 mph (215 kph) winds toward Florida, authorities on the island were warning of staggering damage to keys along the northern coast studded with all-inclusive resorts and cities, as well as farmland in central Cuba.

There were no immediate reports of deaths in Cuba - a country that prides itself on its disaster preparedness - but authorities were trying to restore power, clear roads and warning that people should stay off the streets of Havana because flooding could continue into Monday.

Residents of "the capital should know that the flooding is going to last more than 36 hours, in other words, it is going to persist," Civil Defense Col. Luis Angel Macareno said late Saturday, adding that the waters had reach at about 2,000 feet (600 meters) into parts of Havana.

As Irma rolled in, Cuban soldiers went through coastal towns to force residents to evacuate, taking people to shelters at government buildings and schools - and even caves.

Video images from northern and eastern Cuba showed uprooted utility poles and signs, many downed trees and extensive damage to roofs. Witnesses said a provincial museum near the eye of the storm was in ruins. And authorities in the city of Santa Clara said 39 buildings collapsed.





irma-florida.jpgST. JOHN'S, Antigua, CMC - The Antigua and Barbuda government says it has taken no decision "at this time' regarding the opening of schools on Barbuda that took the full brunt of a dangerous Category 5 Hurricane Irma last week.

Prime Minister Gaston Browne, who had ordered the evacuation of all the residents on the sister isle, has also described the situation there as "uninhabitable".

A government statement said that Cabinet met on Saturday to discuss the situation, having received an assessment from the technicians and officials from various state agencies and stakeholders including the National Office of Disaster Services, the Central Board of Health, the Antigua Public Utilities Authority and the Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda.

The statement noted that "it was however directed that a plan be formulated immediately to integrate the over five hundred students from Barbuda into the public-school system in Antigua.

"The Cabinet also agreed to commence consultations with the people of Barbuda and stakeholders on Monday 11th September ...during which Barbudans will receive an update on the current situation on the island and given the opportunity to be involved in the decision-making process".

The government said it remains "committed to the education of the children of Barbuda, the rebuilding of the island and most importantly the welfare of all Barbudans and Antiguans".

Prime Minister Browne has already indicated that it would require "hundreds of millions of dollars" to deal with the reconstruct homes and other infrastructure on Barbuda, where a two-year-old child died during the passage of the storm.





HURRICANE IRMA: Which areas have already been hit?

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irma-florida.jpgIrma is the most powerful Atlantic storm in a decade, and has already caused widespread destruction on several Caribbean islands:

Cuba: Officials have talked of "significant damage", without giving further details, but no casualties have been reported. Electricity is out across the capital, Havana

St Martin and St Barthelemy: Six out of 10 homes on St Martin, an island shared between France and the Netherlands, are now uninhabitable, French officials say. They said nine people had died and seven were missing in the French territories, while four are known to have died in Dutch Sint Maarten

Turks and Caicos Islands: Widespread damage, although extent unclear

Barbuda: The small island is said to be "barely habitable", with 95% of the buildings damaged. Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne estimates reconstruction will cost $100m One death has been confirmed

Anguilla: Extensive damage with one person confirmed dead

Puerto Rico: More than 6,000 residents of the US territory are in shelters and many more without power. At least three people have died

British Virgin Islands: Widespread damage reported, and five dead

US Virgin Islands: Damage to infrastructure was said to be widespread, with four deaths confirmed

Haiti and the Dominican Republic: Both battered by the storm, but neither had as much damage as initially feared





Potential Impact Timing

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Dominican Republic/Haiti: Thursday; tropical storm force winds will spread across the Dominican Republic during the morning and midday Thursday in Haiti

Turks and Caicos: Late Thursday-Friday

Bahamas: Friday-this weekend; tropical storm force winds may arrive as early as late Thursday

Cuba: Friday-this weekend; tropical storm force winds will may arrive as early as Thursday night

Southeast United States: This weekend into early next week, beginning in south Florida Saturday





HURRICANE IRMA: Watches and Warnings

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hurricane-irma-alerts-map.jpgA watch means hurricane or tropical storm conditions are possible within 48 hours. A warning means those conditions are expected within 36 hours.

Low wind shear, increased mid-level moisture and increasing oceanic-heat content favor that Irma will remain a powerful hurricane (Category 4 or stronger) for the next several days, though some intensity fluctuations are likely at times. At this intensity, small deviations in wind speed will not change impacts. A direct hit will be catastrophic.

The mountainous terrain of Hispañola could be enough to slightly disrupt the circulation of Irma, allowing winds to drop some, but not by much.

Given the robust nature of Irma's structure, it is possible that it will retain strength longer than currently expected, potentially into the Florida Straights as a Category 5.

Irma has been a Category 5 hurricane for more than a day and a half, which ranks it as the 7th longest lasting Category 5 in the Atlantic basin, according to Dr. Phil Klotzbach. Irma could take a run at the longest lasting Category 5 hurricane by Friday.

For the next three days, Irma will move west-northwest on the south side of a ridge of high pressure called the Bermuda high, centered in the central Atlantic.

