The latest on Irma: Hurricane’s eye leaves Florida - Florida Politics

The latest on Irma: Hurricane’s eye leaves Florida

A weakened Irma weakened took its parting shot at Florida on Monday, triggering severe flooding in the state’s northeastern corner, while authorities along the storm’s 400-mile (640-kilometer) path struggled to rush aid to victims and take the full measure of the damage. The monster hurricane that hit the Florida Keys on Sunday as a Category 4 was downgraded to a tropical storm as it pushed out of Florida and into the Southeast, where it caused more misery.

Here’s the latest on the hurricane:

Monday – 6:58 p.m. – State offices will continue to be closed Tuesday in at least 14 counties, including some of the counties hardest hit by Hurricane Irma. Gov. Scott ordered all state offices closed Monday because of the storm, but his administration said additional closures would follow the directions of county officials. The closures Tuesday will include offices in Leon County, home to the state Capitol. Offices also will be closed in Alachua, Bradford, Brevard, Collier, DeSoto, Duval, Lee, Manatee, Marion, Miami-Dade, Monroe, St. Johns and Sumter counties, according to a list posted Monday afternoon on the state Department of Management Services website.

Monday – 5:59 p.m. – Irma’s eye has finally left Florida and exited the state as a weak tropical storm with 50-mph (85-kph) winds. The National Hurricane Center says the storm’s center is over southwestern Georgia, about 10 miles (15 kilometers) east of Albany. It is forecast to take a northwest turn Tuesday morning, moving into Alabama. It is zipping north-northwest at 17 mph (28 kph) It is still a 415-mile (665-kilometers) wide storm. Some, but not all, storm warnings in Florida have been discontinued, but storm surge is still expected along western Florida and from around Daytona Beach to South Carolina. South Carolina, Alabama and north central Georgia are expected to get 3 to 6 inches (7 to 15 centimeters) of rain with spots hitting 10 inches (25 centimeters). Northern Mississippi and southern Tennessee and parts of North Carolina are forecast to get 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 centimeters) of rain.

Monday – 5:58 p.m. – Officials say the 42-bridge roadway that connects the Florida Keys to each other and the mainland must be checked for safety before motorists can be allowed back onto the islands. Gov. Scott said Monday that once officials are able to inspect, and to clear debris and sand from the Overseas Highway, it should be usable again.

Monday – 4:00 p.m. – At least one of the Orlando, Florida, theme parks popular with tourists around the world has plans to reopen now that Hurricane Irma has moved out of the state. Universal Orlando said Monday that all three of its parks will reopen at 9 a.m. Tuesday. Universal was closed down ahead of Irma. Universal said its facility suffered relatively minor damage to fences, trees and building facades.

Monday – 3:30 p.m. – Gov. Scott says the Navy has deployed the USS Iwo Jima, USS New York and the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln to help with search and rescue and “a lot of other things” in the state. Scott says he flew over the Keys and saw a lot of flood damage and boats that had washed ashore.

Monday – 3:00 p.m. – A massive sinkhole opened up at the edge of an apartment building in Orange County, swallowing air-conditioning units and bushes and a concrete slab. The sinkhole destabilized the building so seriously that firefighters evacuated dozens of residents amid the hurricane’s winds and pouring rain. Ronnie Ufie heard a loud bang and her 6-year-old grandson saw sparks shoot up behind the building, then their power flickered out. The fire alarm started screaming. Ernest Almonor, who lives next door to Ufie, ran outside but saw no fire and went back inside. But firefighters arrived and told them they had to leave the building. Ufie, who cares for her two young grandsons, grabbed some coloring books and crayons and headed through the rain for a neighbor’s house. But most residents, around 25 people, ended up scrambling through the storm to hunker for the night in the complex’s clubhouse.

Monday – 2:30 p.m. – State and federal environmental regulators have issued a blanket waiver for Florida electricity companies to violate clean air and water standards for the next two weeks. The Environmental Protection Agency announced the decision in a letter issued Monday as Hurricane Irma blew through the state. The agency said the so-called No Action Assurance granted through Sept. 26 will provide Florida utility generators needed flexibility to maintain and restore electricity supplies. The assurance letter will allow utilities to operate outside restrictions mandated by their permits, including potentially using dirtier fuels, running for longer hours or electively bypassing pollution-control equipment.

