Irma Leaves Millions Without Power As Communities Grapple With Devastation

This live post is now closed. For the latest on Hurricane Irma, follow this new story here.

Here's what's happening:

  • Head to this post to find the latest on Irma. The below article focuses on the immediate aftermath.
  • Hurricane Irma wreaked a path of destruction, destroying areas in South Florida and the Keys, causing millions of power outages across the state, and bringing flooding conditions in Jacksonville and South Carolina.
  • Storm surge flooding in Jacksonville, Florida, has passed the record set in 1965 during Hurricane Dora, the National Weather Service said.
  • FEMA said Tuesday that about 15 million people were without power. Officials expect the east coast of Florida to have power by Sunday; it could be more than 10 days for other areas.
  • Florida officials said the Keys are in a "humanitarian crisis." The National Guard is conducting rescue missions there.
  • The storm prompted President Trump to declare states of emergency for Florida, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands, as well as Georgia and South Carolina.
  • Caribbean islands experienced widespread damage, with the premier of the British Virgin Islands describing a scene like a bomb went off.
  • At least 37 fatalities were reported across the Caribbean as of Monday, with deaths in St. Martin, Sint Maarten, Barbuda, Puerto Rico, Haiti, the US and British Virgin Islands, Barbados, and Anguilla. Twelve deaths in Florida have been blamed on Irma. Officials also confirmed at least two storm-related deaths in Georgia, and four in South Carolina.
  • BuzzFeed News reporters Amber Jamieson, Lissandra Villa Huerta, Andrew Kimmel, and Danny Menendez are reporting from across south Florida.
  • For information on how to donate and help hurricane victims, go here.
  • The storm comes just more than a week after Harvey blasted into the Texas coast, causing dozens of deaths and historic flooding.


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For the latest updates, please follow BuzzFeed News' new story on Hurricane Irma here.

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Three deaths caused by carbon monoxide from generators running indoors

Three people died in Orange County, Florida, from carbon monoxide poisoning coming from generators being operated inside their home after Hurricane Irma knocked out electricity, the sheriff's office said Tuesday.

It wasn't immediately clear if the three people who died were included in the total of 12 deaths in Florida that have been blamed on Irma, as reported by the Associated Press.

Another four people in the home were hospitalized in very serious condition, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

Portable generators, which release carbon monoxide when running, should not be used indoors in homes, garages or crawlspaces, officials warned. Instead, generators should be kept about 15 to 20 feet outside a building. Carbon monoxide detectors should also be installed indoors because the gas is colorless and odorless, which means it's common for people to be unaware when they are being exposed.

Operate generators outdoors in well-ventilated areas away from air intakes to home. Protect from exposure to water. #Irma

In Miami-Dade County, Florida, five people were taken to the hospital on Tuesday for carbon monoxide poising after running a generator inside, police spokeswoman Robin Pinkard said, according to the Miami Herald. Their condition is unknown.

In Brevard County, a family and their two dogs were treated for carbon monoxide poising after using a generator in their garage, the Orlando Sentinel reported. The family of eight was sleeping while the generator was left running, but after calling 911, they were able to get out in time and taken to the hospital.

The fire department used canine masks to administer oxygen to the dogs.

Two more people in Polk County were also reportedly treated for carbon monoxide poisoning.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that in the four days following Hurricane Ike in 2008, at least seven people died from carbon monoxide poising.

— Michelle Broder Van Dyke

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Here's 15 heartwarming moments from Irma that will remind you of the good in everyone

#FLPD #WeAreInThisTogether #HurricaneIrma

Here are a few moments that show just how good people have been amid the destruction of Irma, from a team of people who rescued a stranded dolphin on the shore in Marco Island, to a sheriff's deputy who helped calm a woman’s nerves in a shelter with a little song and dance.

Read more here.

—Remy Smidt and Tanya Chen

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Caribbean islands grapple with Irma's devastation

The full scale of devastation set in Tuesday as rebuilding and clean-up efforts started in earnest on the hard-hit island shared by the Dutch St. Maarten and French St. Martin.

On the Dutch side, the Red Cross said roughly 90% of the buildings were damaged and more than 200 people were still listed as missing. At least 37 people in the Caribbean were killed when Hurricane Irma hit as a Category 5 storm, scraping islands of vegetation, buildings, and the infrastructure.

Disaster response efforts have been hampered by a severe shortage of food, water, and access to fuel and telecommunications, prompting European nations to send military aid to help restore order.

In St. Maarten, more than 2,000 US citizens had been evacuated, the US State Department tweeted Tuesday.

The U.K., for example, sent a navy ship and nearly 500 troops to the British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, and the Turks and Caicos islands, the Associated Press reported.

The United Nations, meanwhile, is airlifting food to eastern and western Caribbean islands. And the World Food Program has offered help to Cuba, where at least 10 deaths were blamed on Irma.

—Jason Wells

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Meet the families who fled Florida to stay with total strangers in Georgia

As Hurricane Irma's projected path lead to mandatory evacuations on both of Florida's coasts, last-minute travelers had few options as hotels and shelters filled to the brim.

Vanessa Faraj, a Decatur, Ga. resident, thought she could offer a solution. She started a Google form called “Atlanta Solidarity Housing” to connect people evacuating Florida and Atlanta-area residents with space to spare.

Photojournalist Maura Friedman met some of these families throughout the suburbs of Atlanta and documented the experience for both the hosts and evacuees.

Read more here.

—Ariel Zambelich

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Trump to travel to Florida on Thursday

President Trump will travel to Florida later this week to see Hurricane Irma's destruction first-hand, the White House announced Tuesday.

"The president and the entire administration continue to monitor the situation in Puerto Rico, the United States Virgin Islands, Florida, Texas, and all the areas affected by Hurricanes Irma and Harvey," press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters.

FEMA Administrator Brock Long will visit areas affected areas Tuesday, while the president while visit Florida on Thursday, she said.

On Monday, Gov. Kenneth Mapp of the US Virgin Islands said the president told him he would visit his territory in the next six or seven days, although the White House has not announced any Caribbean trip.

—David Mack

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These employees worked through hurricanes for minimum wage

At a Pizza Hut in Jacksonville, Florida, days before Hurricane Irma made landfall, a manager posted a notice threatening consequences for workers who failed to show up for shifts because they decided to evacuate the city more than 24 hours in advance.

“If evacuating, you will have a 24-hour period before storm ‘grace period’ to not be scheduled,” it warned. “You cannot evacuate Friday for a Tuesday storm event!”

“Failure to show for these shifts, regardless of reason, will be considered a no call/no show and documentation will be issued. In the event of an evacuation, you MUST return within 72 HOURS,” it read in bold type.

The notice went viral on Tumblr, reddit, and Twitter, with people online expressing outrage. More than a day later, the pizza chain put out a statement that the company is “uncompromising in our commitment to the safety and well-being of our team members.”

The past two weeks of disasters have showed similar situations everywhere. Whether they’re fast food workers, supermarket workers, or contracted cleaners and gardeners, the nation’s lowest-paid employees are also often the ones who can’t skip a paycheck or losing a steady gig over failing to show up during a crisis — even if winds are howling and highways are blocked.

“I came because I can’t afford to lose my job,” said one Waffle House employee, who was waiting tables as most people were in the midst of evacuating Houston.

