Miami was thrown a lifeline on Saturday as Hurricane Irma’s path veered west, narrowly avoiding a direct hit from the storm.
Irma is expected to make landfall in Florida on Sunday as a Category 4 hurricane, bringing with it 130mph winds and life threatening rain. Miami had been on course for a direct hit but will no longer suffer the brunt of the devastation.
Southwest Florida, which is already under evacuation orders and hurricane warnings, is now at higher risk.
No matter where Irma hits directly, the entire state will feel her wrath and 5.6million people have been evacuated in anticipation of it.
Late on Friday night, Irma made landfall in Cuba as a Category 5 storm. It is still battering the country as it moves towards southern Florida which it is expected to hit on Sunday afternoon.
None of the Florida Keys are safe and anyone who is still there has been told their chances of survival are slim.
On Saturday morning, Irma was 222 miles southeast of Florida. Winds reached 130mph and she remained a Category 4 hurricane after gaining strength again overnight to become a Category 5 then weakening again.
A satellite image taken late on Friday night shows Hurricane Irma over Cuba where it is thrashing the country with 130mph wind and rain. It is fast approaching Florida where it will make landfall on Sunday but it is now expected to hit the southwest coast and avoid a direct hit on Miami
The latest map shows how Irma will move away from Cuba on Saturday and towards Florida on Sunday as a Category 4. It was expected to hit Miami but it is now likely to make landfall on the southwest coast, closer to Naples, and move up towards Tampa. All of Florida will however feel the effects of the monstrous storm with heavy rain and wind forecast
In the largest evacuation effort in US history, 5.6million people in the Sunshine State and in parts of Georgia have been told to leave their home before Irma strikes on Sunday afternoon.
All of the airports in southeast Florida are now closed and anyone who is still there is being told to leave urgently or take refuge in one of the shelters being set up.
In Miami, officials admitted they were ‘rewriting the book’ as they went along to try to prepare for Irma. Evacuees who have been able to get to a shelter compared the cramped conditions inside to Guantanamo Bay.
Some people are being turned away as high schools and other public spaces reach capacity.
As of Friday night, only 21 of the 42 planned shelters in Miami Dade County, which takes in a huge swathe of the city, had been announced.
The monstrous hurricane has already claimed 24 lives in the Caribbean and wiped out entire small islands.
On Saturday morning, it had Cuba in its grip and was pounding the country with torrential rain and winds of up to 130mph.
There will still be strong wind and life threatening rain in Miami (above on Friday) as Irma hits the southwest coast
A graphic shows all of the areas which are expected to be hit by Irma as it moves through Florida on Sunday
Miami International Airport cancelled all of its flights for the weekend and closed at 9pm on Friday night
Lines of people formed outside shelters across parts of Florida on Friday including this one in Fort Lauderdale
People are being evacuated from the parts of the state in buses. Those who cannot get out of far enough themselves are to take shelter in one of the dozens of centers being set up
People wait to enter Miami Southridge High School that is being used as a shelter for evacuees as Hurricane Irma approaches
The largest evacuation in US history is under way as more than 5.6million people were ordered to leave Florida before Hurricane Irma strikes the Sunshine State.
On Friday, Florida’s Governor Rick Scott urged people who had not left yet to leave as soon as possible, telling them that anytime after midnight on Saturday would be too late.
He explained that the biggest concern with the powerful hurricane is the predicted storm surge that will come along with the lashing winds and heavy rains.
The storm was downgraded to Category 4 yesterday before being pushed back up to Category 5 – but has again been relegated to Category 4 this morning by the National Hurricane Center.
Andrew Sussman, the state’s hurricane program manager, said the total of those urged to flee Florida includes people throughout the southern half of the state as well as those living in inland Florida in substandard housing.
Florida is the nation’s third-largest state with nearly 21million people, according to the U.S. Census. Universal Studios joined Disney World, SeaWorld and Legoland in closing as the megastorm heads north.
Meteorologists expect the powerful hurricane to hit the state tomorrow. The hurricane is currently raging off the northeastern coast of Cuba, with wind speeds of 160mph. The outer bands of the hurricane have already reached the U.S., with south Florida and the Keys experiencing increased rain and wind speeds.
Hurricane Irma made landfall in Camaguey archipelago, just off the northern coast of Cuba, around 11.10pm ET yesterday. This is the first Category 5 storm to hit the island since 1924.