Monday – 10:35 a.m. – From Reuters: The sheriff’s office in Jacksonville reported that it was making a rescue from waist-deep water on Monday morning and urged people to stay off unsafe roads. The National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning for the city, with nearby St. Augustine also seeing flooding.

“Stay inside. Go up. Not out,” Jacksonville’s website warned residents. “There is flooding throughout the city and more rain is expected.”

Monday – 10 a.m. – Firefighters on one of South Carolina’s largest barrier islands are now staying inside until the worst weather from Tropical Storm Irma passes.

Hilton Head Island said on Twitter that it suspended emergency operations at 9 a.m. Monday until the winds and storm surge subside. They say they will only go on calls if a supervisor allows them because conditions are too dangerous.

The island of 42,000 people is under an evacuation order. Forecasters warn wind gusts around 60 mph (95 kph) and storm surge of up to 6 feet (2 meters) are possible later Monday.

Similar storm surge and winds gusts are possible up to coast to Charleston too.

Monday – 6:45 a.m. – Police in Lakeland say a family with small children was rescued from a car that was submerged in water as Hurricane Irma crossed the area. Lakeland police said in a Facebook post that officers rescued the family of four early Monday as water reached the children’s car seats. No one was injured and police were able to get the family back to their home. “When you become a police officer you hope to make a difference in the lives of others,” the Facebook post said. “Tonight, there is no doubt these officers made a difference.”

Monday – 6:30 a.m. – More than 120 homes are being evacuated in Orange County, just outside Orlando, as floodwaters from Hurricane Irma started to pour in. The Orange County Emergency Operations Center said early Monday that the fire department and the National Guard are going door-to-door using boats to ferry families to safety. No injuries have been reported. The rescued families are being taken a shelter for safety. A few miles away, 30 others had to be evacuated when a 60-foot sinkhole opened up under an apartment building. No injuries were reported in that incident. Hurricane Irma is getting weaker as it moves over the western Florida peninsula after hitting the state Sunday as a Category 4 storm.

Monday – 5 a.m. – Hurricane Irma is getting weaker as it moves over the western Florida peninsula early Monday. Irma hit Florida on Sunday as a powerful Category 4 hurricane, hammering much of the state with roof-ripping winds, gushing floodwaters and widespread power outages. By Monday morning, Irma had weakened to a Category 1 hurricane with winds near 85 mph (135 kph). Additional weakening is forecast and Irma is expected to become a tropical storm over northern Florida or southern Georgia later in the day.

Sunday – 9:15 p.m. – More than 3.3 million homes and businesses — and counting — have lost power in Florida as Hurricane Irma moves up the peninsula. The widespread outages stretch from the Florida Keys all the way into central Florida. Florida Power & Light, the state’s largest electric utility, said there were nearly 1 million customers without power in Miami-Dade County alone. The power outages are expected to increase as the storm edges further north. There are roughly 7 million residential customers in the state.

Sunday – 6:55 p.m. – President Donald Trump says the U.S. may have gotten a “little bit lucky” after Hurricane Irma veered from its original course and headed west along Florida’s coast. He says Irma may not have been quite as destructive as a result, but that things will play out over the next several hours. Trump addressed reporters Sunday after returning to the White House from Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland where he spent the weekend monitoring the storm. Trump says Irma will cost “a lot of money” but he isn’t thinking about that right now. He says “right now, we’re worried about lives, not cost.” Trump says he’ll be having additional meetings about coordination for the storm response.

Sunday – 6:30 p.m. – Hurricane Irma should be moving directly over the Tampa Bay area around midnight. Residents of the highly populated area are fearing the worst. A report by CoreLogic, the global property data firm, found nearly 455,000 Tampa Bay homes could be damaged by storm surges, the most of any major US metro area other than Miami and New York. Rebuilding those homes could cost $81 billion. The reason Tampa Bay is so vulnerable is that the bay acts as a funnel for storm surges, forcing water into narrow channels with nowhere else to go.