Read more here.

—Cora Lewis and Lam Thuy Vo

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About 15 million people are now without power, including one million in Georgia

Nearly 22,000 federal personnel are ready on the front lines, officials said Tuesday in an update to the press, and more continue to deploy to provide disaster relief to Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, following Hurricane Irma's path of destruction.

On the ground, about 15 million people are without power, authorities said, including about one million in Georgia. The Department of Homeland Security is working with the Department of Energy and local utilities to assess damage, clean up debris and hang new lines. Servicing local waste water treatment facilities is a priority, officials said, though most of those facilities should have generator and fuel supplies for a number of days.

Communications remain an issue, according to FEMA, especially in the US Virgin Islands, due to cell service and wire line disruption. And power restoration is the largest goal in Puerto Rico, officials said, where over a million people had lost light and gas, but restorations are underway.

In the US Virgin Islands, officials said they are prioritizing safety and security, deploying military police through National Guard partners. The government has also established air bridges through partners with the Department of Defense and Navy with ships offshore there.

With regards to oil, Harvey brought "a significant amount of the nation's refining capacity offline," as well as causing distribution troubles through some of the pipelines through the southeast. As a result, officials said there may be some fuel supply shortages throughout the southeast.

In addition to the presidential disaster declaration, specific affected counties are now under individual assistance declarations, officials said, including Broward County, Palm Beach, St. John's, Charlotte, Collier, Hillsboro, Lee, Miami-Dade, and Sarasota. Citizens in those counties experiencing hardship may register for federal disaster assistance, in addition to filing with the National Flood Insurance Program (if residents hold policies).

In Jacksonville, Florida, and areas around the St. John's river, record-breaking flooding continues and life-saving missions remained underway Tuesday morning, officials said.

-- Cora Lewis

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"Utter devastation": British Royal Marines arrive on Turks and Caicos Island after Hurricane Irma

Britain's Royal Marines have arrived on Turks and Caicos Islands after the British overseas territories were hit by Hurricane Irma.

Lieutenant Colonel Paul Maynard posted a series of photographs on Twitter overnight as the 40 Commando Royal Marines unit arrived on the devastated Caribbean islands.

The UK's foreign secretary Boris Johnson is also understood to be visiting the British Virgin Islands and Anguilla later, according to the BBC.

It follows criticism from senior opposition MPs that the British government's response was too slow.

Defense Secretary Michael Fallon refuted these suggestions, and told BBC Breakfast that the UK had responded "very quickly", and was working with the US, France and the Netherlands to help those affected by Irma.

Our first look at Turks and Caicos Is. Utter devastation. The Lead Commando Group is coming to help. @DefenceOps…

– Rose Troup Buchanan

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“It’s like a bomb went off:" Virgin Islands residents desperate for food, supplies, and help after Hurricane Irma

Trekking miles over downed power lines into town to congregate around spotty cell service hot spots, like a pizza restaurant and roofless hospital, people in the US Virgin Islands are desperately trying to get calls and texts out to friends and family members with one overwhelming message: "We need help. Things are really bad."

“If I had realized how horrific it was going to be, I would have spent all my money to get off this island,” said Scott Borchers, who weathered Hurricane Irma on St. Thomas and secured a seat on a cruise ship evacuating to people to Florida Monday night.

“My parents that live in Naples hunkered down for it too,” he said. “My dad said it was terrifying. I said, ‘You have no idea. It was ten times worse here, I promise you.’”

As Hurricane Irma tore through a string of Caribbean islands last week, pummeling the popular tourist spots with up to 185-mile winds, the US Virgin Islands took a severe hit from the storm. Homes, hospitals, and government buildings in the US territory were reduced to rubble. Splintered cell phone towers and trees are still blocking roads, while crushed boats bob broken in harbors, trapping hundreds of residents attempting to relocate. Four people were killed during the storm, which was responsible for at least 30 other deaths across the region.

Read more here

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Irma has been downgraded to a tropical depression

On Monday, the National Hurricane Center said Irma had weakened to a tropical depression, while adding that the storm is still producing "heavy rainfall" across the southeastern US.

Maximum sustained winds have decreased to 35 mph, and additional weakening is forecasted and the storm is expected to dissipate by Tuesday night, the NHC said.

Irma is forecasted to move toward Alabama at a slightly slower speed through Monday. On Monday night, the storm is excepted to turn towards western Tennessee.

All storm surge warnings have also been discontinued.

— Michelle Broder Van Dyke

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Mexico rescinds offer of hurricane aid to the US after massive earthquake impacts the country

Mexico said Monday that it would rescind its offer to help Texas after Hurricane Harvey following a massive earthquake that hit the country last week, killing more than 90 people.

Mexico's Foreign Ministry said in a statement noted that as a result of the 8.2-magnitude earthquake, as well as the damage caused by Hurricane Katia this past weekend, the country no longer has the resources available to provide the aid it had offered to Texas in August.

The statement noted that Mexico offered personnel, technical equipment and supplies immediately after the hurricane hit Texas, but received a response more than a week later through the US State Department and Texas Secretary of State saying that the state would "only require certain logistical support."

"This decision is made since the conditions of both countries have changed and based on the fact that aid needs in Texas have fortunately decreased," the statement said in a translation.

The Mexican foreign ministry expressed solidarity with Florida, Texas, and Louisiana as the states deal with the impact caused by the recent storms. The statement also thanked Texas Gov. Greg Abbott for sending a message of support following last week's earthquake.

President Donald Trump has not yet made any statements regarding the earthquake in Mexico, which drew public messages of condolence from several other world leaders.

— Michelle Broder Van Dyke

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Drivers are waiting hours for gas in Florida as stations run out in the wake of Irma

NAPLES, FLORIDA — Isidro Lozano Jr. is a Naples, Florida, resident going nowhere fast.

He was sitting in the back of his pickup, in a line of at least 25 vehicles at the Marathon Gas station on Tamiami Trail East. He was going on hour three.

Lozano chatted with people to pass the time. Others played rap music. At the center of the winding queue was debris from the gas station’s metal canopy, thrown to the ground by Irma’s hurricane-force winds on Sunday.

“Patience, it’s always got to take patience. A lot of people don’t have it, but you have to have patience,” Lozano explained.

Naples took a direct hit from Hurricane Irma on Sunday, and there was a run on fuel in the days-long buildup to the storm, with Florida officials pleading with coastal communities to the east — then west — to pack up and go.

Then the storm hit, and brought with it power outages to millions of people and businesses. At the Marathon Gas station — where a gallon of unleaded was going for $2.76 — people were waiting in line for the generator to be fixed so the attendant could actually pump the gas.

Read more here.

—Lissandra Villa

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Here’s why Hurricane Irma’s flooding predictions were off

Hurricane Irma swamped Jacksonville with 5 feet of water, but left Tampa unexpectedly dry — the opposite of what models had predicted for each city.

This is the first year the National Hurricane Center has offered flooding projections. But the storm defied these terrifying predictions of 10 to 15 feet of water above average sea level on Florida’s Gulf Coast, which triggered urgent evacuation calls on Saturday.

The discrepancies show the difficulty of predicting storm surges, particularly when a hurricane suddenly changes course.

“Certainly it was a very complicated storm surge story,” coastal geologist Robert Young of Western Carolina University told BuzzFeed News.