Traffic backs in the north-bound lanes of Interstate 75 near the Georgia-Florida state line as people flee Hurricane Irma
Hundreds of people gather in an emergency shelter at the Miami-Dade County Fair Expo Center in Miami, Florida
At Miami Coral Park Senior High School, evacuees fill every corner at the evacuation center
Above an empty street is pictured in the heart of downtown Miami as one man rides his bicycle
Above boarded up buildings are seen in preparation of Hurricane Irma during a mandatory evacuation in Miami Beach, Florida
Above Gustavo Mejia (left) and his nephew Juan Mejia (right) take a selfie in front of a boarded up hotel in Miami
A surfer enjoys the waves as people in the area await the arrival of Hurricane Irma in Miami Beach
Yvette Sedeno, 62, left, and Ray Sedeno, 62, install storm shutters on to their windows on their lanai while preparing for the arrival of Hurricane Irma on Friday, in Dade County, which is south of Miami
From space: The deadly hurricane is passing by Cuba’s northern coast on its way to Florida
In this geocolor image GOES-16 satellite image taken on Friday, Hurricane Irma, center, approaches Cuba and Florida, with Hurricane Katia, left, in the Gulf of Mexico, and Hurricane Jose, right, in the Atlantic Ocean
Hurricane Irma is driving toward Florida passing the eastern end of Cuba as Hurricane Katia (L) is also seen in this NASA GOES satellite image taken at 5.37pm ET on Friday
A photo of Hurricane Irma on Thursday, taken by NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik on the International Space Station.
Pictured above is an image of Hurricane Irma (left) and Hurricane Jose (right) taken around 9.30pm ET on Friday
‘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.’
The storm was first downgraded from a Category 5 to a Category 4 earlier on Friday morning.
But on Friday night, it was again made a Category 5 storm before being relegated back to 4 early this morning.
Government officials along with the National Hurricane Center have cautioned that Irma is ‘extremely dangerous’ with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph. That’s strong enough to bring down power poles, uproot trees and rip the roofs off of homes.
Apocalyptic scenes played out across the Sunshine State, as millions of people fled Hurricane Irma’s wrath.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott advised for residents in the southern coastal evacuation areas to leave by midnight.
‘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 at a Friday press conference.
He also urged residents on the Gulf Coast to take evacuation orders seriously since Irma’s path has moved slightly west.
‘You are not going to survive this if it happens,’ Scott said. ‘Now is the time to evacuate.’
CURRENT EVACUATION ORDERS FOR THE U.S.
Monroe County: This mandatory order stands for the entire Florida Keys. About 31,000 people were evacuated as of 6pm Wednesday
Miami-Dade County: Mandatory evacuations for all of Zone A, all of Zone B, and portions of Zone C.
Broward County: Voluntary evacuations of mobile homes and low-lying areas; mandatory evacuation of all areas east of U.S. 1 including barrier islands beginning Thursday
Brevard County: Mandatory evacuations for Zone A, Merritt Island, barrier islands, and some low-lying mainland areas along Indian River Lagoon beginning Friday
Lake Okeechobee: Florida officials want residents to evacuate the area directly south of Lake Okeechobee. A voluntary evacuation was issued for the cities of South Bay, Lake Harbor, Pahokee, Moore Haven, Clewiston, Belle Glade and Canal Point. Mandatory evacuations for these cities will be put into effect Saturday morning.
Collier County: Mandatory evacuations for Goodland, Everglades City, Chokoloskee, and all mobile homes beginning on Friday
Glades County: Residents in zone A must evacuate by noon Friday. Everyone living in an RV park, mobile home or a building constructed before 1992 must also evacuate.
Flagler County: Mandatory evacuations for nursing homes, all varieties of assisted living facilities, and community residential group homes within coastal and Intracoastal areas and voluntary evacuation for zones A, B, C, F beginning on Thursday; mandatory for Zones A,B,C,F, and substandard housing beginning on Saturday
Lee County: Mandatory evacuations for barrier islands – Bonita Beach, Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel, Captiva, and Pine Island beginning Friday morning
Martin County: Mandatory for barrier islands, manufactured homes, and low-lying areas beginning Saturday
Palm Beach County: Mandatory evacuations for Zone A and B, voluntary for Zone C
Pinellas County: Mandatory evacuations all mobile homes and Zone A
Indian River County: Mandatory evacuations for low lying areas go into effect on Saturday
St. Johns County: Mandatory evacuation go into effect Saturday morning for Zones A and B
Duval County: Residents in Zones A and B and those living in mobile homes and low-lying homes are instructed to evacuate immediately
Nassau County: Mandatory evacations go into effect at 6pm Friday for people who live in zones A, C and F
Citrus County: Mandatory evacuation for residents west of U.S. Highway 19, those living one and a half miles east of U.S. 19, Crystal River residents, residents living in low-lying areas, and residents living in mobile homes, manufactured homes and all unsafe structures.
Hernando County: Mandatory evacuation for coastal zones A and B and mobile homes countywide.