Sunday – 6:10 p.m. – Lauren Durham and Michael Davis had big plans for a beach wedding this month. Hurricane Irma had bigger plans. So instead of a poofy white dress, Durham got married in her Air National Guard fatigues, with no makeup, in a vast hangar filled with rescue vehicles in Orlando. Davis is a senior airman in the guard, like his bride, so they had called to say they’d miss their own wedding. Then on Sunday, a friend joked that they should get married during the hurricane. Dozens of people helped out, and a fellow guard member happens to be a notary and officiated. Someone even came up with a bouquet of flowers. The happy couple believes in service before self, and besides, they figure it’ll be a great story to tell their kids one day.

Sunday – 5:00 p.m. – Hurricane Irma has weakened to a Category 2 storm, technically losing its major hurricane status, after making landfall in southwestern Florida. It is hugging the coast as it moves north. The National Hurricane Center said Irma’s winds were at 110 mph (177 kph), just below major hurricane status, as the center of the still dangerous and wide storm moved farther inland late Sunday afternoon. It was smacking Naples after coming ashore in Marco Island at 3:35 p.m. The hurricane center says “although weakening is forecast, Irma is expected to remain a hurricane at least through Monday morning.” The center says the eye of Irma should hug Florida’s west coast through Monday morning and then push more inland over northern Florida and southwestern Georgia Monday afternoon.

Sunday – 4:00 p.m. – More than 2.1 million customers have lost power in Florida with Hurricane Irma striking the state. Florida Power & Light reported the numbers Sunday afternoon. The utility, which services much of south Florida, says more than 845,000 of those customers are in Miami-Dade County. Duke Energy, the dominant utility in the northern half of Florida, has about 13,000 outages with the outer bands of Irma sweeping across the region.The power companies say they have extra crews on hand to try to restore power — when it becomes safe to do so. FPL spokesman Rob Gould says an estimated 3.4 million homes and businesses will lose power once the worst of Irma reaches the Florida mainland.

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Sunday – 3:15 p.m. – Forecasters are issuing urgent warnings to residents of Marco Island and Naples, Florida, that receding water is going to return with a potentially deadly vengeance.As Hurricane Irma skirts within 8 miles (13 kilometers) of Marco Island, the U.S. Hurricane Center has sent out an urgent alert telling residents to “MOVE AWAY FROM THE WATER!” The center is warning of a “life-threatening storm surge inundation of 10 to 15 feet (3 to 5 meters) above ground level.” Irma’s eye may move over Marco Island or with a wobble just miss, but that’s not really the point, said hurricane center spokesman Dennis Feltgen. The eye or track line are distractions with such a powerful and giant storm. The impacts of this huge storm surge are what matter. Because the leading wind bands of Irma whipped the coastal water more out to sea, the waters retracted, but once the eye passes and the wind reverses “the water comes rushing in, kind of like a tsunami,” said Jeff Masters, meteorology director for the private service Weather Underground. Water levels will rise about 8 feet in an hour going from negative to positive, Masters said.

Sunday 11:10 a.m. – The National Weather Service says that a crane has collapsed in Miami as strong wind from Hurricane Irma blows in. It’s one of two-dozen in the city. The weather service’s Miami office said in a Tweet that one of its employees witnessed the crane boom and counterweight collapse in downtown Miami. The employee captured video of the collapse. It wasn’t immediately clear if the collapse caused damage or injuries.

Sunday – 9:50 a.m. – Hurricane Irma became tied for the seventh strongest storm to make landfall in U.S. history by a key measurement of atmospheric pressure. Hurricane Irma made landfall at Cudjoe Key at 9:10 a.m. with a minimum central pressure of 929 millibars. Atmospheric pressure is one of the major measurements meteorologists use to describe storms. The lower the pressure, the stronger the storm. Only six storms on record had lower pressures when striking the United States, including Katrina. When Katrina hit in 2005, it had lower pressure but its wind speed kept it at Category 3. The 929 pressure mark ties Irma with the deadly 1928 Lake Okeechobee hurricane. Irma’s arrival also marks another first. Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach says this is the first year on record that the United States has been hit by two storms that were Category 4 upon landfall: Harvey and Irma.

Sunday – 9:48 a.m. – As Hurricane Irma threatened to wallop the St. Petersburg area, several folks got out on the beach ahead of the storm. As they milled about Sunday morning, they looked at sailboats bobbing in the wind as the sun rose and took selfies and photos of the beach. St. Petersburg resident John Leuders says he feels safe. With stores out of plywood, he tore down part of his fence to board up windows. He came down to the beach out of curiosity and noted the strong winds along the water. Another resident, Sally Carlson, says she’s been around for other storms and hurricanes, but this one scares her. She says she wanted to see the city one more time before any problems. She adds: “I’m hoping it comes out unscathed, but I know better.”