The storm hit the Keys as predicted, lost more steam there than anticipated, and then cruised along the Gulf Coast, instead of picking up any steam in the Gulf of Mexico before smashing back into land. That landfall on Marco Island came near Naples, Florida, where a high surge of 8 feet was reported, less than the 15 feet predicted. The storm’s high winds, meanwhile, stretched eastward to build up a low but persistent storm surge along the East Coast that has helped flood Jacksonville.

Although scientists only have tidal gauge data now, and a full accounting awaits field surveys in weeks ahead, the storm’s shifted track seems to explain the worst fears not coming to pass.

Read more here.

—Dan Vergano and Peter Aldhous

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National Weather Service releases full radar loop of Irma

59 hours of radar imagery from #Irma from 7 am Saturday morning to 6 pm Monday evening.

The National Weather Service on Monday released 59 hours of radar imagery showing Irma's path across Florida as it caused widespread flooding and damage in the Southeast.

At one point a powerful Category 5 storm, Irma's enormous size completely smothered Florida after cutting a destructive path through the Caribbean islands over the weekend.

The full scope of damage caused by Irma was still be assessed Monday, but dozens of deaths had already been blamed on the storm.

—Jason Wells

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Florida Keys residents demand to get back home as officials call the islands a "humanitarian crisis"

HOMESTEAD, FLORIDA — Federal officials on Monday said the Florida Keys “are not equipped for re-entry for regular citizenry for weeks” — but residents of the islands blocked from driving on the main road to their homes demanded they be allowed to return.

Irma made landfall Sunday morning on Cudjoe Key — one of the chain of islands that make up the Keys — as a Category 4 hurricane with sustained winds of 130 mph. Videos and photos posted on social media show toppled trees, destroyed vehicles, and boats in the middle of the street throughout the area but mostly in the southern parts of the Keys.

“This is a humanitarian crisis,” Martin Senterfitt, the emergency management director of Monroe County, which includes most of the Keys, said. “Help is on the way.”

Tom Bossert, President Trump’s Homeland Security Advisor, said Monday that he would not be surprised if lives were lost, adding, “We're doing everything we can to help them.”

"It looks like a nuclear bomb went off here," one Key Largo man told BuzzFeed News by phone on Sunday.

Read more here.

—Amber Jamieson and Mary Ann Georgantopoulos

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Record flood waters in Jacksonville, Florida, crippled the city's infrastructure Monday as Irma continued to move north into Georgia.

Several bridges were closed due to the flood waters and residents were asked not to needlessly draw down on already strapped city resources. The mayor even advised those who need rescuing to raise a white flag to draw the attention of first-responders.

"Put a white flag outside your home that can be viewed so we can come get you," Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said Monday. "The floodwaters are not going to recede today."

Read more here.

—Blake Montgomery

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There is "incredible flooding" in Charleston, the National Weather Service says

This is White Point Garden is Downtown Charleston! Inundated with saltwater.

Videos and photos showed major flooding in downtown Charleston as Irma pounded South Carolina on Monday. Authorities issued flash flood warnings and tornado warnings for the city.

The National Weather Service said there was "incredible flooding going on in Downtown Charleston" and urged residents not to travel.

Waves breaking over the wall at the Battery in downtown Charleston. 🌊💨 #Irma🌀

WATCH: Video shows heavy flooding in downtown Charleston, South Carolina. (Via Diane Koehler)

Cannon Park in #Charleston is underwater. I'm surrounded by flooded streets so I'll be stationary for a while.…

Hudson's Seafood on Hilton Head is more-or-less underwater. Thanks to Joey Grice for submitting this photo. #Irma

Several landmarks in Charleston, including parks and restaurants, were inundated with water, according to images shared on social media.

— Tasneem Nashrulla

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People in Florida maintain their Floridian senses of humor during Hurricane Irma

Hurricane Irma weakened to a tropical storm Monday as it continues to move through Florida with intensity. Some Floridians are dealing with its direct aftermath, while others are still gearing for its impact.

But over the weekend, and into the week, Floridians also proved they've been able to maintain their unique sense of humor, even in the most serious of circumstances.

"Irma Gerd" -- someone in Port St. Lucie gets it #HurrcaneIrma

Hilarious messages were spray-painted on boarded-up houses across southern Florida. Like this "Thanks, ObIRMA" one from 36-year-old Oldsmar, Florida, resident Bobby Quinn.

Read more here.

—Tanya Chen and Remy Smidt

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72% of Miami is without power, mayor says

More than 70% of Miami residents are still without power, mayor Tomas Regaldo and other city officials said during and press conference regarding city clean up following Irma.

Regaldo said the goal for Monday, now that the winds have died down, is to clear the roads and restore power.

"We had localized flooding but I think for the most part that flooding has receded," city manager Daniel Alfonso said during the press conference.

Officials said there have been no deaths related to Irma in Miami, but cautioned that the conditions are still not safe.

The mayor urged people to stay off the streets so the city can clean the roads. The city officials also cautioned residents to not touch any of the debris, especially toppled power lines.

As for the residents who evacuated Miami and are asking when they can return home, District 4 Commissioner Francis Suarez asked people to be patient and to give the city the opportunity to clear out roadways first.

—Mary Ann Georgantopoulos

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Jacksonville is experiencing extreme flooding

Storm surge flooding in Jacksonville Florida has passed the record set in 1965 during Hurricane Dora, the National Weather Service said Monday. Local news and social media posts show houses crumbling and rivers overflowing, with debris and even dumpsters displaced from the winds.

A home in Vilano Beach crumbles. News4JAX is working to learn more.

One more from the St Johns northbank on Riverside Ave. @jaxdotcom

Video shows flooding along St. Johns River & this is just the beginning. During high tide, we're expected to receiv…

Flooding in Riverside near downtown #Jax. #Irma pushes river over the banks near st. Vincent's Hosp.…

I'm not sure where this dumpster began last night, but I'm gonna assume it wasn't here. Flood waters in St Aug like…

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office warned residents to stay off roads and avoid standing water, and the National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning through 12:45 pm.

We can't stress this enough, do not drive. It is not safe. There is standing water all over, downed power lines, and trees down. #Irma

Flash Flood Warning continues for Jacksonville FL until 12:45 PM EDT

The Sheriff's office later warned residents to get out now if they are in an evacuation zone as high tide at 2 p.m. is expected to bring more flooding – upwards of four to six feet above normal levels.

Very significant river flooding is coming. It is going to get bad at high tide around 2pm. Flash Flood emergency ha…

Historic flood levels already. Levels will continue to rise. Expect 4-6 feet above normal high tide levels. You…

Irma, now a tropical storm, is passing over the city as it moves north towards Georgia, combining with winds from Hurricane Jose, tides, and local rivers.

@ericfisher Have waves in our parking lot

Unbelievable! Historic flooding in Downtown #Jacksonville. #Irma @ActionNewsJax #Florida

-- Cora Lewis

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Florida Governor Rick Scott: "President Trump has promised me all the federal resources I need."

With extensive flooding on roadways, downed trees, and power outages across most of the state, Florida Governor Rick Scott said Monday on Fox and Friends that the White House assured him of "all the federal resources I need."