Hendry County: Mandatory evaciation for Clewiston, Hookers Point, Harlem, Flaghole, Montura Ranch Estates, and communities within the Mid-County MSBU which incudes Ladeca, Pioneer Plantation and Leon-Dennis Subdivision. resiednts in no-slab build homes, mobile homes trailers and RVs are under voluntary evacuation.
Sarasota County: People living in evacuation Zone A are to leave between 2pm Friday and 8pm Saturday.
Pasco County: Mandatory evacuation for residents who live west of U.S. 19, north of Fox Hollow, west of Little Rd and special needs residents throughout the county.
St. Lucie County: Voluntary evacuations
DeSoto County: Voluntary evacuation for people in low-lying/flood prine areas and residents living in mobile homes and RV parks
Charlotte County: Voluntary evacuations on Don Pedro Island, Knight Island, Little Gasparilla Island, Gasparilla Island, Manasota Key and those living in mobile homes
Okeechobee County: Voluntary evacuations of low-lying areas prone to flooding
Volusia County: Voluntary evacuations of residents in beachside, low-lying areas and in RV, mobile or manufactured homes.
Polk County: Voluntary evacuation for residents in manufactured homes and flood-prone areas
Hillsborough County: Voluntary evacuations for residents in Zone A who are registered for special needs shelters staring 8am Friday.
Manatee County: Voluntary evacuations for Zone A
Highlands County: Voluntary evacuation for residents who live in low-lying areas and manufactured mobile homes.
Taylor County: Voluntary evacuation for residents who live in low-lying areas and manufactured mobile homes.
Alachua County: Voluntary evacuation for residents who live in low-lying areas and manufactured mobile homes.
Hardee County: Voluntary evacuation for residents who live in low-lying areas and manufactured mobile homes.
Lake County: Voluntary evacuation for residents who live in low-lying areas and manufactured mobile homes.
Georgia ordered the evacuation of the state’s coastal areas. It applies to all areas east of Interstate 95, including the city of Savannah.
The above map shows the counties in Florida that currently have mandatory or voluntary evacuations. Note that evacuations may only pertain to certain residents or areas within the county
Towns to the south of Lake Okeechobee are under evacuation over fears that the dam could overflow
The governor of Georgia has also ordered the evacuations of the state’s coastal areas, including the city of Savannah
The earliest reasonable arrive time of tropical-storm force winds in Florida will begin on Saturday around 8am
The latest forecasts show Hurricane Irma hitting Miami Sunday evening and then travelling directly up the state to Georgia
As of Friday night, Irma was battering Cuba and the Bahamas with winds up to 160mph and moving at 12mph
More than half of Florida is either on hurricane warning or hurricane watch in relation to Irma
Heavy rainfall is expected with the powerful storm as some areas will see over 24 inches of rain fall
In addition, winds are expected to be extremely dangerous with some ares experiencing 90 per cent hurricane force winds
The hurricane as of 12:15pm on Friday, as seen from radar satellite when it was Category 5. The hurricane is currently a Category 4 storm
The forecasts show that dangerous storm surges could begin as early as Saturday night before the storm even hits Florida.
It’s then expected to track directly up the state, crossing the state line into Georgia early next week.
Virginia’s Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency to help the state get ahead of any damage caused by Hurricane Irma. The declaration also allows Virginia to provide assistance to other states who will be impacted by the storm.
Virginia may face possible flooding, high winds and storm surge as a result of Hurricane Irma.
‘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 on Friday.
‘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.
‘The order I issued today is intended to both protect our commonwealth and to make sure we have every option at our disposal to help our neighboring states when Irma makes landfall.’
A state of emergency allows the commonwealth to mobilize resources, including the Virginia National Guard, and pre-position people and equipment to assist in storm response and recovery efforts. All Virginians must prepare in advance for the potential impacts of this historic hurricane.
Hurricane Irma killed at least 24 people in the Caribbean and left thousands homeless as it devastated small islands in its path. And it’s already proved deadly in the U.S. A man installing hurricane shutters on his Florida home fell off a ladder and died on Thursday.
The National Hurricane Center issued hurricane warnings for the Keys and parts of South Florida and Lake Okeechobee. It added a storm surge warning and extended watch areas wrapping around much of the peninsula.
For Irma, forecasters predicted a storm surge of 6 to 12 feet above ground level along Florida’s southwest coast and in the Keys. As much as a foot of rain could fall across the state, with isolated spots receiving 20 inches.
Scott has been pleading with his citizens all week to evacuate if they are ordered to, and to prepare – no matter the direction of the storm.
Social workers and police officers gave Miami’s estimated 1,100 homeless people a stark choice on Friday: Come willingly to a storm shelter, or be held against their will for a mental health evaluation.
Officials – backed by a psychiatrist and observed by an Associated Press team – rolled through chillingly empty downtown streets as dawn broke over Biscayne Bay, searching for reluctant stragglers sleeping in waterfront parks.