By this weekend, Irma will begin to turn north in the direction of a departing southward dip in the jet stream that will set up in the eastern United States. Where that northward turn occurs will be critical for what impacts Irma may bring to parts of the southeastern United States.





HURRICANE IRMA: Current Storm Status

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hurricane-irma-map-new.jpgThe highest cloud tops, corresponding to the most vigorous convection, are shown in the brightest red colors. Clustering, deep convection around the center is a sign of a healthy tropical cyclone.

Irma will track just north of the Dominican Republic and Haiti on Thursday and will be near the Turks and Caicos and southeastern Bahamas by Thursday evening.

Hurricane warnings have been issued for parts of the northern coast of the Dominican Republic and Haiti, the southeastern, central and northwestern Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Additionally, a tropical storm warning is in effect for the southern coast of the Dominican Republic from Cabo Engano westward to the border with Haiti and for the coast of Haiti from south of Le Mole St. Nicholas to Port-Au-Prince. A tropical storm warning is also in effect for the Cuban provinces of Guantanamo, Holguin and Las Tunas.

A hurricane watch is also in effect Cuba from Matanzas Province eastward to Guantanamo Province and the northwestern Bahamas.





HURRICANE IRMA: Latest Status, Timing

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The center of Irma is located about 210 miles east-southeast of Grand Turk Island and is moving west-northwestward at about 17 mph.

Irma's maximum sustained winds are at 180 mph based on data from NOAA and Air Force Hurricane Hunter aircraft, after being steady at 185 mph for an astounding 35 hours.





Hurricane IRMA: Where next?

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hurricane-irma-projected-path-map.jpgThe eye of the storm is due to pass just north of Hispaniola - the Dominican Republic and Haiti - on Thursday, moving on to Turks and Caicos and the southern Bahamas by Thursday evening.

The US National Hurricane Center warned that the north of the Dominican Republic and Haiti could expect 10 inches (25cm) of rain, with storm surges lifting water levels in the Turks and Caicos Islands and south-eastern and central Bahamas by 15-20ft (4.5-6m) above normal levels.

Bahamas prime minister Hubert Minnis said his government was evacuating people from six islands in the south to the capital, Nassau, in the largest storm evacuation in the country's history.

A hurricane watch remains in place in Cuba.

By Friday, Irma could hit Florida, where mandatory evacuation orders have already been issued for residents in Miami-Dade and Miami Beach, who must leave their homes on Thursday. All hospitals in the Florida Keys archipelago will close at 7am Friday.





Hurricane IRMA: Puerto Rico

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The most recent island to be hit was Puerto Rico, where lashing winds and rains have left most of the population without power and tens of thousands without water. Images from the island showed flash flooding, and hospitals were forced to rely on generators.

Irma is the worst hurricane to hit the island since 1928, when Hurricane San Felipe killed more than 2,700 people across Puerto Rico, Guadeloupe and Florida.





Hurricane IRMA: Virgin Islands

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Significant damage has been reported from the British Virgin Islands, where critical facilities, as well as homes, businesses and supermarkets, have been devastated. Sam Branson, son of Virgin businessman Richard Branson - who saw out the storm in a bunker on his private island of Necker - said "a lot of buildings" had been destroyed.

US president Donald Trump has declared a state of emergency in the US Virgin Islands, which were also struck. There were reports of extensive damage to buildings, and of land entirely stripped of vegetation. A public health emergency has also been declared.





Hurricane IRMA: St Martin and St Barts

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The French part of the island (the southern side, St Maarten, is administered by the Netherlands) was "95% destroyed", according to Daniel Gibb, a local official, who called it "an enormous catastrophe":

I have sick people to evacuate, I have a population to evacuate because I don't know where I can shelter them.

At least six people were killed in St Martin, according to Guadeloupe prefect Eric Maire.

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, earlier said he expected Irma-related damage to St Martin and another French overseas collectivity, Saint Barthélemy (St Barts) would be "considerable". France's overseas minister, Annick Girardin, was travelling to the Caribbean with emergency teams and supplies.

The Netherlands has sent marines to St Maarten, the Dutch part of the island, where extensive damage and destruction - but so far no deaths - have been reported.





Hurricane IRMA: St Kitts & Nevis

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Prime minister Timothy Harris said St Kitts was "spared the full brunt" of Irma, but warned of "significant damage" to property and infrastructure, as well as power failures. The airport is due to reopen on Thursday.





Hurricane IRMA: Anguilla

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One person died on the British overseas territory, said Ronald Jackson, executive director of the Caribbean disaster and emergency management agency, who added that "police stations, hospitals, school facilities, three or four emergency shelters, a home for the infirm and the aged, as well as the fire station", along with many homes, had been damaged or destroyed.

The tourist board said major resorts on the island had withstood the onslaught. The airport and two ports remain closed.

The British government has been accused of a failure to respond speedily to the devastation.





Hurricane IRMA: Antigua and Barbuda

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Barbuda, the first island to feel the force of Hurricane Irma was devastated by its high winds, with Gaston Browne, prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, saying 90% of buildings had been destroyed and 60% of the population of around 1,400 people left homeless.

