Tracking Hurricane Irma: ‘it’s going to devastate the United States,’ FEMA chief says

ABC NEWS– Here is the Latest on Hurricane Irma as it moves across Florida.

Hurricane Irma made landfall in the Florida Keys Sunday morning as powerful winds and rain pummeled the state, leaving at least three people dead and over 1 million households and businesses without power.

Meanwhile, about 100 miles from the Keys in Miami, wind gusts whipped around high-rise buildings at speeds approaching 100 mph, the National Weather Service said.

A strong rain band is expected in the Miami area around 10 a.m. to noon, with gusts potentially up to 100 mph

And the city of Naples, on Florida’s west coast, is bracing to be hit by the storm’s dangerous eye wall. Wind gusts of 75 mph were recorded at the Naples Airport and officials were warning people to stay indoors and away from windows.

The National Weather Service also warned Florida residents that being in the eye of a hurricane can lead to a false sense of security: “IF winds go calm, you’re in the eye. Stay inside! Winds dramatically shift and will do so violently! STAY INSIDE!”

 

Hurricane Irma shifts toward Florida’s west coast in ‘very dangerous’ situation Saturday.

Hurricane Irma, the most powerful Atlantic storm in a decade, hit Cuba overnight as a rare Category 5 storm, then shifted course toward the west coast of Florida.

The monster storm’s shift in direction creates a “very, very dangerous situation for western Florida,” said ABC News meteorologist Daniel Manzo.

As of 8 a.m. Saturday morning, Irma was a Category 4 with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph. It was about 225 miles from Miami, moving west-northwest at 12 mph.

Naples, Fort Myers and other communities on Florida’s west coast could get slammed when Irma makes landfall as a Category 4 storm, which is expected to happen between early Sunday and early Monday.

Power outages, halted flights and empty ATMs in Florida

Florida’s governor said 30,000 power outages were reported in Miami as of Saturday morning.

Florida alone should anticipate days-long power outages, FEMA said.

Ahead of Irma’s arrival in the Sunshine State, the last flights departed Friday night from Miami International Airport and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. Miami’s airport officially remains open, while Fort Lauderdale’s airport is closed for Saturday and Sunday.

Many ATM machines across southwest Florida were out of cash by late Friday night after people stocked up in case Hurricane Irma causes power outages that make debit and credit card transactions impossible, The Associated Press reported.

‘Extremely dangerous’

The National Hurricane Center on Friday cautioned that Irma, which then had maximum sustained winds of 155 mph, is “extremely dangerous,” strong enough to uproot trees, bring down power poles and rip off the roofs and some exterior walls of well-built frame homes.

“Obviously Hurricane Irma continues to be a threat that is going to devastate the United States,” Brock Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency(FEMA), said at a press conference Friday morning. “We’re going to have a couple rough days.”

Rainfall accumulations in southeast Florida and the Florida Keys are expected to reach 10 to 15 inches, with totals up to 20 inches locally. Eastern Florida up the coast to Georgia is expected to receive 8 to 12 inches, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Millions evacuate; many others take shelter

Approximately 5.6 million Floridians have either been ordered to evacuate or advised to leave voluntarily, the Florida Division of Emergency Management told ABC News late Friday night. When evacuation orders in South Carolina and Georgia are included, the number exceeds six million.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency for 94 counties in his state, and South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster issued mandatory evacuations for barrier islands in Colleton, Beaufort and Jasper.

There are facilities to shelter one million people in Florida, a FEMA spokesperson told ABC News, although there was a question whether there is enough staffing to serve all of those in shelters.

More shelters are opening in Lee County in the Fort Myers area — and in Collier County, in the Naples area, Scott said.

Palm Beach County has issued a curfew to prevent looting and other criminal activity as the storm approaches, according to a press release. The curfew goes into effect Saturday at 3 p.m. It is unclear when it will be lifted.

At least 20 people have died and thousands were left homeless after Irma battered a string of Caribbean islands on Wednesday, according to the AP. At the time, Irma was a Category 5 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 185 mph.

At least three people died from the storm in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico.

The Turks and Caicos islands were hit hard as Irma passed over the tiny archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean. A government spokesperson told ABC News the British overseas territory had sustained “catastrophic” damage.

The National Hurricane Center warned of a storm surge up to 20 feet on Turks and Caicos with 8 to 12 inches of rain for the low-lying islands through Sunday.