‘We’re going out and every single homeless person who is unwilling to come off the street, we are likely going to involuntarily Baker Act them,’ said Ron Book, chairman of the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust.
Officials in Miami detain a person who is homeless into shelters ahead of powerful Hurricane Irma. Officials detained at least five people to admit them into a psychiatric ward because they suspected a mental illness
An official in Miami speaks with homeless people about moving to shelters ahead of powerful Hurricane Irma
People use their cellphones near boarded up stores in preparation of Hurricane Irma in Miami Beach, Florida on Friday
A message to Hurricane Irma is written on the facade of a boarded restaurant on Friday in Miami Beach, Florida
An empty beach is seen before the arrival of hurricane Irma in Miami, Florida on Friday
Traffic along Interstate 75 north, rear, crawls toward Atlanta as drivers flee Hurricane Irma on Friday in Griffin, Georgia
The Worth Avenue shopping district is shown after a mandatory evacuation order went into effect on the barrier island of Palm Beach, Florida on Friday
Invoking the ‘Baker Act’ – a law that enables authorities to institutionalize patients who present a danger to themselves or others – is not something law enforcement does lightly, but officers detained at least six people by Friday afternoon. Under the law, they can be held up to 72 hours before the state would have to go to court to prolong their detention.
‘I am not going to sign suicide notes for people who are homeless in my community. I am just not going to do it,’ Book added. ‘That’s why you have a Baker Act. It’s there to protect those who can’t otherwise protect themselves.’
Book’s group was working closely with police, who acknowledged that the effort is unusual: Officials said it is the first time Miami has invoked the law for hurricane preparedness.
About 70 people willingly climbed into white vans and police squad cars Friday, joining others who already arrived at shelters.
About 600 others were thought to remain outside somewhere, exposed to the storm, despite mandatory evacuation orders for more than 660,000 people in areas that include downtown Miami and coastal areas throughout the county.
Scott has also ordered all state offices, schools, colleges and universities to close from Friday until Monday to free up space for evacuation shelters and staging. Most 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.
Boarded up stores are seen in preparation of Hurricane Irma during a mandatory evacuation in Miami Beach, Florida, on Friday
Business owners left less-than-polite messages for the incoming storm on boarded up windows in Miami Beach Friday
A strip club is boarded up in preparation of Hurricane Irma during a mandatory evacuation in Miami Beach, Florida on Friday
Tourists wait with their luggage as they prepare to leave in advance of Hurricane Irma during a mandatory evacuation in Miami Beach, Florida on Friday
A popular tourist area of South Beach is deserted during a mandatory evacuation in advance of Hurricane Irma in Miami Beach, Florida on Friday
Hundreds of people gather in an emergency shelter at the Miami-Dade County Fair Expo Center in Miami, Florida on Friday
Anthony Exposito and Cindy Varahona buy plywood for shutters at a Home Depot in Miami, Florida on September 8, 2017, ahead of Hurricane Irma
Oscar Villanueva ties plywood sheets to his car outside a Home Depot in Miami, Florida on September 8, 2017, ahead of Hurricane Irma
Robert Johnson fills gas containers at a gas station in Miami, Florida on September 8, 2017, ahead of Hurricane Irma
Jessica Cespedes and Nick Cespedes pack their vehicle with items as they evacuate their condo since the area is in a flood zone of Miami on Friday
‘Floridians are strong and resilient. In times like this we band together and help each other. We will continue working around the clock to help you prepare and after the storm we’ll be here to lift each other up and recover. We will make it through this together. Florida is an amazing melting pot of loving people,’ Scott said.
Gas shortages and gridlock plagued the evacuations, turning normally simple trips into tests of will. Interstates 75 and 95 north were bumper-to-bumper, while very few cars and tractor-trailers drove on the south lanes.
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 of 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.
Manny Zuniga left his home in Miami at midnight Thursday, planning to drive through the night to avoid the traffic gridlock that he’d seen on television. It still took him 12 hours to get 230 miles to Orlando – a trip that normally takes four hours. Zuniga is headed for a relative’s house in Arkansas with his wife, two children, two dogs and a ferret.
‘We’re getting out of this state,’ he said, filling up the gas tank of his tightly-packed SUV in Orlando. ‘Irma is going to take all of Florida.’
Mari and Neal Michaud loaded their two children and dog into their small sport-utility vehicle and left their home near Cocoa Beach about 10am, bound for an impromptu vacation in Washington, D.C.
Using a phone app and calls to search for fuel along the way, they finally arrived at a convenience store that had gasoline nearly five hours later. They said the 60-mile trip up Interstate 95 should have taken an hour.
‘There was no gas and it’s gridlock. People are stranded on the sides of the highway,’ Mari said. ‘It’s 92 degrees out and little kids are out on the grass on the side of the road. No one can help them.’