One person - a two-year-old child - is confirmed to have died in the storm. Michael Joseph, president of the Red Cross in Antigua and Barbuda said:

The devastation is not like we've ever seen before - we're talking about the whole country ... of Barbuda being significantly destroyed.

Critical facilities including roads and communications systems were ravaged, with the recovery effort set to take months or years. Some residents are expected to be evacuated to the larger sister island of Antigua - where damage was less severe - as part of relief efforts and ahead of the prospective arrival of Hurricane Jose this weekend.





hurricane-irma-photo-3.jpgHurricane Irma, still a category five storm with sustained wind speeds of 180mph (290kph) is heading towards the Dominican Republic, Haiti and the Bahamas which it is forecast to hit on Thursday.

Ten people are so far reported to have died as the hurricane ripped through the Caribbean: a two-year-old in Barbuda, one person in Anguilla, and eight in the French part of St Martin. It is feared the death toll will rise.

Hurricane watches are likely be issued for parts of Florida later today. Mandatory evacuations have been issued to residents in coastal areas of Florida.

Massive damage has been reported across the islands already savaged by the storm, with homes and critical facilities flattened, power failures and communications down.

On Barbuda, the prime minister, Gaston Browne, said 90% of buildings had been destroyed and 50% of the population was homeless. He blamed the carnage on global warming and criticised world leaders who deny climate change. He also said he was considering ordering residents of Barbuda to evacuate if a second Hurricane, Jose, is forecast to hit the island in the coming days.

The French part of St Martin was "95% destroyed", according to Daniel Gibb, a local official. Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, said there had been "enormous material damage" to the Dutch-administered south of the island.

France has sent an emergency team and supplies to St Martin and St Barthélemy (St Barts), both French overseas collectivities.

The UK has been criticised for its slow response to the hurricane, in the British territories in the Caribbean Theresa May has discussed launching a joint response with France, and ministers are due to hold a meeting of its emergency committee Cobra.

States of emergency are in place across the Caribbean, including in the Barbuda, US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, the most recent island to be hit with high winds and drenching rain.

Most of the population of Puerto Rico is without power and tens of thousands are without water.

The eye of the storm is due to pass just north of Hispaniola - the Dominican Republic and Haiti - on Thursday, moving on to Turks and Caicos and the southern Bahamas by Thursday evening.

Bahamas prime minister Hubert Minnis said his government was evacuating people from six islands in the south to the capital, Nassau, in the largest storm evacuation in the Bahamas' history.





hurricane-irma-photo-2.jpgUS-bound Hurricane Irma has gotten so strong that it is showing up on equipment designed to measure earthquakes.

Stephen Hicks, a seismologist at the National Oceanography Centre Southampton, said seismometer recordings on Guadeloupe, an island group in the southern Caribbean Sea, show the now-Category 5 storm approaching the Lesser Antilles, another Caribbean island group.

"Seismometer recordings from the past 48 hours on Guadeloupe show Cat. 5 #Hurricane #Irma driving closer toward the Lesser Antilles," Dr Hicks tweeted.

Hurricane Irma strengthens to Category 5, strongest possible on scale

In a later tweet, Dr Hicks clarified that background noise - for example, wind causing trees to move and crashing ocean waves - was causing seismographs to pick up Irma.

Irma, which is already the strongest hurricane ever recorded outside the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico, is likely to make landfall somewhere in Florida over the weekend.





IRMA kills 10 across the Caribean

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hurricane-irma-photo-1.jpgThe most powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricane in recorded history has killed at least 10 people across a number of Caribbean islands as it tore through the region. Florida is on high alert and has ordered evacuations, while the Carolinas and Georgia have also declared emergencies.

Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 storm, had maximum sustained wind speeds of 185mph, according to the US National Hurricane Centre. At least eight people on France's island territories have lost their lives, and images showed the island of Saint Martin devastated by wind and floodwater.

The storm has churned along a path through the Lesser Antilles and Puerto Rico, and towards the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba. Residents of Florida are preparing for a potential hit over the weekend. Irma's eye passed directly over the island of Barbuda, meaning its inhabitants were twice subjected to the fastest winds

Heavy rain and howling winds raked the neighbouring island of Antigua, sending debris flying as people huddled in their homes or government shelters.

Officials had warned people to seek protection from Irma's "onslaught" in a statement that closed with: "May God protect us all."





 

irma-florida.jpgST. JOHN'S, Antigua, CMC - The Antigua and Barbuda government says it has taken no decision "at this time' regarding the opening of schools on Barbuda that took the full brunt of a dangerous Category 5 Hurricane Irma last week.

Prime Minister Gaston Browne, who had ordered the evacuation of all the residents on the sister isle, has also described the situation there as "uninhabitable".

A government statement said that Cabinet met on Saturday to discuss the situation, having received an assessment from the technicians and officials from various state agencies and stakeholders including the National Office of Disaster Services, the Central Board of Health, the Antigua Public Utilities Authority and the Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda.