The latest emergency taking place is in Jacksonville, the governor said, where Hurricane Jose is continuing to push water to the coast, combining with the storm surge from Irma and high tide to cause flash flooding. There are also several rivers in the area, compounding the risks. Search-and-rescue teams have been deployed, the governor said, and he's headed to the city this morning to oversee efforts.

For people who had evacuated and remain in shelters, Governor Scott cautioned that they should listen to local authorities about when to safely return to areas hardest hit by the storm, being especially careful to avoid downed electrical wires, which could still be live.

"I don't want to lose any life after the storm," he said. "We worked hard to get people to evacuate. We want everybody to survive this storm."

Sheriff's departments and local emergency teams are now coordinating returns and determining which roads are passable, according to the governor.

"This is when people make the mistake," he said. "They go down around power lines. They go where... it's unsafe. We have so much damage right now around the state. We're drawing every resource we can. Locally, at the state, and the federal government."

-- Cora Lewis

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Irma has been downgraded to a tropical storm

Monday morning, the National Hurricane Center downgraded Irma to a tropical storm, while noting it is still producing some wind gusts "to near hurricane force."

Maximum sustained winds have decreased to near 70 mph, authorities said, with a forecast of additional weakening and an expectation the storm would be further downgraded to a tropical depression by Tuesday afternoon.

Storm surge and tropical storm warnings remain in effect, meaning there is still a danger of life-threatening inundation, from rising water moving inland from the coastline, in some locations during the next 36 hours.

8 am EDT Monday: The latest on Irma.

-- Cora Lewis

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More than 4 million people are experiencing power outages in Florida and Georgia

Across Florida, and now parts of Georgia, about 4.3 million people are experiencing power outages Monday, utility companies report.

A map of the outages that previously spared northern parts of Florida, including Jacksonville, now shows that the city has gone dark.

And in Georgia, about 150,000 are experiencing outages, as the outer bands of the storm take their toll on the state.

-- Cora Lewis

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Two BuzzFeed News reporters rode out Hurricane Irma in Miami

So @lissandravilla and I decided to just duck outside for two seconds in Miami to see if the weather had calmed eno…

BuzzFeed News reporters Lissandra Villa and Amber Jamieson are in Florida to report on Hurricane Irma. They spent the weekend holed up in a hotel near the Miami airport, away from flooding and evacuation zones and surrounded by hurricane-proof glass.

Original predictions showed the city would be in the eye of the storm, but by Saturday morning, the storm had shifted west. But with hurricane-force winds lashing most of the state, they were forced to stay put. Here’s how they spent the weekend waiting out the storm.

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As Irma hit Naples Sunday, shelters were caught unprepared, running out of room, food, and power

Residents and local governments in Naples, Florida, were still scrambling to prepare for Hurricane Irma when the storm hit Sunday, making its second landfall in the state directly on top of the beachfront city.

As Irma lashed Florida's western coast with hurricane-force winds, residents of Collier and Lee counties were still making last-minute attempts to evacuate, as local shelters filled fast, often without power or adequate supplies.

Collier County, which includes Naples, opened 28 shelters, county spokesperson Kate Albers told BuzzFeed News, and by Sunday night, more than 17,000 people, in a county with a population of 320,000 had been placed in shelters.

Space ran out quickly though, forcing the county to open additional spots at the Gulf Coast High School in Naples on Sunday. The shelter had 425 available seats when the storm hit, Albers said. She added that because the county couldn't provide cots or beds, there were "just seats."

Read more about the situation in Naples and other west coast cities here. —Michelle Broder van Dyke

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Irma weakens to Category 1 storm as it moves towards Tampa

Hurricane Irma has weakened to a Category 1 storm but continues to move north-northwest towards Tampa.

In a 2 a.m. advisory, the National Hurricane Centre said the track of Irma will continue to move over the Western Florida peninsula through Monday morning. But maximum sustained winds have decreased to near 85 mph, with with higher gusts, and the storm is expected to weaken to a tropical storm as it moves further north into Florida or southern Georgia Monday, the NHC said.

Despite the weakening, the NHC warned that "strong winds and flash flooding" are still a "major risk" as the storm moves north. Currently, Irma is about 25 miles northeast of Tampa, and hurricane-force winds continue to extend out up to 80 miles from the eye of the storm, according to the NHC.

Storm surge warnings remain in place for the Florida Keys and Tampa Bay among others.

—Alicia Melville-Smith

2 AM AST Advisory/Advertencia #48A: Hurricane/Huracán Irma. #prwx #usviwx

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Irma is climbing up Florida's coast, with hurricane-force winds now affecting most of the state

Powerful winds from Hurricane Irma are still whipping across the state at about 100 mph, according to an update from the National Hurricane Center late Sunday night. The forecast warns Florida residents to prepare for "dangerous storm surges" and flash flooding as the storm makes its way northward.

Almost the entire length of Florida remains under a hurricane warning, as Irma's wind field expands almost across the width of the state. In addition, tornadoes remain a possibility for those living in northeast Florida and southeast areas of Georgia and South Carolina through Monday evening, according to the NHC.

A storm surge warning -- which the NHC describes as "life-threatening" -- will remain in effect for a number of coastal areas of Florida for the next 36 hours, including South Santee River south toward the Jupiter Inlet; north Miami Beach south, around the Florida peninsula, and to the Ochlockonee River, the Florida Keys, and Tampa Bay.

The storm is then expected to head northwest, moving to inland parts of Florida and other southeastern states.

-- Alyson Martin

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Irma is picking up speed, heading toward Fort Myers, Florida

Hurricane Irma is moving north towards Fort Myers, Florida, and is excepted to increase speed as it moves near or over the west coast of the Florida Peninsula overnight and into Monday, the National Hurricane Center said in an update Sunday night.

Dangerous storm surges are expected to cause flooding along Florida's western coast, the NHC said. More than 3.3 million users have lost power in the state so far.

"This is a life-threatening situation," the NHC reiterated. "Persons located within these areas should take all necessary actions to protect life and property from rising water and the potential for other dangerous conditions."

Irma is currently about 15 miles from Fort Myers, and its winds have decreased to near 105 mph with higher gusts, according to the NHC. Although it's weakening, Irma is expected to remain a hurricane through Monday.

— Michelle Broder Van Dyke

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Hurricane Irma tears off roof of an apartment building in Palm Beach County, forcing about 60 residents to evacuate

Roof off the building at Stoney Brook crews onscene video Courtesy of PIO Watson

Thomas Masters had been mayor of Riviera Beach, in Florida's Palm Beach County, since 2007. He has never seen a storm like this.

On Sunday afternoon, Hurricane Irma partially tore the roof off a building at the Stonybrook Apartments minutes after the city had declared that first responders would no longer be able to help callers due to safety concerns caused by the storm. With no roof, apartment units started flooding with water, causing electrical issues and fires.

Despite the announcement, firemen decided to help callers from the building, according to Masters, who said that rescue personnel ended up evacuating about 60 people and took them to a shelter at a nearby high school.

“The wind seems to have decreased tremendously and it seems we have got through the worst of it,” Masters told BuzzFeed News. “It’s not nearly as bad as it was even two hours ago.”

Masters said that while there were no mandatory evacuations on the city’s mainland, there had been an order in place for residents of surrounding islands. He added that so far, Irma had not caused any fatalities in his city, though there was a fair amount of structural damage, uprooted trees and downed power lines.

