Weakened Irma Still ‘Extremely Dangerous’
The National Hurricane Center says Irma is “moving through the southeastern Bahamas as an extremely dangerous category 4 hurricane.”
Irma was downgraded from a category 5 hurricane early Friday. Weather forecasters say, “some fluctuations in intensity are likely during the next day or two, but Irma is forecast to remain a powerful category 4 hurricane during the next couple of days.”
Irma is moving with maximum sustained winds of 250 kilometers per hour.
The Hurricane Center says hurricane conditions are expected in northwestern Bahamas Friday night and Saturday and in portions of southern Florida and the Florida Keys Saturday night or early Sunday.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center has issued hurricane warnings for South Florida and the Florida Keys.
On Thursday, more than half a million people were ordered to leave South Florida as Irma approaches.
WATCH: Officials Urge Evacuations Before Hurricane Hits Southeastern US States
Prepare to evacuate
Florida Governor Rick Scott said the biggest concern right now is gasoline shortages. Police will escort fuel trucks in Florida as they make deliveries to gas stations that have run dry.
Scott said all 7,000 Florida National Guard members are being deployed Friday and thousands of power workers will be standing by, ready to go to work.
Scott said Irma “is wider than our entire state and could cause major and life-threatening impacts from coast to coast.” The governor told Florida residents, “Regardless of which coast you live on, be prepared to evacuate.”
Storm for the history books
U.S. Air Force Reserve weather officer Major Jeremy DeHart flew through the eye of Irma earlier in the week. He said the storm’s intensity sets it apart from other storms.
“Pictures don’t do it justice,” DeHart said. “Satellite images can’t do it justice.”
Hurricane Irma is already a storm for the history books. Experts are calling it the most powerful Atlantic storm ever recorded.
The storm tore up the island of Barbuda, leaving it “barely habitable,” according to Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne.
“What I saw was heart-wrenching. I mean, absolutely devastating,” he said Thursday. About 95 percent of all the buildings on the island were either destroyed or damaged.
As if Irma has not brought enough agony to Antigua and Barbuda, the islands are under a hurricane watch for Category 3 Hurricane Jose, which could affect the already devastated region by Saturday.
On the island of St. Martin, shared by France and the Netherlands, “lots of people are just wandering around aimlessly as they have no homes anymore and don’t know what to do,” a newspaper reporter told the local radio station.
It could be up to six months before all power is restored on cash-strapped Puerto Rico. Witnesses say wires are either lying in the streets or dangling from the poles that managed to stay upright.
President Donald Trump has declared a state of emergency on Puerto Rico. The Federal Emergency Management Agency will coordinate the cleanup and relief.
French and Dutch relief flights are on the way to help their territories, and British Prime Minister Teresa May has sent a Royal Navy shipload of soldiers, Marines and emergency supplies to British territories in the Caribbean.
At least 10 deaths have been reported so far in the Caribbean.
Irma lashed Haiti and the Dominican Republic with fierce winds and heavy rain, but spared them a direct hit.
In Photos: Hurricane Irma Hits Haiti