The statement noted that "it was however directed that a plan be formulated immediately to integrate the over five hundred students from Barbuda into the public-school system in Antigua.

"The Cabinet also agreed to commence consultations with the people of Barbuda and stakeholders on Monday 11th September ...during which Barbudans will receive an update on the current situation on the island and given the opportunity to be involved in the decision-making process".

The government said it remains "committed to the education of the children of Barbuda, the rebuilding of the island and most importantly the welfare of all Barbudans and Antiguans".

Prime Minister Browne has already indicated that it would require "hundreds of millions of dollars" to deal with the reconstruct homes and other infrastructure on Barbuda, where a two-year-old child died during the passage of the storm.





HURRICANE IRMA: Which areas have already been hit?

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irma-florida.jpgIrma is the most powerful Atlantic storm in a decade, and has already caused widespread destruction on several Caribbean islands:

Cuba: Officials have talked of "significant damage", without giving further details, but no casualties have been reported. Electricity is out across the capital, Havana

St Martin and St Barthelemy: Six out of 10 homes on St Martin, an island shared between France and the Netherlands, are now uninhabitable, French officials say. They said nine people had died and seven were missing in the French territories, while four are known to have died in Dutch Sint Maarten

Turks and Caicos Islands: Widespread damage, although extent unclear

Barbuda: The small island is said to be "barely habitable", with 95% of the buildings damaged. Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne estimates reconstruction will cost $100m One death has been confirmed

Anguilla: Extensive damage with one person confirmed dead

Puerto Rico: More than 6,000 residents of the US territory are in shelters and many more without power. At least three people have died

British Virgin Islands: Widespread damage reported, and five dead

US Virgin Islands: Damage to infrastructure was said to be widespread, with four deaths confirmed

Haiti and the Dominican Republic: Both battered by the storm, but neither had as much damage as initially feared





Potential Impact Timing

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Dominican Republic/Haiti: Thursday; tropical storm force winds will spread across the Dominican Republic during the morning and midday Thursday in Haiti

Turks and Caicos: Late Thursday-Friday

Bahamas: Friday-this weekend; tropical storm force winds may arrive as early as late Thursday

Cuba: Friday-this weekend; tropical storm force winds will may arrive as early as Thursday night

Southeast United States: This weekend into early next week, beginning in south Florida Saturday





HURRICANE IRMA: Watches and Warnings

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hurricane-irma-alerts-map.jpgA watch means hurricane or tropical storm conditions are possible within 48 hours. A warning means those conditions are expected within 36 hours.

Low wind shear, increased mid-level moisture and increasing oceanic-heat content favor that Irma will remain a powerful hurricane (Category 4 or stronger) for the next several days, though some intensity fluctuations are likely at times. At this intensity, small deviations in wind speed will not change impacts. A direct hit will be catastrophic.

The mountainous terrain of Hispañola could be enough to slightly disrupt the circulation of Irma, allowing winds to drop some, but not by much.

Given the robust nature of Irma's structure, it is possible that it will retain strength longer than currently expected, potentially into the Florida Straights as a Category 5.

Irma has been a Category 5 hurricane for more than a day and a half, which ranks it as the 7th longest lasting Category 5 in the Atlantic basin, according to Dr. Phil Klotzbach. Irma could take a run at the longest lasting Category 5 hurricane by Friday.

For the next three days, Irma will move west-northwest on the south side of a ridge of high pressure called the Bermuda high, centered in the central Atlantic.

By this weekend, Irma will begin to turn north in the direction of a departing southward dip in the jet stream that will set up in the eastern United States. Where that northward turn occurs will be critical for what impacts Irma may bring to parts of the southeastern United States.





HURRICANE IRMA: Current Storm Status

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hurricane-irma-map-new.jpgThe highest cloud tops, corresponding to the most vigorous convection, are shown in the brightest red colors. Clustering, deep convection around the center is a sign of a healthy tropical cyclone.

Irma will track just north of the Dominican Republic and Haiti on Thursday and will be near the Turks and Caicos and southeastern Bahamas by Thursday evening.

Hurricane warnings have been issued for parts of the northern coast of the Dominican Republic and Haiti, the southeastern, central and northwestern Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Additionally, a tropical storm warning is in effect for the southern coast of the Dominican Republic from Cabo Engano westward to the border with Haiti and for the coast of Haiti from south of Le Mole St. Nicholas to Port-Au-Prince. A tropical storm warning is also in effect for the Cuban provinces of Guantanamo, Holguin and Las Tunas.

A hurricane watch is also in effect Cuba from Matanzas Province eastward to Guantanamo Province and the northwestern Bahamas.





HURRICANE IRMA: Latest Status, Timing

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The center of Irma is located about 210 miles east-southeast of Grand Turk Island and is moving west-northwestward at about 17 mph.

Irma's maximum sustained winds are at 180 mph based on data from NOAA and Air Force Hurricane Hunter aircraft, after being steady at 185 mph for an astounding 35 hours.





Hurricane IRMA: Where next?

