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Hurricane Irma Live


Updates: The Storm Is
Here, Florida Governor
Says
By THE NEW YORK TIMES UPDATED 1:36 PM

Hurricane Irma churned toward Florida on Saturday, leaving a trail of


death and destruction across the Caribbean and prompting one of the
largest emergency evacuations in American history.

The storm shifted west, putting the Florida Keys in its cross hairs
and prompting officials to open more shelters. Tropical-force winds
and a life-threatening storm surge were expected to begin hitting the
Keys around noon. Storm surges will threaten Floridas west coast on
Sunday, where more than 3 million people live, and entire
neighborhoods stretching northward from Naples to Tampa Bay could
be submerged.

Irma made landfall in Cuba Friday evening as a Category 5


hurricane, lashing the islands northern coast with a direct hit. It
became the first Category 5 hurricane to make landfall in Cuba since
1924.
The hurricane was downgraded to Category 3 around 11 a.m.
Saturday, with winds of 125 m.p.h., but was expected to strengthen
again over Florida. About 6.3 million people in the state have been
ordered to leave their homes.

The storm is here, Gov. Rick Scott said Saturday morning,


noting that the storm surge could reach 15 feet in some places.

Fifteen feet is devastating and will cover your house, he said. Do


not think the storm is over when the wind slows down. The storm
surge will rush in and it could kill you.

Heres the latest:

At least 25 people were confirmed dead by Saturday morning in


areas affected by the storm.

Irmas core is expected to reach the Florida Keys by Sunday


morning, with the eye on track to tear between the cities of Key West
and Marathon. THIS IS AS REAL AS IT GETS, the National Weather
Service said. NOWHERE IN THE FLORIDA KEYS WILL BE SAFE.
The National Hurricane Center warned of life-threatening surge and
wind. Check out our maps tracking the storm.

In addition to an evacuation order in Miami, one of the countrys


largest evacuations, 540,000 people were told to leave the Georgia
coast. Alabama, North Carolina and South Carolina have declared
states of emergency.

The National Weather Service issued a 12-hour tornado warning


for the southern tip of Florida around noon on Saturday. It includes
the cities of Everglades and Ochopee, and extends north to North Point
and Jupiter Farms.

Hurricane Jose, upgraded to a Category 4, was barreling toward


the Leeward Islands. On St. Martin, already devastated by Irma, Dutch
Marines dropped fliers from a helicopter warning inhabitants to head
to shelters.
Hurricane Katia, which made landfall on Mexicos eastern coast, was
downgraded to a tropical depression, with winds of 35 m.p.h. Two
people died in a mudslide in the state of Veracruz after the storm hit,
The Associated Press reported.

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Governor to Floridians: Evacuate now


During a news conference Saturday morning, Gov. Rick Scott
urged Floridians to heed evacuation orders and seek shelter
immediately.

Evacuate, he said. Not tonight, not in an hour. You need to go


right now.

He reassured those who were still delaying that they would not
have to leave the state. More than 260 shelters were already operating
across every county, with 70 more scheduled to open throughout the
day.

Evacuation routes across the state were moving consistently, the


governor said, adding that he had dispatched additional state troopers
to maintain the flow of traffic.

Just remember this, he said, Once the storm starts, law


enforcement cannot save you.

Florida ports have been closed for the duration of the storm,
cutting off access to additional fuel. Governor Scott said that fuel
trucks would continue to restock gas stations for as long as possible,
and announced that he had waived import taxes for the next several
days to allow for quick replenishment as soon as the storm had passed.

Volunteers were needed at shelters that were serving people with


special needs. We need more nurses, the governor said, asking those
who were willing to work to email
BPRCHDpreparedness@flhealth.gov. All available nurses, if youll
please respond.

Rob Gould, the public information officer for the Florida Power &
Light Company, said the company expected 3.4 million customers to
be affected by the storm. Parts of the electrical system will need to be
entirely rebuilt, Mr. Gould said, with the company expecting the brunt
of the damage in the western part of the state.