Senator Marco Rubio tweeted about the Stonybrook apartment building on Sunday.

Getting reports of serious situation in @pbcgov Stonybrook Apt. Bldg. G. roof collapsed emergency evacuation of 67 residents #Sayfie

—Ryan Mac

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Here's what life looks like stranded inside a Miami hotel

Miami's Fairfield Inn and Suites has become a temporary shelter for emergency workers, stranded tourists, and locals who weren't able to evacuate until the last minute. Photographer Nicole Craine captured the scene.

See more here.

Ariel Zambelich

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Dramatic photos show Irma's wrath in Florida

Toppled trees, damaged homes, cranes split in half.

Check out some of the most shocking images of Irma's wrath on Florida in this post, which will be updated as more images become available.

—Gabriel H. Sanchez

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Trump's social media director shares fake news on Irma with the president

Dan Scavino, the White House social media director, spent much of Sunday tweeting about Hurricane Irma from his official government account.

In one tweet, Scavino said he was sharing social media footage of the hurricane with the president and vice president each hour.

"Here is Miami International Airpot. STAY SAFE!!" he wrote, linking to footage of a plane moving on a flooded tarmac.

There was just one problem: it most definitely was not Miami Airport.

Read more about the blunder, and the mockery that followed, here. —David Mack

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Irma downgraded to Category 2 as it passes Naples

Officials downgraded Hurricane Irma to a Category 2 storm after measuring sustained winds at around 110 mph.

About 17 miles northwest of Marco Island, Naples experienced a wind gust as high as 142 mph, according to the National Weather Service for Miami-South Florida.

As Hurricane Irma’s eye moved over the city, the National Hurricane Center issued an advisory and warned of “dangerous storm surges expected immediately after the eye passage along the Florida west coast.”

—Ryan Mac

4:34 PM: #Naples Municipal Airport recorded a wind gust of 142 mph (WeatherBug mesonet NPLMP). #Irma

MOMENTS AGO: Violent Wind Gusts at Naples Municipal Airport In Florida

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Irma makes its second landfall in Florida on Marco Island

High winds and pounding rains thrashed Marco Island — a small, low-lying community off the southwestern coast of Florida — as Hurricane Irma made its second landfall in the state at 3:35 p.m. local time.

According to the National Weather Service, gusts of up to 130 mph were recorded on the island.

Officials also warned residents of the island — as well as nearby Naples, Everglade City, and Chokoloskee — that a "catastrophic surge is imminent."

A Periscope purporting to be taken from the Island shows palm trees whipping in the wind and rain pelting windows.

The storm is now heading north toward Naples.

Ellen Cushing

The outer wall of eye, #hurricaneirma hitting #marcoisland (3pm, 9/10/17) #winknews #weatherchannel #swfl…

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Irma tears roof off Miami apartment building

Using satellite before pictures @CityofMiamiFire was able to confirm a roof peeled off a two story apt Bldg at 2642…

The destructive winds of Hurricane Irma have torn a roof of an apartment building in Miami, officials reported.

The two-story building in the city's Edgewater neighborhood was stripped of its roof in the high-velocity winds.

Footage of the incident shows the roof peeling back and then crashing with a loud thud on a neighboring property, as huge gusts ravage the neighborhood.

WATCH: Irma Rips Roof From Building In West Brickell, Miami

After the footage went viral on Twitter, Miami officials said the city's fire department had determined its authenticity using satellite images of the neighborhood.

—David Mack

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Tornado warning for Miami as Irma passes

Tornado Warning including Miami FL, Miami Beach FL, Key Biscayne FL until 3:30 PM EDT

Although the eye of Irma is passing toward the southwest part of the Florida coast, Miami is still being battered by destructive winds, heavy rains, and storm surges.

Now, residents are also being warned about tornadoes.

The local National Weather Service issued a warning to Miami residents of possible twisters and small marble-sized hail.

A video shared by a BBC journalist showed huge gusts of wind twirling water surging through downtown Miami into the air.

—David Mack

From my brother's Univision colleagues in downtown Miami

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A second construction crane has collapsed in Miami

As winds continue to whip South Florida, a second construction crane has reportedly buckled in Miami on NE 30th Terrace.

The Associated Press quoted an official saying the crane was in a large development.

Crane is dangling from the unfinished Gran Paraiso development; 2nd Miami crane #HurricaneIrma buckled today:…

Able to physically confirm second crane collapse at 600 NE 30th ter. @CityofMiami

Around 10 a.m. local time, another crane collapsed, this time onto a high-rise building on Biscayne Boulevard in downtown Miami. No injuries from that collapse have been reported.

A call to the Miami-Dade County Communications Department went unanswered on Sunday afternoon.

Ellen Cushing

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More than 1.69 million people are now without power in Florida

About 31% of all Florida Light and Power customers are now without light and power, according to the most recent updates from officials.

The utility's map of outages shows the creep of the losses, which have taken out nearly the entire coast. Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa, and St. Petersburg are among the only major cities spared so far.

—Cora Lewis

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Irma downgraded to Category 3

Hurricane Irma continues to batter south Florida but has been downgraded to a category 3 storm, the National Weather Service reported.

"Maximum sustained winds are near 120 mph (195 km/h) with higher gusts," the NWS's National Hurricane Center said in its latest advisory. "Irma is a category 3 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. While weakening is forecast, Irma is expected to remain a powerful hurricane while it moves near or along the west coast of Florida."

The storm's strongest winds are expected in Marco Island and Naples within the next few hours.

The Cape Sable to Captiva region should expect storm surges of 10-15 feet, officials warned.

"With the passage of the eye of Irma during the next couple of hours, the wind direction will shift to onshore, causing water levels along the southwest coast of Florida to rapidly rise in a matter of minutes. MOVE AWAY FROM THE WATER!" the NWS warned.

—David Mack

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Florida police shoot and arrest a burglar in early morning hours

With evacuations in effect, most Florida residents are now taking shelter far away from their homes. But some are still keeping an eye on them.

Shortly before 3 a.m. Sunday, police officers shot and wounded a burglar and arrested an accomplice at a home in Weston after they were alerted to the attempted robbery by homeowners, according to the Broward Sheriff’s Office.

The evacuees saw the crime being committed via a remote home surveillance system, officials said.

Both people arrested were juvenile males, and the suspect who was shot was taken to a hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.

—Cora Lewis

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Irma is "impacting all of South Florida," officials say

Irma is "impacting all of south Florida" as it passes over the state's southernmost tip and heads for Marco Island and then Naples, the National Hurricane Center said in a statement.

Officials are warning of high winds and storm surges of up to 15 feet. As of 1 p.m. local time, the storm was about 50 miles south of Naples with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph, according to the NHC. It is expected to reach Marco Island, a resort-dotted barrier island, at 1:45 p.m. local time.

1:05 PM: #Irma eyewall to move to #MarcoIsland by 1:45 PM, then to #Naples. 115+ mph winds. Large storm surge immin…

12:00 PM: Negative surge ~3.5 FT at #Naples to become 10-15 FT above ground as #Irma moves in. Life-threatening rap…

Ellen Cushing

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Two Florida officers killed in crash, unclear if weather a factor

Two law enforcement officers were killed in a car crash in Florida on Sunday morning, officials said.