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hurricane-irma-projected-path-map.jpgThe eye of the storm is due to pass just north of Hispaniola - the Dominican Republic and Haiti - on Thursday, moving on to Turks and Caicos and the southern Bahamas by Thursday evening.

The US National Hurricane Center warned that the north of the Dominican Republic and Haiti could expect 10 inches (25cm) of rain, with storm surges lifting water levels in the Turks and Caicos Islands and south-eastern and central Bahamas by 15-20ft (4.5-6m) above normal levels.

Bahamas prime minister Hubert Minnis said his government was evacuating people from six islands in the south to the capital, Nassau, in the largest storm evacuation in the country's history.

A hurricane watch remains in place in Cuba.

By Friday, Irma could hit Florida, where mandatory evacuation orders have already been issued for residents in Miami-Dade and Miami Beach, who must leave their homes on Thursday. All hospitals in the Florida Keys archipelago will close at 7am Friday.





Hurricane IRMA: Puerto Rico

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The most recent island to be hit was Puerto Rico, where lashing winds and rains have left most of the population without power and tens of thousands without water. Images from the island showed flash flooding, and hospitals were forced to rely on generators.

Irma is the worst hurricane to hit the island since 1928, when Hurricane San Felipe killed more than 2,700 people across Puerto Rico, Guadeloupe and Florida.





Hurricane IRMA: Virgin Islands

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Significant damage has been reported from the British Virgin Islands, where critical facilities, as well as homes, businesses and supermarkets, have been devastated. Sam Branson, son of Virgin businessman Richard Branson - who saw out the storm in a bunker on his private island of Necker - said "a lot of buildings" had been destroyed.

US president Donald Trump has declared a state of emergency in the US Virgin Islands, which were also struck. There were reports of extensive damage to buildings, and of land entirely stripped of vegetation. A public health emergency has also been declared.





Hurricane IRMA: St Martin and St Barts

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The French part of the island (the southern side, St Maarten, is administered by the Netherlands) was "95% destroyed", according to Daniel Gibb, a local official, who called it "an enormous catastrophe":

I have sick people to evacuate, I have a population to evacuate because I don't know where I can shelter them.

At least six people were killed in St Martin, according to Guadeloupe prefect Eric Maire.

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, earlier said he expected Irma-related damage to St Martin and another French overseas collectivity, Saint Barthélemy (St Barts) would be "considerable". France's overseas minister, Annick Girardin, was travelling to the Caribbean with emergency teams and supplies.

The Netherlands has sent marines to St Maarten, the Dutch part of the island, where extensive damage and destruction - but so far no deaths - have been reported.





Hurricane IRMA: St Kitts & Nevis

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Prime minister Timothy Harris said St Kitts was "spared the full brunt" of Irma, but warned of "significant damage" to property and infrastructure, as well as power failures. The airport is due to reopen on Thursday.





Hurricane IRMA: Anguilla

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One person died on the British overseas territory, said Ronald Jackson, executive director of the Caribbean disaster and emergency management agency, who added that "police stations, hospitals, school facilities, three or four emergency shelters, a home for the infirm and the aged, as well as the fire station", along with many homes, had been damaged or destroyed.

The tourist board said major resorts on the island had withstood the onslaught. The airport and two ports remain closed.

The British government has been accused of a failure to respond speedily to the devastation.





Hurricane IRMA: Antigua and Barbuda

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Barbuda, the first island to feel the force of Hurricane Irma was devastated by its high winds, with Gaston Browne, prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, saying 90% of buildings had been destroyed and 60% of the population of around 1,400 people left homeless.

One person - a two-year-old child - is confirmed to have died in the storm. Michael Joseph, president of the Red Cross in Antigua and Barbuda said:

The devastation is not like we've ever seen before - we're talking about the whole country ... of Barbuda being significantly destroyed.

Critical facilities including roads and communications systems were ravaged, with the recovery effort set to take months or years. Some residents are expected to be evacuated to the larger sister island of Antigua - where damage was less severe - as part of relief efforts and ahead of the prospective arrival of Hurricane Jose this weekend.





hurricane-irma-photo-3.jpgHurricane Irma, still a category five storm with sustained wind speeds of 180mph (290kph) is heading towards the Dominican Republic, Haiti and the Bahamas which it is forecast to hit on Thursday.

Ten people are so far reported to have died as the hurricane ripped through the Caribbean: a two-year-old in Barbuda, one person in Anguilla, and eight in the French part of St Martin. It is feared the death toll will rise.

Hurricane watches are likely be issued for parts of Florida later today. Mandatory evacuations have been issued to residents in coastal areas of Florida.

Massive damage has been reported across the islands already savaged by the storm, with homes and critical facilities flattened, power failures and communications down.

On Barbuda, the prime minister, Gaston Browne, said 90% of buildings had been destroyed and 50% of the population was homeless. He blamed the carnage on global warming and criticised world leaders who deny climate change. He also said he was considering ordering residents of Barbuda to evacuate if a second Hurricane, Jose, is forecast to hit the island in the coming days.