Likely on the east coast, we will see a restoration, but on the west
coast, a complete rebuild, he said. We anticipate this restoration
effort will be measured in weeks, not days.

Window to leave Florida Keys is


closing fast
Emergency Management officials in Monroe County, which covers
most of the Keys, have urged anyone who is still in there to get out
immediately. There is still a small window to get out, but it is closing
fast, said Martin Senterfitt, the director of emergency management for
Monroe County.

The situation is so dire that no official shelters are operating on


the Keys, though four refuges of last resort will be available only until
the storm has passed and it is safe to leave. Fuel is available only on the
mainland, where Monroe County is operating two shelters.

Even first responders are evacuating to the Upper Keys, due to the
forecast. The roadways in Monroe County now have light traffic.

Sea Oates Beach in Islamorada is expected to become unnavigable


in the late afternoon to early evening, where water inundation will
likely rise 1-3 feet above the road bed, according to Jon Rizzo, a
meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Key West. With all
hospitals and emergency rooms in the Keys closed and Trauma Star air
ambulances having evacuated to Alabama, people are urged to drive
with caution.

This is a very difficult storm to survive if you are in the Keys,


Governor Scott said on Saturday. I pray for everybody in the Keys who
stayed there.

A dangerous storm surge


The winds of Hurricane Irma are fierce. But the surge from the
storm could also cause tremendous damage to coastal cities.

It flows in very fast, Governor Scott said of the waters expected


to rush into parts of the state. Its going to go faster, possibly, than you
are.

The National Hurricane Center provides a map of the potential


storm surge from Irma, and the 5 a.m. Saturday forecast suggested a
brutal surge near Naples topping nine feet.

More detailed projections can be found at the website adcirc.org,


which is devoted to a highly respected suite of computer programs that
model surge. Rick Luettich, one of the principal developers of Adcirc
and director of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hills Institute
of Marine Sciences, said that the current map of Florida under the
models looks a bit ugly, which he acknowledged was an
understatement.

For years, we have thought about areas of the country that are
particularly vulnerable to hurricanes, and particularly, storm surge,
Dr. Luettich said. New York City, New Orleans, Houston, and Miami
are always high on such lists. Its almost as if weve been going down
the list and checking them off, he said.

The projections on the site, which are based on the forecasts from
the National Hurricane Center and updated with each new forecast,
allow users to look at any given report and see what would happen if
the storm track shifts 50 percent to the west or to the east. (To try this,
go to the map, pull down the advisory/track tab and hover your cursor
over any report.)

With this storm, Dr. Luettich noted, those shifts can mean major
differences in destructive storm surge for the Atlantic or Gulf coasts of
Florida and farther up the Atlantic coast.

Cuba gets a direct hit


Hurricane Irma slammed into Cuba on Friday night, causing
widespread destruction. Meteorologists were expecting the storm to
tack north earlier, and were not predicting a direct hit.

The eye of the storm passed directly through the archipelago of keys on
the northern coast in the central part of the island. Phones are not
currently working in Cayo Romano and Cayo Coco, and the authorities
have yet to make a substantive announcement about the extent of the
damage.

These keys are home to over 50 hotels and resorts that generate
significant revenue for the state. Damage to these resorts, along with
heavy agricultural losses and reconstruction costs elsewhere, will put
serious economic strain on the country. Cuba inched out of recession
earlier this year, and another economic setback would cause headaches
in Havana, particularly at a time of political transition. Ral Castro is
set to leave the presidency in February.

Hundreds of thousands of Cubans in the central part of the


country had been evacuated before the hit. Residents in the central
provinces of Camagey and Ciego de vila woke up this morning to see
whole houses destroyed, roofs ripped of warehouses, and a plethora of
downed trees.

Wind speeds in the center of the country remain so high that


journalists are struggling to walk outside and do reporting, making the
scale of the damage difficult to assess. However, the images trickling in
suggest the destruction is not as cataclysmic as islands elsewhere in the
Caribbean.