Florida Governor Rick Scott warned that all of the state’s 20 million inhabitants should be prepared to evacuate as Hurricane Irma bears down for a direct hit on the southern US state
Dogs sit inside their cages as hundreds of people gather in a pet-friendly emergency shelter at the Miami-Dade County Fair Expo Center in Miami, Florida, September 8, 2017, ahead of Hurricane Irma
Christina Grimann, of Germany, was hoping to go on a cruise out of Miami, but now she is headed to Atlanta, GA to escape Hurricane Irma. At Miami International Airport, the last flights will be this afternoon with the airport closing tonight at 6pm. Most travelers are taking flights to anywhere they can find
U.S. President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago mansion is shown with shutters on the windows after a mandatory evacuation order went into effect on the barrier island of Palm Beach on Friday
The historic Mar-a-Lago is sandwiched on a narrow strip of land between the Atlantic Ocean and an intercoastal waterway
Traffic rolls at a crawl on the northbound lanes of Florida’s Turnpike near the intersection of I-75 in Wildwood on Friday
A traveler looks at a monitor listing canceled flights at Miami International Airport on Friday
A worker trims branches from trees near power lines in a downtown neighborhood in Orlando, Florida in preparation for Irma on Friday
Mang Don Man, of Miami, attends to her seven-month-old baby Vung Vaang Nuam as they eat lunch at a Red Cross shelter set up at North Miami Beach Senior High School on Friday
People at a Red Cross shelter set up at North Miami Beach Senior High School eat lunch on Friday
Noel Marsden said he, his girlfriend, her son and their dog left Pembroke Pines north of Miami with plans to ride out Irma in Savannah, only to find the city was also shutting down because of Irma. Marsden isn’t sure where they’ll all end up.
‘I’ve got a buddy in Atlanta and a buddy in Charlotte. We’ll wind up one of those two places because there are not hotels, I can tell you that,’ he said.
The governor said people fleeing could drive slowly in the shoulder lane on highways. He hasn’t reversed the southbound lanes because he said they were needed to deliver gas and supplies.
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.
Above, some of Key West’s famous roosters being evacuated during the storm were wrapped in newspaper and tape
A person stands on a lifeguard stand at an empty South Beach on Friday in Miami Beach, Florida
St Johns County, Florida residents wait for the arrival of sandbags at Mills Field early Friday morning in Jacksonville, Florida
Customers buy supplies and wood to secure their property in preparation of Hurricane Irma early Friday in Miami, Florida
Florida residents flee Hurricane Irma as traffic backs up on I-75 at its intersection with the Florida Turnpike on Thursday
Boarded up buildings on normally bustling South Beach are shown on Friday, in Miami Beach, Florida
Heavy traffic traveling north bound on Interstate 75 moves slowly, as a major evacuation has begun in preparation for Hurricane Irma on Friday in Forrest Park, south of Atlanta
Luis Garcia, right, packs a car that he and five other members of his extended family will use to evacuate north from their home in Miami Beach on Friday
A business owner boards up windows of a restaurant ahead of the expected arrival of Hurricane Irma in downtown Miami, Florida on Friday
Orlando city employees and volunteers fill sandbags for residents as they prepare for Hurricane Irma on Friday
The above graphic shows Hurricane Irma compared to 1992’s devastating Hurricane Andrew, the costliest hurricane in Florida’s history
Airline seats out of Florida were in short supply as well but American, United and Delta all said Thursday that they were adding extra flights in the next couple days.
CURRENT HURRICANE WARNINGS IN PLACE:
- Jupiter Inlet southward around the Florida peninsula to Bonita Beach
- Florida Keys
- Lake Okeechobee
- Florida Bay
- Southeastern Bahamas
- Cuban provinces of Camaguey, Ciego de Avila, Sancti Spiritus, and Villa Clara
- Central Bahamas
- Northwestern Bahama
Shockingly enough, an armed man caused extra panic and delays at Miami airport on Thursday night after he was shot by police – prompting the evacuation of an entire terminal.
Officials across Florida, meanwhile, opened shelters for people who chose not to leave town. Florida’s emergency management division says thousands of 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.
Miami Mayor Carlos Gimenez said 23,000 people are currently in shelters in the county ahead of Hurricane Irma. He added that the county has the capacity to house 100,000 in shelters during this emergency.
Miami-Dade has 43 shelters operating, seven are at capacity or closed, the mayor said tonight at a news conference.
Miami- Dade County opened 43 shelters and seven are at capacity.
Evacuation orders are multiplying by the hour in Florida. Currently the entire southern tip of Florida is under evacuation, and those orders continue county by county almost all the way up the east coast.