The French part of St Martin was "95% destroyed", according to Daniel Gibb, a local official. Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, said there had been "enormous material damage" to the Dutch-administered south of the island.

France has sent an emergency team and supplies to St Martin and St Barthélemy (St Barts), both French overseas collectivities.

The UK has been criticised for its slow response to the hurricane, in the British territories in the Caribbean Theresa May has discussed launching a joint response with France, and ministers are due to hold a meeting of its emergency committee Cobra.

States of emergency are in place across the Caribbean, including in the Barbuda, US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, the most recent island to be hit with high winds and drenching rain.

Most of the population of Puerto Rico is without power and tens of thousands are without water.

The eye of the storm is due to pass just north of Hispaniola - the Dominican Republic and Haiti - on Thursday, moving on to Turks and Caicos and the southern Bahamas by Thursday evening.

Bahamas prime minister Hubert Minnis said his government was evacuating people from six islands in the south to the capital, Nassau, in the largest storm evacuation in the Bahamas' history.





hurricane-irma-photo-2.jpgUS-bound Hurricane Irma has gotten so strong that it is showing up on equipment designed to measure earthquakes.

Stephen Hicks, a seismologist at the National Oceanography Centre Southampton, said seismometer recordings on Guadeloupe, an island group in the southern Caribbean Sea, show the now-Category 5 storm approaching the Lesser Antilles, another Caribbean island group.

"Seismometer recordings from the past 48 hours on Guadeloupe show Cat. 5 #Hurricane #Irma driving closer toward the Lesser Antilles," Dr Hicks tweeted.

Hurricane Irma strengthens to Category 5, strongest possible on scale

In a later tweet, Dr Hicks clarified that background noise - for example, wind causing trees to move and crashing ocean waves - was causing seismographs to pick up Irma.

Irma, which is already the strongest hurricane ever recorded outside the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico, is likely to make landfall somewhere in Florida over the weekend.





IRMA kills 10 across the Caribean

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hurricane-irma-photo-1.jpgThe most powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricane in recorded history has killed at least 10 people across a number of Caribbean islands as it tore through the region. Florida is on high alert and has ordered evacuations, while the Carolinas and Georgia have also declared emergencies.

Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 storm, had maximum sustained wind speeds of 185mph, according to the US National Hurricane Centre. At least eight people on France's island territories have lost their lives, and images showed the island of Saint Martin devastated by wind and floodwater.

The storm has churned along a path through the Lesser Antilles and Puerto Rico, and towards the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba. Residents of Florida are preparing for a potential hit over the weekend. Irma's eye passed directly over the island of Barbuda, meaning its inhabitants were twice subjected to the fastest winds

Heavy rain and howling winds raked the neighbouring island of Antigua, sending debris flying as people huddled in their homes or government shelters.

Officials had warned people to seek protection from Irma's "onslaught" in a statement that closed with: "May God protect us all."





 

HURRICANE IRMA: Which areas have already been hit?

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irma-florida.jpgIrma is the most powerful Atlantic storm in a decade, and has already caused widespread destruction on several Caribbean islands:

Cuba: Officials have talked of "significant damage", without giving further details, but no casualties have been reported. Electricity is out across the capital, Havana

St Martin and St Barthelemy: Six out of 10 homes on St Martin, an island shared between France and the Netherlands, are now uninhabitable, French officials say. They said nine people had died and seven were missing in the French territories, while four are known to have died in Dutch Sint Maarten

Turks and Caicos Islands: Widespread damage, although extent unclear

Barbuda: The small island is said to be "barely habitable", with 95% of the buildings damaged. Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne estimates reconstruction will cost $100m One death has been confirmed

Anguilla: Extensive damage with one person confirmed dead

Puerto Rico: More than 6,000 residents of the US territory are in shelters and many more without power. At least three people have died

British Virgin Islands: Widespread damage reported, and five dead

US Virgin Islands: Damage to infrastructure was said to be widespread, with four deaths confirmed

Haiti and the Dominican Republic: Both battered by the storm, but neither had as much damage as initially feared





Potential Impact Timing

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Dominican Republic/Haiti: Thursday; tropical storm force winds will spread across the Dominican Republic during the morning and midday Thursday in Haiti

Turks and Caicos: Late Thursday-Friday

Bahamas: Friday-this weekend; tropical storm force winds may arrive as early as late Thursday

Cuba: Friday-this weekend; tropical storm force winds will may arrive as early as Thursday night

Southeast United States: This weekend into early next week, beginning in south Florida Saturday





HURRICANE IRMA: Watches and Warnings

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hurricane-irma-alerts-map.jpgA watch means hurricane or tropical storm conditions are possible within 48 hours. A warning means those conditions are expected within 36 hours.

Low wind shear, increased mid-level moisture and increasing oceanic-heat content favor that Irma will remain a powerful hurricane (Category 4 or stronger) for the next several days, though some intensity fluctuations are likely at times. At this intensity, small deviations in wind speed will not change impacts. A direct hit will be catastrophic.