It was not immediately clear whether Hurricane Irma was a factor in the crash.

A Hardee County sheriff's deputy was finishing a shift when their car collided head-on with a corrections officer at the Hardee Correctional Institution, Florida Gov. Rick Scott said in a statement.

Corrections officer Sgt. Joseph Ossman and Sheriff's Deputy Julie Ann Bridges were killed in the crash, which is being investigated by the Florida Highway Patrol.

"I am heartbroken to learn of the loss of these two individuals in a traffic accident today," Scott said.

Hardee County, southeast of Tampa, is further inland than the coastal areas expected to bear the full brunt of the storm.

—David Mack

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Irma's storm surge has flooded parts of Miami

Flooding beneath us in downtown #Miami #HurrcaneIrma

WOW! Look at these pictures of Brickell Ave. in downtown Miami. INSANE! Please be safe. #HurricaneIrma #Miami…

This is NE 30th street in Miami right now. Biscayne Bay waters have surged over the seawall, flooding the street…

This is Brickell in downtown Miami. Totally underwater. #HurrcaneIrma @wsvn w

Water still rising in downtown Miami along Brickell Avenue. Storm surge is intense. Neck deep in areas. @wsvn…

—Remy Smidt

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People are nervously laughing after Florida parks "promised" no alligators will escape during Irma

As Florida feels the impact of Hurricane Irma, gator parks (some of them hosting thousands of alligators on their properties) said they were well prepared. One park in Orlando told HuffPost, "None of our animals are getting out.”

“We have double fences, a large perimeter fence that goes around the entire property," a park director reassured.

But when HuffPost ran with the headline "Gator Park...Promises None Will Escape," people suddenly became afraid of the very real threat of alligators escaping in flood waters — and absolutely no one was reassured.

Some even nervously joked about how these assurances reminded them of the storylines of Sharknado and Jurassic Park movies. Read more here.

Tanya Chen

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FEMA chief calls Irma's western trajectory "a worst-case scenario" for parts of Florida

On Sunday morning, Brock Long, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, called Irma's forecasted western path "a worst-case scenario" for the area.

"This is a worst-case scenario for Monroe County, Florida Keys, and the west coast of Florida," Long told Fox News.

Long also mentioned the threat of tornados, saying that “80 percent of your landfalling hurricanes bring with them tornados.” The FEMA chief said that “we’re already seeing some tornado watches and warnings spread across the state.”

He said that storm surge is the big danger: "Storm surge has the highest potential to kill the most amount of people and cause the most amount of damage."

On Friday, Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert told reporters he believed people had not prepared for the hurricane moving west. "I guess maybe worst-case scenario is if it dips down, moves west, and curls around to the other side of the state," he said.

"Because right now, it's my belief that people haven't been planning for that."

People on Florida's west coast, many of whom expected that the brunt of Irma’s force would be felt on the other side of the state, were confronted with news of the Irma’s western path Saturday morning.

—Remy Smidt

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A crane has collapsed in downtown Miami

A huge crane just collapsed on top of building in down town Miami #irma

A huge crane has collapsed on top of a building at 300 Biscayne Boulevard in downtown Miami, the city tweeted, warning people to avoid the area.

Cranes often require about two weeks to take down, meaning some are left standing when storms like Hurricane Irma form without enough time to prepare.

The ball that balances the weight of the anchor on a crane over a high rise in downtown has collapsed and is swinging, striking the building

Here's a better pic. Heard a loud crack, looked up and saw the crane snapped and falling. @CityofMiami @downtownMIA…

—Cora Lewis

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Irma's eye begins to move away from lower Keys

#GOES16 captured this geocolor image of #Irma's eye over the Florida Keys at approx. 9:00 am EDT. Latest info @…

After making landfall at Cudjoe Key at 9:10 a.m. local time, Hurricane Irma's eye is now beginning to move away from the lower Florida Keys, the National Weather Service said.

"A 93 mph (150 km/h) gust was recently measured at Carysfort Reef Light near Key Largo," the NWS's National Hurricane Center reported in its 10 a.m. ET advisory. "A National Ocean Service station in Key West just reported a sustained wind of 67 mph (107 km/hr) and a gust to 89 mph (143 km/h)."

After a drop in barometric pressure in the eye of the storm, NWS meteorologists reported winds were once again picking up.

"Pressure is rising, winds gusting to hurricane force," Brandon Fling of the NWS Key West wrote on Twitter.

An extreme wind warning is in effect for the lower Keys, as the category 4 hurricane moves northwest towards the mainland.

The area will also likely see swaths of tornado-like damage, the NWS has warned.

—David Mack

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More than a million people have now lost power in Florida

Utility officials said more than a million people are now without power in Florida, as Hurricane Irma makes landfall.

A map of the outages by Florida Power and Light shows the affected areas extend from the tip of the state up the coasts to as far north as Jacksonville.

-- Cora Lewis

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Eye of Hurricane Irma makes landfall in lower Florida Keys

Eyewall and Storm Surge !! #HurricaneIrma #KeyWest

The center of Hurricane Irma made landfall in the lower Florida Keys on Sunday morning, the National Weather Service reported, becoming the first hurricane to directly hit the state since Hurricane Wilma 12 years ago.

"The center of Hurricane Irma made landfall at Cudjoe Key in the lower Florida Keys at 9:10 am EDT," the NWS's National Hurricane Center said in an advisory. "A gust to 106 mph (171 km/h) was just reported at the National Key Deer Refuge in Big Pine Key."

Big Pine Key, Summerland Key and Cudjoe Key in the eye of Hurricane #Irma. Do not venture outside…

The Category 4 Irma has seen maximum sustained winds of almost 130 mph, with some gusts even higher.

"IF winds go calm, you're in the eye. Stay inside!" the NWS warned people in Key West. "Winds dramatically shift and will do so violently! STAY INSIDE!"

The storm is moving to the north-northwest at a speed of 8 mph, although the NWS said Irma would likely pick up speed later today as it moves near or over the west coast of the Florida Peninsula.

Extreme Wind !! #KeyWest #HurricaneIrma

Social media footage from Key West shows flooded streets, surging seas, and palm trees being pummeled by huge winds.

—David Mack

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Hurricane Irma has hit the lower Florida Keys


Irma began striking the Florida Keys with its full force early Sunday morning, with the northern part of the center of the hurricane hitting the lower parts of the island chain around 7 a.m. local time.

The eyewall of the storm is now 15 miles off of Key West, according to the latest update from the National Hurricane Center.

Irma is now expected to spend most of Sunday moving through southwestern Florida, though the exact trajectory of the storm remains unclear.

Regardless of where Irma hits, however, the storm is expected to "bring life-threatening wind impacts to much of Florida," the NWS said, and the storm's impact will likely be felt as far as Georgia, South Carolina, and parts of Alabama.

Hurricane Irma remains a Category 4 storm as it plows into Florida, with maximum sustained winds of 130 miles per hour.

Hurricane-force winds began to hit the Keys before the storm's arrival Sunday, with the National Weather Service in Key West reporting wind gusts of 90 miles per hour.

Tornado warnings have also been issued for several areas across the area, including Miami-Dade, Hialeah, Pembroke Pines, and Hollywood.