Sunday – 9:45 a.m. – Hurricane Irma makes landfall on Cudjoe Key in lower Florida Keys with top sustained winds of 130 mph

Sunday – 9:40 a.m. – Florida utility officials say more than 1 million customers have lost power as Hurricane Irma hits the state. Florida Power & Light Company said that nearly 1.1 million customers statewide were without power Sunday morning. About 574,000 of those outages were in Miami-Dade County, while there were 360,000 in Broward and nearly 136,000 in Palm Beach County. The massive storm made landfall in the Florida Keys, and its center was forecast to move up the state’s Gulf Coast. But the effects are being felt far from the center because of Irma’s size.

Sunday – 9:00 a.m. – The Florida Highway Patrol says two people have died in a head-on crash in a county where Hurricane Irma’s wind and rain have started to blow in. Agency spokesman Greg Bueno said the crash happened Sunday morning in Hardee County, which is southeast of Tampa. It wasn’t immediately clear what role the weather may have played. He says troopers are investigating the crash and no further details were immediately available. Bueno said in an email that the area is starting to feel the effects of Hurricane Irma. The National Weather Service has issued a tornado warning for the county, saying a severe thunderstorm was in the area.

Sunday – 8:45 a.m. – Doctors were forced to talk a Florida woman through delivering her baby at home while Hurricane Irma’s outer bands lashed Miami. The City of Miami said on its Twitter account early Sunday that firefighters couldn’t respond in time to the woman in the Little Haiti neighborhood. So doctors from Jackson Health System talked her through the birth of the baby girl at home. Authorities say firefighters were able to make it to the woman Sunday morning and take her to the hospital after the girl was born. Miami-Dade fire spokeswoman Erika Benitez said the fire department is responding to calls on a case-by-case basis as strong winds and rain lash the area. They are encouraging residents to stay inside because of downed power lines and debris.

Saturday – 12:50 p.m. – Florida emergency management officials have asked another 700,000 to evacuate ahead of Hurricane Irma. That brings the total number asked to evacuate multiple states to nearly 7 million. Florida’s Division of Emergency Management said Saturday that officials have issued a mix of mandatory and voluntary evacuation orders to 6.3 million residents. The number rose overnight as the predicted path of Hurricane Irma has shifted west. It’s likely to come ashore Sunday.

Saturday – 12:46 p.m. – Gov. Scott says the entire west coast of Florida will likely see dangerous affects from storm surge as Hurricane Irma comes ashore Sunday. About 6.3 million of the state’s approximately 21 million residents have been asked to evacuate. During a Saturday news conference, he told those in evacuation zones: “You need to leave — not tonight, not in an hour, right now” Scott said that the storm surge is expected to be up to 15 feet (4.5 meters) in some areas along the west coast of Florida. In the Tampa Bay area, Scott said the storm surge could be between 5 feet (1.5 meters) and 8 feet (2 meters). Scott said: “This is the most catastrophic storm the state has ever seen.”

Saturday – 12:45 p.m. – Gov. Scott said Saturday morning that with Florida’s ports now closed, reports Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO. During a news briefing in Sarasota, Scott said the state has waived transportation import fees to keep the gas coming. But no more tanker ships of fuel are coming, he said, as Florida’s ports have closed.

Saturday – 12:30 p.m. – The latest tropical-storm-force wind speed probabilities:

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Saturday – 10:14 a.m. –The National Hurricane Center says it’s looking more likely that the eye of powerful Hurricane Irma will strike the Keys, southwestern Florida and Tampa Bay region. While the core of the massive storm is expected to miss the populated Florida southeast coast, forecasters say the Miami region will still experience life-threatening hurricane conditions. Its winds weakened to 130 mph when it hit Cuba, but Irma is forecast to regain strength over the ultra-warm Florida Straits and hit western Florida as a strong Category 4 storm. The storm is likely to come ashore Sunday.

Hurricane center spokesman Dennis Feltgen said a direct hit into the Tampa region, which hasn’t felt a major hurricane since 1921, has long been a concern.

