Irma hits Cuba, Florida waits

The latest on hurricanes Irma and Jose and the now storm Katia from the Guardian:

  • Hurricane Irma slowed to a category three storm as it crashed across Cuba’s northern coast, lashing towns with 125mph winds and flooding them with intense surges. As of midday local time, the storm was about 170 miles away from Florida, and expected to regain category four intensity.
  • More than seven million people were ordered to flee from their homes in several states, including nearly a third of Florida’s population. More than 50,000 people are in about 300 shelters around the state, counties enacted curfews, and power providers already began to struggle with demand.
  • Florida prepared for what its governor called “the most catastrophic storm the state has ever seen”. Irma is forecast to make landfall on the Florida Keys early Sunday morning and then to pummel south-west Florida on a 30-hour journey northward.
  • In Florida’s south-west, officials expect storm surges as high as 15ft. “Fifteen feet is devastating and will cover your house,” governor Rick Scott said. “Do not think the storm is over when the wind slows down. The storm surge will rush in and it could kill you.” Large swaths of Florida were given tornado warnings, and the National Weather Service’s Key West station delivered a dire warning: “THIS IS AS REAL AS IT GETS. NOWHERE IN THE FLORIDA KEYS WILL BE SAFE.”
  • Twenty-five people have been confirmed killed around the Caribbean, including 11 people on French St Martin and St Barts, four in the US Virgin Islands, three on Puerto Rico, two on Dutch St Maarten, one person in Anguilla and a two year old in Barbuda.
  • Category-four hurricane Jose threatened landfall in the eastern Caribbean, complicating relief efforts for islands that have only just emerged from Irma’s winds. On Barbuda, where the prime minister estimated 90% of buildings were destroyed, a mandatory evacuation moved people to the larger sister island of Antigua.
  • Another storm, Katia, was downgraded to a tropical depression as it pushed onto land from Mexico’s Gulf coast. Two people were killed in a mudslide in Veracruz, according to the AP.

The situation keeps changing in Florida as Irma looks like now going up over the keys and then up the west coast, depending on when an dhow much it veers north.

Irma will regain strength as it moves away from Cuba, with winds predicted of more than 110mph by the time it reaches the Florida Keys early Sunday.

The latest projections from the National Hurricane Center show the storm moving at about 9mph, with winds of 125mph, still over Cuba’s northern shore. The hurricane has not yet turned north back over warmer waters.

Irma’s current projected course shows the eye making landfall three times on Florida: first over the Lower Keys, where meteorologists expect devastating storm surges; then over Cape Coral or Fort Myers, in south-west Florida; and finally it is expected to come within range of Tampa Bay, the state’s third most populous city.

This will play out slowly of the next three days, it has been a slow motion wrecking storm.

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