7:05 AM: Wind gusts across South #Florida and the Keys past hour. #flwx #HurricaneIrma

—Grace Wyler

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Eyewall of Hurricane Irma expected to reach Florida Keys between 7-8 a.m.


The destructive eyewall of Hurricane Irma will likely hit the lower Florida Keys between 7 and 8 a.m. Eastern, according to the latest forecast from the National Weather Service.

In their 5 a.m. advisory Sunday, the NWS said "the eye of Irma should move over the Lower Florida Keys in the next few hours, then move near or over the southwestern coast of the Florida Peninsula" later Sunday.

Irma is then expected to move inland over the Florida panhandle and into southwestern Georgia by Monday afternoon.

Irma's maximum sustained winds are currently near 130 miles per hour with higher gusts. "While weakening is forecast, Irma is expected to remain a powerful hurricane as it moves through the Florida Keys and and near the west coast of Florida," the NWS said.

Hurricane-force winds are extending outwards by up to 80 milesfrom the centre of the storm, and tropical storm-force winds are extending out to 220 miles.

Storm surges of up to 10 feet are to be expected along the coast. "The deepest water will occur along the immediate coast in areas of onshore winds, where the surge will be accompanied by large and destructive waves," the NWS said.

Life-threatening flash flooding and mudslides are also a possibility as a result heavy rainfall from the storm.

By early Sunday morning, more than 380,000 homes and businesses were without power—a number that is expected to rise as Irma makes it way up the state.

—Alicia Melville-Smith

#Irma heading for lower Keys this morning, dangerous wind and surge expected. It's time to hunker down.

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Hurricane Irma regains strength as a Category 4 storm as it closes in on Florida

Hurricane #IRMA is gaining strength again over the Florida Straits early this AM. Back to a category 4. Heading for…

Hurricane Irma regained strength over the Florida Straights early Sunday morning, as it closed in on the Florida Keys with maximum sustained winds of 130 miles per hour, according to an update from the National Hurricane Center. The storm is currently about 70 miles away from the Keys.

Meteorologists are monitoring an apparent shift in the storm's trajectory that, though small, would move the center of the storm away from the heavily-populated cites of Tampa and toward nearby St. Petersburg and Clearwater.

According to the latest NHC update, the storm is projected to hit the Florida Keys sometime early Sunday, and then move near or along the western coast of Florida during the day, before moving inland over the Florida panhandle and into Georgia Monday afternoon. —Grace Wyler

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Florida sheriff tells people not to shoot guns during hurricane evacuations after gun owners make Facebook group to shoot at Irma

"To clarify, DO NOT shoot weapons @ #Irma," the Pasco Sheriff's office tweeted Saturday night after a Facebook group encouraging Florida gun owners to shoot at the hurricane went viral.

Ryon Edwards, 22, apparently came up with the idea to amuse himself during the storm, according to the BBC.

"I never envisioned this event becoming some kind of crazy idea larger than myself. It has become something a little out of my control," Edwards said of the event, which was scheduled to kick off Sunday at 10 a.m.

More than 25,000 people said they were attending the event, prompting the sheriff in Dade county to warn that shooting at the hurricane "won't make it turn around & it will have very dangerous side effects."

Other Facebook groups suggesting ~alternative~ ways to fight Irma, like using fidget spinners, have also popped up. One event, also scheduled for Sunday, plans to throw flames at Irma.

"Aim for the clouds," the location reads.

"It's time we took a stand against this bully! This is our home, nobody drives us out of our own territory. Join me in this fight as we shoot flames at Hurricane Irma and dissipate her on the spot," the event description says.

More than a thousand people posted memes and other advice on how to tackle Irma with guns, trucks, and other quintessentially American things.

One person has asked if bringing Flaming Hot Cheetos would do the trick. —Brianna Sacks

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A man died in a car crash in Marathon Florida, marking the first storm-related fatality in the state

Officials confirmed that a man died after his truck crashed into a tree in the Florida Keys city of Marathon Saturday, as hurricane-force winds began to batter the southern-most parts of the state ahead of Hurricane Irma's arrival.

The man was found in his truck, which was wrapped around a tree, the Monroe County Sheriff's Department said. Though the cause of the crash is still under investigation, it appears to mark the first Irma-related fatality in Florida.

“We did not want to leave this man’s body out there and I saw a lull in the storm that would allow us to go out there and get it safely,” Sheriff Rick Ramsay said in a statement.

The Florida Highway Patrol said it would investigate the crash when it was safe to do so. Officials emphasized that it is still unknown whether the man crashed due to the hazardous weather conditions.

—Brianna Sacks

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Hurricane Jose pulls away from the storm-ravaged Caribbean Islands, but remains a powerful Category 4 storm

Hurricane Jose, a powerful Category 4 hurricane, is slowly moving away from the Caribbean islands of Barbuda and Sint Maarten, days after Irma decimated large swaths of those countries and other parts of the region.

With maximum sustained winds of 145 mph, Jose is slowly pulling away from the northern Leeward Islands, the National Hurricane Center said late Saturday night. Tropical storm warnings remain in effect for the islands of Saint Barthelemy, Saint Martin, and Sint Marteen, although Jose is predicted to gradual weaken on Sunday.

As the hurricane neared the island of St. Maarten, members of the US National Guard from Puerto Rico and elsewhere evacuated more than 1,000 US citizens from the island.

Brianna Sacks

JUST IN: More than 1,000 U.S. citizens rescued from St. Maarten after #Irma, Puerto Rico Air National Guard says.…

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Hurricane Irma slowly moves toward Florida as a Category 3 storm

Hurricane Irma is "taking its time" moving away from Cuba, the National Weather Service said in an update late Saturday.

The NWS expects the center of the storm to cross the Florida Keys Sunday morning, and then head up the west coast of Florida that afternoon, before moving across the Florida panhandle and to southwestern Georgia on Monday.

In another update, posted at midnight Sunday, the NWS reported that the storm continued its westward shift, and is now expected to make direct contact with St. Petersburg and Clearwater, rather than Tampa.

Irma is now a Category 3 hurricane, but is still expected to strengthen “a little" as it approaches Florida, according to the NWS. More than 170,000 people were already without power across the state as the storm made its approach.

As the first hurricane-force wind gusts began hitting parts of the Florida Keys, President Donald Trump tweeted about the storm's pending landfall.

The U.S. Coast Guard, FEMA and all Federal and State brave people are ready. Here comes Irma. God bless everyone!

— Alex Kantrowitz

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Tornados are now sweeping across southern Florida

Tornados and squalls are "sweeping across southern Florida," the National Weather Service said in an update Saturday evening.

Although Irma's eye only recently began moving away from Cuba, the force of the storm is already being felt inside Florida. Currently a Category 3 hurricane with winds around 120 miles per hour, the NWS expects the storm to restrengthen before it hits the state.

—Alex Kantrowitz

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Gov. Rick Scott urges people to evacuate to hundreds of shelters across the state: "This is your last chance to make a good decision."

Florida Governor Rick Scott gave another dire warning Saturday night to those who have not yet evacuated: "This is your last chance to make a good decision."

As Irma continued its deadly and destructive path toward Florida, Scott urged people to hunker down in one of the more than 385 shelters now open across the state. Additional emergency shelters are scheduled to open tonight.

About 7,000 residents have already sought refuge in shelters, Scott said in a news conference. More than 1,700 state troopers are out canvassing the streets and managing traffic as thousands of residents continue to leave their homes.