Saturday – 5:20 a.m. – The National Hurricane Center says Irma has weakened slightly to a Category 4 hurricane, as it moves over the Camaguey Archipelago of Cuba. Irma had briefly regained Category 5 strength late Friday, but now has maximum sustained winds of 155 mph (249 kph). The hurricane is about 245 miles (394 kilometers) from Miami and moving about 12 mph (19.3 kph) toward the west-northwest.

In the Atlantic, Hurricane Jose is a Category 4 hurricane, about 190 miles (306 kilometers) east-southeast of The Northern Leeward Islands, moving toward the islands at 13 mph (20.92 kph) with winds reaching 150 mph.

Friday – 6:30 p.m. – The U.S.S. Wasp, which is near the U.S. Virgin Islands, has performed six search and rescue missions, and approximately 21 patients have been evacuated, with another 23 patients planned for evacuation today, the U.S. Northern Command said Friday. The amphibious ships U.S.S. Kearsarge and U.S.S. Oak Hill, along with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, are approaching the disaster area and will be north of St. Croix and ready to provide assistance to FEMA. The command also said it is “providing urban search and rescue capabilities to the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico to assist with lifesaving and life-sustaining efforts.” Closer to home, the Defense Logistics Agency is providing approximately 50,000 gallons of unleaded gasoline and 50,000 gallons of diesel to Robins Air Force Base in Georgia to “support potential requirements.”

Friday – 4:52 p.m. – Irma is projected to make landfall Saturday in Florida as a Category 4.

Friday – 4:35 p.m. – The operator of two nuclear power plants in Florida says the plants will be shut down well before Hurricane Irma makes landfall. Florida Power and Light President Eric Silagy said Friday that the company will shut the Turkey Point and St. Lucie plants down 24 hours before the onset of hurricane-level winds. Turkey Point is located south of Miami in Homestead. St. Lucie is on the state’s east coast.

Silagy says the two plants are among the strongest structures in the world and are encased in a 6-foot-thick (1.8 meters) cement structure reinforced by steel. The plants also have multiple safety systems and are elevated about 20 feet (6.1 meters) above sea level to protect against flooding and extreme storm surges. Turkey Point took a direct hit from Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

Silagy said officials “will not take any chances, and those plants will be secure.”

Friday — 4:30 p.m. — The USS Wasp, which is near the U.S. Virgin Islands, has performed six search and rescue missions, and approximately 21 patients have been evacuated, with another 23 patients planned for evacuation today, the U.S. Northern Command said Friday. The amphibious ships USS Kearsarge and USS Oak Hill, along with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, are approaching the disaster area and will be north of St. Croix and ready to provide assistance to FEMA. The command also said it is “providing urban search and rescue capabilities to the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico to assist with lifesaving and life-sustaining efforts.” Closer to home, the Defense Logistics Agency is providing approximately 50,000 gallons of unleaded gasoline and 50,000 gallons of diesel to Robins Air Force Base in Georgia to “support potential requirements.”

Friday — 3:14 p.m. — Officials at Walt Disney World in Orlando announced Friday afternoon that its parks will close on Saturday and remain closed through Monday. Universal Orlando announced on its website that it will close at 7 p.m. Saturday and will remain closed through Monday. Officials said they anticipate reopening on Tuesday. SeaWorld in Orlando and Busch Gardens, which is in Tampa, also announced plans to shut down at 5 p.m. Saturday and remain closed through Monday. Last October, the theme parks also closed down for Hurricane Matthew, which skirted Florida’s southeast coast.

Friday — 3:12 p.m. — New Jersey is deploying troops and a specialized task force to Florida to help with Hurricane Irma. The state’s Army National Guard 253rd transportation company departs from Cape May County on Friday for central Florida. The unit is equipped with high-wheeled vehicles. A Naval reserve unit was deployed on Thursday evening, which is equipped with boats and towing vehicles. Republican Gov. Chris Christie has issued an order that temporarily waives the international fuel tax agreement and international registration plan for any commercial vehicles traveling through the state to aid areas affected by Irma and Hurricane Harvey. The suspension remains in effect until Oct. 1.