Several small communities around Lake Okeechobee in the south-central part of Florida were added to the evacuation list because the lake may overflow, the governor said – but he added that engineers expect the protective dike around the lake to hold up.
Some residents in downtown Miami were also advised to leave, if they leave near one of the city’s two dozen construction cranes.
Construction sites across Irma’s potential path in Florida are being locked down to prevent building materials, tools and debris from becoming flying missiles in hurricane winds.
The horizontal arms of the tall tower cranes, however, will remain loose despite the potential danger of collapse. City officials say they cannot be tied down or moved. Miami officials say it would take two weeks to move the cranes.
South Carolina’s Gov. Henry McMaster ordered mandatory evacuations of eight barrier islands in Beaufort, Jasper and Colleton counties on Friday.
The evacuations begin at 10am on Saturday, as some of those areas are still recovering from Hurricane Matthew, which skimmed along the South Carolina coast less than a year ago.
The largest barrier island involved in the evacuation is Hilton Head, which has more than 40,000 permanent residents.
On Thursday, the governor of Georgia also ordered the evacuation of the state’s coastal areas, including the large city of Savannah – about 540,000 people. However, just where the storm will enter Georgia is to be determined. Forecasts show it could enter the state Monday anywhere from the Atlantic coast to the Alabama state line. The last time Georgia was struck by a hurricane of force Category 3 or higher happened in 1898.
A man bikes past a restaurant boarded up in preparation for hurricane Irma in Miami, Florida on Friday
People line up to refill propane during preparations for hurricane Irma in Miami, Florida on Friday
People line up to get gas during preparations for hurricane Irma in Miami, Florida on Friday
Cars line up in long lines waiting to get sandbags in preparation for Hurricane Irma on Friday
Supplies are loaded into a truck at the Sea Esta mobil home park during preparations for Hurricane Irma in Hallandale, Florida on Friday
People load up a car with supplies at the Sea Esta mobil home park during preparations for Hurricane Irma in Hallandale, Florida on Friday
A house is boarded up at the Sea Esta mobile home park during preparations for Hurricane Irma in Hallandale, Florida on Friday
Customers buy plywood sheets to protect their homes at a Home Depot in Florida City, Florida on Friday
Traffic rolls at a crawl along the northbound lanes of Florida’s Turnpike near the intersection of Interstate 75 in Wildwood, Florida on Friday
Ryan Kaye loads sandbags into his truck at a makeshift filling station provided by the county as protection ahead of Hurricane Irma on Friday in Palm Coast, Florida
As additional evacuations continue to be announced, Irma could potentially create one of the largest mass exoduses in the country’s history.
Forecasters warn the storm could hit anywhere from Florida to North Carolina over the next few days. The most severe impacts will be felt on the eastern side of Florida, including Miami, West Palm Beach, Melbourne, Daytona Beach and Jacksonville.
AccuWeather founder, Dr Joel N Myers, said there was no way the U.S. was going to avoid another catastrophic weather event.
‘There will be massive damage in Florida. (It will be) the worst single hurricane to hit Florida since Hurricane Andrew in 1992,’ he said. ‘It’s a monster hurricane out there – it’s bringing along with it something to be feared.’
According to Credit Suisse, the storm has the potential to do $125billion worth of damage.
NASA has secured Kennedy Space Center and SpaceX launched an unmanned rocket for an experimental flight. Kennedy closed its doors to all nonessential staff and a crew of about 120 people will ride out the storm on site.
Most of the critical buildings at Kennedy are designed to withstand gusts of up to 135 mph. Irma’s wind could exceed that if it reaches Cape Canaveral as a Category 5 storm.
Irma poses a bigger menace to power supplies in Florida than Hurricane Harvey did in Texas because Irma is packing near 200 mile-per-hour winds that could down power lines, close nuclear plants and threats to leave millions of homes and businesses in the dark for weeks.
Customers at a Home Depot buy wood to secure their property in anticipation of Hurricane Irma early Friday in Miami, Florida
Hanz Paez, left, and Cirous Amiri, right buy wood at a Home Depot in South Miami Dade to secure their property in anticipation of Hurricane Irma early Friday in Miami, Florida
Amy Nacollari, left, greets her friend Mandy Varna at a bus stop in Miami Beach, Florida, Friday
Leonel Geronimo, stuffs food into his suitcase as he and others wait for a bus in anticipation of Hurricane Irma in Miami Beach, Florida, Friday
Liz Hankins and James Kiernan, of North Lauderdale, fill trash bags with sand on Pompano Beach, Florida in preparation for Hurricane Irma on Friday
Gretchen, left, and Ron Levine of ‘A Paw Above’ in Hollywood, Florida, take care of 20 dogs and 21 cats as they have been inundated with pet care requests by people fleeing Hurricane Irma on Friday
And another concern is two nuclear power plants in the storm’s track.