"Every single guardsman that can be called up has been deployed to prepare and respond to the storm," Scott said.

More than 76000 people are also without power across the state, he added, warning that the outages "will get worse."

"Utility providers have actually pre-positioned resources throughout the state," Scott said. "We know how important power is. We will aggressively work to make sure he gets back on."

Also on Saturday night, the Florida Highway Patrol closed Skyway Bridge, which spans Tampa Bay, as a result of high winds in the area. And the City of Miami has enacted a curfew until 7 a.m., telling residents to stay inside their homes or shelters.

In Collier County, Irma's sudden shift to Florida's western coast sent officials scrambling to set up shelters and evacuate residents who found themselves with little time to get out. The county, which includes Naples, ran out of shelter space after it ordered more evacuations on Saturday morning, prompting two religious institutions, First Baptist Church of Naples and Temple Shalom in North Naples, to open their doors.

More than 15,000 people are squeezed into a variety of buildings across the county, Collier County spokesperson Kate Albers told BuzzFeed News. She added that officials had tried to open a shelter at a school but were forced to close it and redirect hundreds of people elsewhere due to intensified storm surge warnings.

"We're doing the best we can. We filled all the shelters and we needed more so we opened more and filled those so we opened more and filled those," Albers said. "It's been spiraling."

—Brianna Sacks

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West coast Florida thought they'd be spared the worst, but now Irma's coming right for them

After days of fears that Miami and the eastern Florida coast would endure the full force of the historic storm, Saturday's forecasts predicted Irma was now moving west and would instead drift up the Gulf Coast, striking the cities of Naples, Fort Myers, and Tampa most directly.

Alyssa Candelmo, a 19-year-old who lives in Bonita Springs between Naples and Fort Myers, said she, her parents, and her 82-year-old grandmother had made plans to "ride it out" when it seemed like the brunt of Irma would be felt on the other side of the state.

But the mood shifted on Saturday morning once it was forecasted that the massive storm was headed directly to them.

"Everyone was like, ‘Oh, thank god,' and now it’s like, 'Holy crap, this is going to hit right where we’re staying,'" she told BuzzFeed News.

Alanna Gillen left her home in Bonita Springs for her parents' home further north earlier in the week.

They had planned to evacuate to Georgia together but cancelled those reservations on Friday to hunker down. On Saturday afternoon, following news of Irma's updated trajectory, they decided that they were going to evacuate after all.

Gillen said that she "cried a little bit," when she saw that Irma's projected path on Saturday morning was headed west.

"Nothing prepares you for the news saying, 'It’s coming for you,'" she said.

Read more here. —Remy Smidt and Marcus Jones

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Here's where Hurricane Irma's storm surges may hit Florida the hardest

Experimental federal maps project where higher storm surge waters — as high as 15 feet in some places — are now predicted for Florida's coast.

The NHC stresses that it can't account for all of the factors, including wind and waves, that will determine the depth of the flood at any location. It says that everyone living in a coastal evacuation zone should follow local evacuation recommendations for safety.

Tampa Bay, for example, is now predicted to see five to eight feet of water coming on Sunday.

Click here to see all of the areas at risk of dangerous storm surge. —Dan Vergano

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Miami construction cranes begin spinning in hurricane winds

This is what the wind from #HurricaneIrma is doing to some cranes in Miami. This one is swinging in circles. @NBC6

Michael Spears NBC6 / Via Twitter: @MikeSpearsNBC6

Even though the roughly 25 cranes currently standing in the city of Miami are built to withstand wind up to 145 miles per hour, city officials still say to avoid staying in any buildings close to one. Footage above from NBC News shows a crane in Miami spinning in circles from the hurricane winds.

Miami-Dade County is only expected to get winds up to 65 mph through Sunday, but Miami City Manager Daniel Alfonso warns that the cranes’ arms cannot be tied down and if one were to collapse, the counterweights, as heavy as 10,000 pounds, could cause a lot of damage to the surrounding areas.

Marcus Jones

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Life-threatening Hurricane Irma is finally moving toward Florida

The eye of Hurricane Irma is moving away from Cuba and the storm is now headed toward Florida, according to the National Weather Service.

In an update posted Saturday afternoon, the NWS said it expects major, hurricane force winds to reach the Florida Keys by early Sunday morning. The hurricane will then move along or near Florida's southwest coast Sunday afternoon.

Irma is now a Category 3 Hurricane, with sustained winds of around 125 miles per hour. But the NWS expects it to get stronger as it heads toward Florida. "Irma is forecast to restrengthen once it moves away from Cuba and remain a powerful hurricane as it approaches Florida," the update stated.

President Donald Trump tweeted a video of a cabinet meeting, asking people to listen to government instructions and instructing those in the storm's path to get out of its way.

This is a storm of enormous destructive power, and I ask everyone in the storm’s path to heed ALL instructions from…

- Alex Kantrowitz

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Thousands are without power in the city of Miami

The city of Miami is reporting that as of 4:30 p.m. ET, 10,710 homes and small businesses in the area have lost power.

The city asks for residents to report outages to Florida Power and Light, which has brought in more than 16,000 out-of-state workers to help with restoration efforts.

FPL reports as of 4:00 p.m. ET the total amount of their customer outages is 43,190.

FPL will not be answering individual inquiries from residents, but will post updates on power in the area on Twitter and Facebook.

Marcus Jones

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Florida's zoo animals get shelters of their own

Cheetahs and flamingoes, elephants and tigers, thousands of animals in Florida's zoos and exhibitions will largely ride out Hurricane Irma in secure enclosures, zoo operators report, with evacuations for only for the most vulnerable ones.

The Sunshine State is home to more than 50 zoos and aquariums, from Gatorland to SeaWorld to Zoo Miami.

Those in the southern and central parts of the state are widely reporting early closings, and efforts focused on sheltering their charges in place.

Read more about the special preparations here. —Dan Vergano

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Miami residents cautiously optimistic they will be spared the storm's worst

MIAMI — Residents of Miami and surrounding areas breathed a small sigh of relief on Saturday, as the direct path of Hurricane Irma was forecasted to head to the west of Florida.

The city is still facing destructive weather conditions as a result of the powerful storm, with curfews due to be imposed later on Saturday.

But after days of fearing the eye of the hurricane would strike their city directly, the storm's westward motion was met with relief from locals.

“I’m relieved we are going to be OK,” said Claudia Londono, 40, a housewife, who lives in Mid-Beach in a seventh floor condo on the water. She’d evacuated with her chihuahua to a hotel near Miami International Airport, away from storm surge and closer to authorities.

Read more here. —Amber Jamieson and Lissandra Villa

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Florida extends evacuation orders, as Miami imposes a curfew

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has called for the evacuation of another 700,000 residents of his state, bringing the total number of people under evacuation orders to almost seven million.

The evacuation order covers both coasts of the state, and means around a third of the population of Florida has been ordered to leave their homes.

Meanwhile, Mayor Philip Levine has enacted a curfew for the city of Miami Beach from 8:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m., while Mayor Tomás Regalado has enacted a curfew for the city of Miami from 7:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.

Although the storm has moved west, the evacuation orders in Miami-Dade County have still expanded to Zone B and portions of Zone C.

—Marcus Jones

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