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Friday — 1:31 p.m. — From the Naples Daily News: “Across Southwest Florida, growers are taking precautions … from draining fields to securing equipment to ironing out emergency plans ahead of the massive storm. One local nursery grower put it simply: ‘We are preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.’ … Southwest Florida’s larger tomato growers are in a better position. They’re not as far along with their plantings, so they don’t have as much at stake.”

From Deadline.com: “After Hurricane Harvey shut down most multiplex locations in Corpus Christi and Houston two weeks ago, here comes Hurricane Irma, which is expected to hit the Florida Peninsula overnight Saturday. The storm, per the Weather Channel, could downgrade from a Category 5 to a 4 by the time it makes landfall, but theater owners are taking great precautions, closing down many venues effective today on both east and west coasts of the state.

Friday — 11:27 a.m. — From the Florida Times-Union: “The entire First Coast shrimping and fishing fleet is in the process of moving away from the coast and into a safer docking space in downtown Jacksonville as Hurricane Irma bears down on Florida. While the storm is still churning in the Caribbean, about two dozen shrimp vessels from the Jacksonville area have retracted their nets and are leaving their usual port of Mayport.”

Friday — 11:18 a.m. — From the Naples Daily News: “Across Southwest Florida, growers are taking precautions …, from draining fields to securing equipment to ironing out emergency plans ahead of the massive storm. One local nursery grower put it simply: ‘We are preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.’ … Southwest Florida’s larger tomato growers are in a better position. They’re not as far along with their plantings, so they don’t have as much at stake.”

Friday — 11:15 a.m. — Florida Municipal Power Agency General Manager and CEO Jacob Williams issued a statement on preparations for Hurricane Irma: “FMPA and its operating partners have been busy preparing its power plant sites in Key West, Fort Pierce, Kissimmee, Orlando and Port St. Lucie for Hurricane Irma. The plants are as ready as they can be, and we have put contingency plans in place should some of the generating units be impacted by the storm. We are doing all that we can to make sure we can generate power for our member cities during and after the storm. Essential plant personnel will be safely sheltered at the plants during the storm. As soon as the storm passes and conditions allow, the generating fleet will be assessed, including the units that were taken offline, for any damage. Generators will then be brought back online, if possible and as needed.”

The Florida Municipal Electric Association (FMEA) says it has activated its mutual aid network and is lining up crews to restore power to areas that will be affected by Hurricane Irma. Florida’s public power utilities already account for approximately 1,000 lineworker personnel. Additionally, FMEA is bringing in more than 1,000 lineworkers and hundreds of tree-trimming and debris removal personnel from other parts of the country. Once the storm passes, additional crews from Georgia, Alabama, and the Carolinas will also be pulled in.

Friday — 9:35 a.m. — All three major theme parks remain open Friday in Orlando.

Walt Disney World will close Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground at 2 p.m. Saturday and guests at the 60 Treehouse Villas at Saratoga Springs Resort have been asked to leave. Disney canceled Saturday’s Night of Joy event at ESPN Wide World of Sports and called off Sunday’s Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at the Magic Kingdom.

Universal Orlando canceled Saturday’s Rock the Universe and the Sunday Worship Service on September 10.
SeaWorld Orlando will close at 5 p.m. Saturday and will remain closed Sunday and Monday.

Friday — 8:16 a.m. — U-Haul announced on Thursday that 96 of it stores across Florida will offer free self-storage and ‘U-Box’ shipping containers in response to Category 5 Hurricane Irma’s projected path toward the state. Floridians who go to U-Haul for help will get the free service for 30 days, the company said, under its “disaster relief assistance program.”

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Friday – 5:00 a.m. – Hurricane Irma has weakened to a Category 4 storm Friday as it batters the Caribbean on a path toward Florida but remains a powerful hurricane. The U.S. National Hurricane Center says Irma’s maximum sustained winds have decreased to near 155 mph (250 kph). The hurricane center says some fluctuations in strength are likely over the next day or two but Irma is expected to stay a Category 4 storm. Just before 5 a.m. EDT Friday, the hurricane was centered about 55 miles (90 kilometers) northwest of Great Inagua Island and 495 miles (795 kilometers) southeast of Miami.