Florida Power & Light’s Turkey Point and St. Lucie plants, which can supply power to almost two million homes, are under threat.
Spokesman Peter Robbins said: ‘Based on the current track, we would expect severe weather in Florida starting Saturday, meaning we would potentially shut down before that point.’
The company, a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Inc, is watching the weather and would adjust any plans as necessary.
It can take more than 24 hours to shut down a reactor, so the decision will have to be made well in advance.
DEVASTATION CAUSED BY HURRICANE ANDREW IN 1992
Hurricane Andrew was a Category Five hurricane that struck the Bahamas and Florida in mid-August 1992.
It was the most destructive hurricane to ever hit Florida, and the costliest to the United States until Katrina in 2005.
The storm sustained wind speeds as high as 165 mph and passed directly through Miami-Dade County.
It stripped many homes of all but their foundations, and destroyed more than 63,500 homes.
The storm cost a total of $26.5 billion in damages and left 65 people dead.
Hurricane Andrew was a Category Five hurricane that struck the Bahamas and Florida in mid-August 1992. Pictured is the devastation it left
But bosses are confident the power plants can weather the 185mph storm, as they both have a track record of surviving hurricanes.
The last major hurricane – a storm with winds of at least 111 mph – to hit Florida was Wilma in 2005. Its eye cut through the state’s southern third as it packed winds of 120 mph; five people died. Andrew slammed into Florida as a Category 5 storm in 1992 and at the time was the costliest hurricane in U.S. history with damages of $26.5 billion.
With winds that peaked at 185 mph, Irma was the most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic.
President Donald Trump said Hurricane Irma ‘is a storm of absolutely historic destructive potential.’
In a video posted to Facebook, the president urged those in Irma’s path to be vigilant and heed the recommendations of all government officials.
Trump said his administration is doing all it can to help with disaster preparations, and the U.S. ‘stands united’ to address the storm.
He said, ‘We will endure and come back stronger than ever before.’
Trump also 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 said that while the storm is ‘a really bad one,’ the U.S. is prepared for the dangerous major hurricane heading toward Florida.
Trump’s exclusive Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach – the unofficial Southern White House – sits in the path of the storm.
US Air Force Reserve weather officer Maj. Jeremy DeHart flew through the eye of Irma at 10,000 feet Wednesday and through Hurricane Harvey just before it hit Texas last month.
He said Irma’s intensity set it apart from other storms.
‘Spectacular is the word that keeps coming to mind. Pictures don’t do it justice. Satellite images can’t do it justice,’ DeHart said.
The five living former U.S. presidents said Thursday they would team up to create the ‘One America Appeal’ to raise money for storm recovery as Texas and Louisiana seek to regroup from Harvey and Florida and the East Coast brace for Hurricane Irma.
Above, destruction seen in Puerto Rico after the storm passed north of the island on Thursday
Three people died in Puerto Rico after the storm scratched the island. Above, a scene of Puerto Rico after the storm
Palm trees blow in the gale-force winds when Hurricane Irma hit Haiti on Thursday
Fronds are blown off palm trees and streets are flooded with storm surge in the Dominican Republic on Thursday
Marine firefighters from the French city of Marseille board a plane to help the storm ravaged French Caribbean
In this undated photo provided by the British Ministry of Defence on Friday taken from a Royal Navy helicopter, a RLC Mexeflote approaches Sandy Bay Village beach, in the British oversees territory of Anguilla loaded with the 2 JCBs, 1 flatbed lorry, fork lift truck, BV 206 multi terrain vehicle, a Land Rover and a mobile generator
Hurricane Irma destroyed 90 percent of the tiny island of Barbuda (above) when it made landfall early on Wednesday. The Caribbean island was reduced to rubble, according to its Prime Minister Gaston Browne
Destruction: Dozens of cars were thrown around the hotel car park by the 185mph winds which tore through St Martin
This Wednesday photo shows storm damage in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in St. Martin
The hurricane recovery effort was announced by former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter.
Online donations can be made at OneAmericaAppeal.org.
Trump tweeted his support of the plan: ‘We will confront ANY challenge, no matter how strong the winds or high the water. I’m proud to stand with Presidents for #OneAmericaAppeal.’
As people along the East Coast anxiously watched the behemoth, Irma battered the northern Caribbean, killing at least 24 people and leaving thousands homeless after destroying buildings and uprooting trees.
Nine deaths were reported in the French Caribbean (St Martin and St Barthelemy), three in Puerto Rico, four in the U.S. Virgin Islands, four in the British Virgin Islands, two on the Dutch side of St. Maarten, one on Barbuda and one on Anguilla.
Waves as high as 20 feet were expected in the Turks and Caicos. Communications went down as the storm slammed into the islands, and the extent of the devastation was unclear.