Long, the FEMA administrator, said Friday that the agency’s primary goal is to “stabilize the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico” by restoring power, maintaining security and bringing in life-sustaining supplies.

ABC News’ Daniel Peck and Max Golembo contributed to this report.

“Obviously Hurricane Irma continues to be a threat that is going to devastate the United States,” Brock Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator (FEMA), said at a press conference Friday morning. “We’re going to have a couple rough days.”

Irma was downgraded from a Category 5 to a Category 4 storm early Friday morning. As of 2 p.m. Eastern Time, the storm was moving 14 mph and located 380 miles southeast of Miami.

The National Weather Service cautioned that Irma is still “extremely dangerous,” with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph, which are strong enough to uproot trees, bring down power poles and rip off the roofs and some exterior walls of well-built frame homes.

The National Weather Service issued its first hurricane warnings for Florida overnight, warning residents that “preparations to protect life should be rushed to completion.”

Mandatory evacuation orders have been issued for barrier islands, coastal communities, low-lying areas and mobile homes across Florida, including the counties of Brevard, Broward, Collier, Indian River, Martin, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Palm Beach and St. John. ABC News estimates roughly 1.2 million Florida residents have been ordered to evacuate.

Meteorologists expect Irma will approach the Florida Keys and southern Florida late Saturday night and then make landfall near Miami as a strong Category 4 hurricane with winds near 140 to 145 mph sometime between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m. Eastern Time on Sunday. Overnight projections of Irma’s path showed less of a threat to the Carolinas as the monster storm appears likely to move directly up the middle of Florida and curve inland.

Meteorologists predict Irma will continue to weaken as the storm moves inland Sunday into Monday. Irma will approach Jacksonville on Monday around 8 a.m. Eastern Time with winds of about 75 mph, which would make it a dangerous Category 1 hurricane. Then, Irma should weaken rapidly to a tropical storm, depression or a remnant low later Monday as it moves across state lines into Georgia, then potentially Alabama and Tennessee on Tuesday into Wednesday, meteorologists say.

Disney World announced in a statement Friday afternoon that its theme parks and water parks — as well as Disney Springs and the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex — would be closing early Saturday and remain closed through Monday. Disney’s resort hotels will remain open.

The worst of Irma’s winds and storm surge are projected to be near Marathon and Key Largo, but meteorologists say Miami and heavily populated southeastern Florida will still be on the strongest side of the storm.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Friday declared a state of emergency in anticipation of Irma’s potential impact.

“It is unfortunate that just as our nation has begun the process to repair the catastrophic damage from Hurricane Harvey, that we are faced with another extreme storm,” McAuliffe said in a statement. “However, if there is one lesson we can take from the tragic events that occurred in Texas, it is that we must redouble our preparation efforts.”

A storm-surge warning was in effect Friday morning for the Florida Keys and the Sebastian Inlet southward around the Florida peninsula to Venice, with the National Weather Service saying there is “danger of life-threatening inundation from rising waters moving inland from the coastline, during the next 36 hours.”

Moreover, heavy rains are forecast to drench northern Florida, Georgia and even possibly South Carolina and Tennessee by Tuesday. Rainfall accumulations in southeast Florida and the Florida Keys are expected to reach 10 to 15 inches, with totals up to 20 inches locally. Eastern Florida, up the coast to Georgia, is expected to receive 8 to 12 inches, according to the National Weather Service.

Government personnel have been deployed from Alabama to North Carolina to prepare for Hurricane Irma. Florida alone should anticipate days-long power outages, FEMA said.

The Turks and Caicos islands were hit hard as Irma passed over the tiny archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean. A government spokesperson told ABC News the British overseas territory had sustained “catastrophic” damage.

The National Weather Service warned of a storm surge up to 20 feet on Turks and Caicos with 8 to 12 inches of rain for the low-lying islands through Sunday.

Meanwhile, the Bahamas began to experience the extent of Irma’s wrath Friday morning. The storm’s speed was expected to slow as the core of the hurricane passed between the Bahamas and the northern coast of Cuba.

According to The Associated Press, at least 20 people have died and thousands were left homeless as a result of Irma, the most powerful Atlantic storm in a decade, after it battered a string of Caribbean islands on Wednesday. At the time, Irma was a Category 5 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 185 mph.

Long, the FEMA administrator, said at the press conference Friday that the agency’s primary goal is to “stabilize the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico” by restoring power, maintaining security and bringing in life-sustaining supplies.

ABC News’ Daniel Peck and Max Golembo contributed to this report.

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