The mountainous terrain of Hispañola could be enough to slightly disrupt the circulation of Irma, allowing winds to drop some, but not by much.

Given the robust nature of Irma's structure, it is possible that it will retain strength longer than currently expected, potentially into the Florida Straights as a Category 5.

Irma has been a Category 5 hurricane for more than a day and a half, which ranks it as the 7th longest lasting Category 5 in the Atlantic basin, according to Dr. Phil Klotzbach. Irma could take a run at the longest lasting Category 5 hurricane by Friday.

For the next three days, Irma will move west-northwest on the south side of a ridge of high pressure called the Bermuda high, centered in the central Atlantic.

By this weekend, Irma will begin to turn north in the direction of a departing southward dip in the jet stream that will set up in the eastern United States. Where that northward turn occurs will be critical for what impacts Irma may bring to parts of the southeastern United States.





HURRICANE IRMA: Current Storm Status

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hurricane-irma-map-new.jpgThe highest cloud tops, corresponding to the most vigorous convection, are shown in the brightest red colors. Clustering, deep convection around the center is a sign of a healthy tropical cyclone.

Irma will track just north of the Dominican Republic and Haiti on Thursday and will be near the Turks and Caicos and southeastern Bahamas by Thursday evening.

Hurricane warnings have been issued for parts of the northern coast of the Dominican Republic and Haiti, the southeastern, central and northwestern Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Additionally, a tropical storm warning is in effect for the southern coast of the Dominican Republic from Cabo Engano westward to the border with Haiti and for the coast of Haiti from south of Le Mole St. Nicholas to Port-Au-Prince. A tropical storm warning is also in effect for the Cuban provinces of Guantanamo, Holguin and Las Tunas.

A hurricane watch is also in effect Cuba from Matanzas Province eastward to Guantanamo Province and the northwestern Bahamas.





HURRICANE IRMA: Latest Status, Timing

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The center of Irma is located about 210 miles east-southeast of Grand Turk Island and is moving west-northwestward at about 17 mph.

Irma's maximum sustained winds are at 180 mph based on data from NOAA and Air Force Hurricane Hunter aircraft, after being steady at 185 mph for an astounding 35 hours.





Hurricane IRMA: Where next?

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hurricane-irma-projected-path-map.jpgThe eye of the storm is due to pass just north of Hispaniola - the Dominican Republic and Haiti - on Thursday, moving on to Turks and Caicos and the southern Bahamas by Thursday evening.

The US National Hurricane Center warned that the north of the Dominican Republic and Haiti could expect 10 inches (25cm) of rain, with storm surges lifting water levels in the Turks and Caicos Islands and south-eastern and central Bahamas by 15-20ft (4.5-6m) above normal levels.

Bahamas prime minister Hubert Minnis said his government was evacuating people from six islands in the south to the capital, Nassau, in the largest storm evacuation in the country's history.

A hurricane watch remains in place in Cuba.

By Friday, Irma could hit Florida, where mandatory evacuation orders have already been issued for residents in Miami-Dade and Miami Beach, who must leave their homes on Thursday. All hospitals in the Florida Keys archipelago will close at 7am Friday.





Hurricane IRMA: Puerto Rico

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The most recent island to be hit was Puerto Rico, where lashing winds and rains have left most of the population without power and tens of thousands without water. Images from the island showed flash flooding, and hospitals were forced to rely on generators.

Irma is the worst hurricane to hit the island since 1928, when Hurricane San Felipe killed more than 2,700 people across Puerto Rico, Guadeloupe and Florida.





Hurricane IRMA: Virgin Islands

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Significant damage has been reported from the British Virgin Islands, where critical facilities, as well as homes, businesses and supermarkets, have been devastated. Sam Branson, son of Virgin businessman Richard Branson - who saw out the storm in a bunker on his private island of Necker - said "a lot of buildings" had been destroyed.

US president Donald Trump has declared a state of emergency in the US Virgin Islands, which were also struck. There were reports of extensive damage to buildings, and of land entirely stripped of vegetation. A public health emergency has also been declared.





Hurricane IRMA: St Martin and St Barts

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The French part of the island (the southern side, St Maarten, is administered by the Netherlands) was "95% destroyed", according to Daniel Gibb, a local official, who called it "an enormous catastrophe":

I have sick people to evacuate, I have a population to evacuate because I don't know where I can shelter them.

At least six people were killed in St Martin, according to Guadeloupe prefect Eric Maire.

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, earlier said he expected Irma-related damage to St Martin and another French overseas collectivity, Saint Barthélemy (St Barts) would be "considerable". France's overseas minister, Annick Girardin, was travelling to the Caribbean with emergency teams and supplies.

The Netherlands has sent marines to St Maarten, the Dutch part of the island, where extensive damage and destruction - but so far no deaths - have been reported.





Hurricane IRMA: St Kitts & Nevis

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Prime minister Timothy Harris said St Kitts was "spared the full brunt" of Irma, but warned of "significant damage" to property and infrastructure, as well as power failures. The airport is due to reopen on Thursday.