Thursday – 9:15 p.m. – The three major amusement parks in Orlando, Florida, are all operating under normal conditions as Hurricane Irma threatens the entire state. Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando and Sea World said Thursday morning they are monitoring the movement of Irma, but at this point have made no plans to shut down their parks or alter the normal hours of operations. Each park has refund or rescheduling policies in place for park visitors who may not feel comfortable visiting Orlando this weekend. The parks have their individual policies posted on their respective websites.

Thursday – 9 p.m. – Gov. Scott is ordering the closing of all schools, colleges and universities throughout the state. Scott announced late Thursday that all schools as well as state offices would be closed Friday through next Monday. Many 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. But in a brief statement Scott said he ordered all schools to shut down so that the buildings could be used potentially as shelters or as staging grounds for relief efforts. He said Floridians “facing a life-threatening storm” and “every family must prepare to evacuate.”

Thursday – 5 p.m. – The U.S. Northern Command said it began supporting FEMA’s Hurricane Irma response today as the U.S.S. Wasp arrived in the U.S. Virgin Islands. “Wasp’s helicopters are conducting medical evacuations for critical care patients from St. Thomas to St. Croix and conducting damage assessment in support of the local government,” the command said in a statement. “Wasp, the first Navy ship to arrive in the U.S. Virgin Islands, is providing medium and heavy lift helicopters to transport people and supplies.”

The Department of Environmental Protection’s Florida Park Service on Thursday announced the closure of 16 state parks in South Florida due to Hurricane Irma, with plans to close another 19 parks later today. The following state parks are closed until further notice:

Bahia Honda State Park (Monroe County)

Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park (Miami-Dade County)

Curry Hammock State Park (Monroe County)

Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park (Monroe County)

Dr. Von D. Mizell-Eula Johnson State Park (Broward County)

Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail (Monroe County)

Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park (Monroe County)

Hugh Taylor Birch State Park (Broward County)

Indian Key Historic State Park (Monroe County)

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park (Monroe County)

Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park (Monroe County)

Long Key State Park (Monroe County)

Oleta River State Park (Miami-Dade County)

San Pedro Underwater Archaeological Preserve State Park (Monroe County)

The Barnacle Historic State Park (Miami-Dade County)

Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park (Monroe County)

The following state parks will be closed by 5 p.m. today:

Atlantic Ridge Preserve State Park (Martin County)

Avalon State Park (St. Lucie County)

Cayo Costa State Park (Lee County)

Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park (Charlotte and Lee counties)

Collier-Seminole State Park (Collier County)

Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park (Collier County)

Estero Bay Preserve State Park (Lee County)

Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park (Collier County)

Fort Pierce Inlet State Park (St. Lucie County)

Gasparilla Island State Park (Lee County)

Jonathan Dickinson State Park (Martin and Palm Beach counties)

John D. MacArthur Beach State Park (Palm Beach County)

Koreshan State Historic Site (Lee County)

Lovers Key State Park (Lee County)

Mound Key Archaeological State Park (Lee County)

Savannas Preserve State Park (Martin and St. Lucie counties)

Seabranch Preserve State Park (Martin County)

St. Lucie Inlet Preserve State Park (Martin County)

Stump Pass Beach State Park (Charlotte County)

All other Florida State Parks remain open at this time.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam announced the closing of campgrounds in more than 20 state forests starting Friday. Campgrounds for the following state forests will be closed:

John M. Bethea State Forest

Twin Rivers State Forest

Cary State Forest

Jennings State Forest

Ralph E. Simmons State Forest

Etoniah Creek State Forest

Goethe State Forest

Ross Prairie State Forest

Welaka State Forest

Lake George State Forest

Matanzas State Forest

Tiger Bay State Forest

Seminole State Forest  

Withlacoochee State Forest

Charles H. Bronson State Forest

Little Big Econ State Forest

Lake Wales Ridge State Forest

Myakka State Forest

Okaloacoochee Slough State Forest

Picayune Strand State Forest

These campgrounds will remain closed until further notice.

Thursday – 2 p.m. – 

Thursday – 1:40 p.m. – There have been very few cyclones stronger than Hurricane Irma. And there have been some that lasted longer. But no other storm in recorded history has maintained top winds of 185 mph for 37 hours.Colorado State University hurricane expert Phil Klotzbach says that breaks the previous record, held by Typhoon Haiyan, which had similar top winds for 24 hours before it hit the Philippines and killed 6,000 people in 2013. Irma also has been the most intense Atlantic hurricane on record outside the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, measured by its barometric pressure of 914 millibars.