Irma is now plowing through the provinces of Santi Spiritus and


Villa Clara. Electricity in the north of these provinces has been cut. The
coastal town of Caibarin, in Villa Clara, is submerged under several
feet of water.

President Trump renewed the United States trade embargo on the


island for another year just hours before Irma struck. The extension
will mean Cubans will not have access to many medicines produced by
companies that do business in the United States, and food costs will
remain high.

Hundreds of Cuban doctors are already working on Caribbean


islands attending to those affected. Cuba is sending extra doctors to
Haiti, Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, the
Bahamas and Dominica to help with the relief effort.

State media have not reported any fatalities or casualties in Cuba.

An apocalyptic doomsday scene on


the British Virgin Islands
With communications limited on the British Virgin Islands, the
full scope of the damage from Hurricane Irma is still revealing itself.
On Saturday, at least five deaths were reported by the governor, Gus
Jaspert, who noted that with communication on the island all but
severed, officials were still working to assess the full scale of
devastation.

Residents of Tortola, the largest island, said buildings were leveled


and roads were washed away. People have limited food and water.

Mr. Jaspert said the toll on the islands was massive and he urged
citizens to prepare for incoming Hurricane Jose. He noted that the
government had established a national emergency operations center at
Peoples Hospital.
The British government said it had dispatched 20 tons of aid to the
affected areas, including shelter kits and solar lanterns aboard a naval
ship.

Catherine Clayton, whose family owns a hotel on Tortola in Josiahs


Bay, said 25 people including neighbors whose homes were
decimated were sheltered in the two remaining inhabitable rooms at
the once eight-room Tamarind Hotel.

It is like an apocalyptic doomsday scene here, she said. No


trees, leaves or greenery.

Other parts of the island suffered similar damage. From her


apartment on Skelton Hill, which overlooks Road Town, the capital,
Christine Perakis said most of the homes in the area had their roofs
torn off during the storm.

We have been in shock for a couple of days, she said. Its the
most intense thing Ive ever seen.

Severe flooding in the Bahamas


Residents of the western Bahamas braced for Irma on Saturday
morning, even as the hurricane ripped apart sea walls, destroyed
wooden homes and eroded roads on the nearby southern and central
islands.

Severe flooding was reported on Acklins, where the settlement of


Salina Point was completely cut off from the rest of the island,
according to early reports from that area.

Theres been significant damage to houses on Ragged Island, and


in certain parts of Acklins theres been a lot of road erosion. The
Morton Salt plant in Inagua has also been significantly damaged.
Crooked Island suffered a lot of roof damage, said Dion Foulkes, the
Bahamas minister of labour and consumer affairs, and a liaison with
the National Emergency Management Agency in Nassau.
He said stone structures had fared well in the storm, and so far
there have been no reports of deaths or injuries.

As soon as conditions permit, the Jamaican Defense Force has


agreed to survey the affected Bahamian islands to help determine the
extent of the damage, said Hubert Minnis, the Bahamian prime
minister.

Bimini, Grand Bahama and Andros are expected to be the last


group of Bahamian islands affected by Irma, starting early Sunday
through Monday morning.

Around 300 residents of Bimini have been evacuated, and


residents of the low-lying West End, Grand Bahama, have been urged
to relocate east.

Dillon Knowles, 56, was busy making last minute preparations


Saturday to secure PharmaChem Technologies, a chemical
manufacturing operation on Grand Bahama.

Most people here are prepared, said Mr. Knowles. And just like
weve done in the past, we will sit and wait.

Reporting was contributed by Erica Wells from Nassau, the Bahamas; Ed


Augustin, in Havana; Azam Ahmed in Pointe--Pitre, Guadeloupe; Russell
Goldman from Hong Kong; Yonette Joseph from London and Caitlin
Dickerson, John Schwartz, Vivian Wang, Johanna Barr and Megan Specia
from New York.

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