Hurricane IRMA: Anguilla

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One person died on the British overseas territory, said Ronald Jackson, executive director of the Caribbean disaster and emergency management agency, who added that "police stations, hospitals, school facilities, three or four emergency shelters, a home for the infirm and the aged, as well as the fire station", along with many homes, had been damaged or destroyed.

The tourist board said major resorts on the island had withstood the onslaught. The airport and two ports remain closed.

The British government has been accused of a failure to respond speedily to the devastation.





Hurricane IRMA: Antigua and Barbuda

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Barbuda, the first island to feel the force of Hurricane Irma was devastated by its high winds, with Gaston Browne, prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, saying 90% of buildings had been destroyed and 60% of the population of around 1,400 people left homeless.

One person - a two-year-old child - is confirmed to have died in the storm. Michael Joseph, president of the Red Cross in Antigua and Barbuda said:

The devastation is not like we've ever seen before - we're talking about the whole country ... of Barbuda being significantly destroyed.

Critical facilities including roads and communications systems were ravaged, with the recovery effort set to take months or years. Some residents are expected to be evacuated to the larger sister island of Antigua - where damage was less severe - as part of relief efforts and ahead of the prospective arrival of Hurricane Jose this weekend.





hurricane-irma-photo-3.jpgHurricane Irma, still a category five storm with sustained wind speeds of 180mph (290kph) is heading towards the Dominican Republic, Haiti and the Bahamas which it is forecast to hit on Thursday.

Ten people are so far reported to have died as the hurricane ripped through the Caribbean: a two-year-old in Barbuda, one person in Anguilla, and eight in the French part of St Martin. It is feared the death toll will rise.

Hurricane watches are likely be issued for parts of Florida later today. Mandatory evacuations have been issued to residents in coastal areas of Florida.

Massive damage has been reported across the islands already savaged by the storm, with homes and critical facilities flattened, power failures and communications down.

On Barbuda, the prime minister, Gaston Browne, said 90% of buildings had been destroyed and 50% of the population was homeless. He blamed the carnage on global warming and criticised world leaders who deny climate change. He also said he was considering ordering residents of Barbuda to evacuate if a second Hurricane, Jose, is forecast to hit the island in the coming days.

The French part of St Martin was "95% destroyed", according to Daniel Gibb, a local official. Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, said there had been "enormous material damage" to the Dutch-administered south of the island.

France has sent an emergency team and supplies to St Martin and St Barthélemy (St Barts), both French overseas collectivities.

The UK has been criticised for its slow response to the hurricane, in the British territories in the Caribbean Theresa May has discussed launching a joint response with France, and ministers are due to hold a meeting of its emergency committee Cobra.

States of emergency are in place across the Caribbean, including in the Barbuda, US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, the most recent island to be hit with high winds and drenching rain.

Most of the population of Puerto Rico is without power and tens of thousands are without water.

The eye of the storm is due to pass just north of Hispaniola - the Dominican Republic and Haiti - on Thursday, moving on to Turks and Caicos and the southern Bahamas by Thursday evening.

Bahamas prime minister Hubert Minnis said his government was evacuating people from six islands in the south to the capital, Nassau, in the largest storm evacuation in the Bahamas' history.





hurricane-irma-photo-2.jpgUS-bound Hurricane Irma has gotten so strong that it is showing up on equipment designed to measure earthquakes.

Stephen Hicks, a seismologist at the National Oceanography Centre Southampton, said seismometer recordings on Guadeloupe, an island group in the southern Caribbean Sea, show the now-Category 5 storm approaching the Lesser Antilles, another Caribbean island group.

"Seismometer recordings from the past 48 hours on Guadeloupe show Cat. 5 #Hurricane #Irma driving closer toward the Lesser Antilles," Dr Hicks tweeted.

Hurricane Irma strengthens to Category 5, strongest possible on scale

In a later tweet, Dr Hicks clarified that background noise - for example, wind causing trees to move and crashing ocean waves - was causing seismographs to pick up Irma.

Irma, which is already the strongest hurricane ever recorded outside the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico, is likely to make landfall somewhere in Florida over the weekend.





IRMA kills 10 across the Caribean

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hurricane-irma-photo-1.jpgThe most powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricane in recorded history has killed at least 10 people across a number of Caribbean islands as it tore through the region. Florida is on high alert and has ordered evacuations, while the Carolinas and Georgia have also declared emergencies.

Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 storm, had maximum sustained wind speeds of 185mph, according to the US National Hurricane Centre. At least eight people on France's island territories have lost their lives, and images showed the island of Saint Martin devastated by wind and floodwater.

The storm has churned along a path through the Lesser Antilles and Puerto Rico, and towards the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba. Residents of Florida are preparing for a potential hit over the weekend. Irma's eye passed directly over the island of Barbuda, meaning its inhabitants were twice subjected to the fastest winds

Heavy rain and howling winds raked the neighbouring island of Antigua, sending debris flying as people huddled in their homes or government shelters.

Officials had warned people to seek protection from Irma's "onslaught" in a statement that closed with: "May God protect us all."





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