Irma rolled past the Dominican Republic and Haiti on Thursday and spun along the northern coast of Cuba on Friday morning before it hit the island.
Thousands of tourists were evacuated from low-lying keys off the Cuban coast Thursday in anticipation of 20-foot storm surges. Buses loaded with tourists began streaming out of Santa Maria, Cayo Coco, Cayo Guillermo and other keys dotted with all-inclusive resorts.
The Maersk Line container ship Sealand Illinois heads out to sea after leaving the Port of Miami on Friday. The ship is headed to Portugal, according to a marine traffic website
British tourists wait for a ride as they leave ahead of the expected arrival of Hurricane Irma in Miami, Florida on Friday
A customer watches news reports at a French restaurant ahead of the expected arrival of Hurricane Irma in Miami, Florida, on Friday
Residents in Jacksonville County, Florida shovel bags of sand on Friday, ahead of Hurricane Irma
All residents of the area were under mandatory evacuation orders from the Cuban government, which was moving tens of thousands of people from vulnerable coastline.
French, British and Dutch military authorities rushed aid to a devastated string of Caribbean islands. Warships and planes were sent with food, water and troops after the hurricane smashed homes, schools and roads, laying waste to some of the world’s most beautiful and exclusive tourist destinations.
The first islands hit by the storm were scenes of terrible destruction.
The cafes and clothing shops of the picturesque seaside village of Marigot were submerged in brown floodwaters. The toll could rise because rescue teams had yet to get a complete look at the damage.
Looting was reported in St. Martin. Annick Girardin, minister for France’s overseas territories, described on BFM television Friday ‘scenes of pillaging’ of televisions as well as food and water. She lamented ‘how people can take advantage of the distress of others’ and said it’s essential for police to restore order and ensure urgent care for victims.
The U.S. Consulate General in Curacao said it believes about 6,000 Americans are stranded on St. Martin. It said it was 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 home to relatives to try to get them off the island ahead of Hurricane Jose.
The hospital on St. Thomas was destroyed and dozens of patients were being evacuated to St. Croix and Puerto Rico by the U.S. Coast Guard. Local official said a U.S. Navy hospital ship was arriving as early as Friday to care for unknown numbers of injured and two Air Force C-130s transport planes were bringing in food and water.
Power lines and towers were toppled, leaves were stripped off plants and trees, a water and sewage treatment plants was heavily damaged and the harbor was in ruins, along with hundreds of homes and dozens of businesses. Gov. Kenneth Mapp imposed a 6pm curfew.
The primary focus for now is ‘making sure people have meals, water and shelter,’ Mapp said. ‘An event of this magnitude is very chilling.’
Irma also slammed the French island of St. Barts, tearing off roofs and knocking out electricity in the high-end tourist destination.
French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said 100,000 food rations were sent to St. Barts and St. Martin, the equivalent of four days of supplies.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the storm ’caused wide-scale destruction of infrastructure, houses and businesses.’
‘There is no power, no gasoline, no running water. Houses are under water, cars are floating through the streets, inhabitants are sitting in the dark in ruined houses and are cut off from the outside world,’ he said.
An armed man caused extra panic and delays at Miami airport on Thursday night after he was shot by police – prompting the evacuation (above) of an entire terminal
Big waves smashed a dozen homes into rubble in the Dominican fishing community of Nagua, but work crews said all the residents had left before the storm. Officials said 11,200 people in all had evacuated vulnerable areas, while 55,000 soldiers had been deployed to help the cleanup.
In Haiti, two people were injured by a falling tree, a national roadway was blocked by debris and roofs were torn from houses along the northern coast but there were no immediate reports of deaths. Officials warned that could change as Irma continued to lash Haiti, where deforested hillsides are prone to devastating mudslides that have wiped out entire neighborhoods of precariously built homes in flood zones.
‘We are vulnerable. We don’t have any equipment to help the population,’ Josue Alusma, mayor of the northern city of Port de Paix, said on Radio Zenith FM.
French President Emmanuel Macron’s office said he would go to the islands as soon as the weather permits it.
On Barbuda, nearly every building was damaged when the hurricane’s core crossed almost directly over the island early Wednesday. About 60 percent of its roughly 1,400 residents were left homeless, Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne said.
Brian McNoldy, a hurricane researcher at the University of Miami, said Irma could easily prove to be the costliest storm in U.S. history.
‘Take it seriously, because this is the real deal,’ said Maj. Jeremy DeHart, a U.S. Air Force Reserve weather officer who flew through the eye of Irma at 10,000 feet.
Farther out in the Atlantic, Hurricane Jose, a Category 4 storm with 125 mph winds, posed a potential threat for Saturday to some of the same islands ravaged by Irma.