Thursday – 1:25 p.m. – President Donald Trump says “we are with the people of Florida” as Hurricane Irma draws near. Speaking in the Oval Office on Thursday, Trump says his administration is “very concerned” as the record hurricane approaches the U.S. mainland, but he says “we think we’re as well prepared as you can possibly be.” The president says he hopes the storm won’t hit Florida directly. He says, “We are with the people of Florida.”

Thursday – 1:12 p.m. – For much of Florida, the uncertainty of the timing of a turn to the north will determine the degree of Irma’s damage — by as much as billions of dollars. A change of only a few degrees can put Miami and the state’s east coast directly in its path. A turn to the right and the eye of the storm could stay offshore, creating much less damage to South Florida.

Thursday – 12: 50 p.m. – Gov. Rick Scott is asking the federal government for help with possible bridge damage in South Florida — particularly the Florida Keys — by Hurricane Irma.

In a Hialeah news conference, Scott said he put a request for military aircraft and other vessels to transport fuel and other supplies to the Florida mainland and the Keys after Irma passes. Scott also announced the activation of 3,000 National Guard members, which will be added to the 1,000 currently on duty. By Friday, 7,000 Guard members will be called to duty.

With more than 50 bridges in the Florida Keys area, any disabled bridge would leave people along US Highway 1 isolated during the storm.

Ben Cosme installs hurricane shutters at Key Largo Chocolates in Key Largo. Photo via AP

“If we lose a bridge, people are going to clearly be stranded,” Scott said. “FEMA is looking for options to assist the state with this. I’ve also discussed this with the White House.”

As of Thursday morning, Irma was tracked 110 miles north of Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, with sustained 180 mph winds. The storm is expected to reach South Florida early Saturday.

Evacuation orders have been issued for Monroe County and coastal Miami-Dade County. Collier and Broward County are requesting limited voluntary evacuations.

Monroe County administrator Roman Gastesi told POLITICO Florida that after seeing video images of damage caused by Irma in the Caribbean “should scare you enough to leave.”

“If it comes this way we’ll probably lose a bridge or two,” he said. “Now we’re disconnected. So you’re stuck here. And it’s going to be unpleasant — no electricity, no running water probably. It could be really bad.”

Thursday – 12:38 p.m. – Floridians bracing for the pounding winds and rains of powerful Hurricane Irma are complaining at a historic clip about price gouging and shortages of fuel, Attorney General Pam Bondi said Thursday, reports the News Service of Florida. “Our phones are blowing up as they have been all night long and continue to do,” Bondi said. “That’s a good thing, because it’s helping us protect you.” The state’s price-gouging hotline — 1-866-9-NO-SCAM — had received more than 3,000 calls tied to Irma as of Thursday morning, with some 1,100 coming in Wednesday night. “We’ve never seen our hotline like this in history,” Bondi said. “However, we’ve never seen a storm this bad. This is bigger than Andrew; people have to understand. To people who survived Andrew and people who lost loved ones during Andrew, this is a much bigger storm.”

Thursday – 11:28 a.m. – State police are escorting resupply trucks to gas stations.

Gas is on the way–with some help: A Florida Highway Patrol vehicle escorts a fuel delivery truck.

Thursday – 11:01 a.m. – Here is the latest report from the National Hurricane Center:

Thursday – 11:00 a.m. – Gov. Scott activated an additional 3,000 members of the Florida Army and Air National Guard to support with planning, logistics and operations in preparation for potential impacts from Hurricane Irma. A total of 4,000 members have now been activated and will respond to requests across the state to ensure communities are fully prepared for the storm. Tomorrow, 3,000 more National Guard members will be activated. As of Friday, the entire National Guard – 7,000 members – will be deployed.

Thursday – 10:45 a.m. – The Department of Environmental Protection’s Florida Park Service on Thursday announced the closure of 16 state parks in South Florida due to Hurricane Irma, with plans to close another 19 parks later today. The following state parks are closed until further notice:

Bahia Honda State Park (Monroe County)

Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park (Miami-Dade County)

Curry Hammock State Park (Monroe County)

Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park (Monroe County)

Dr. Von D. Mizell-Eula Johnson State Park (Broward County)

Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail (Monroe County)

Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park (Monroe County)

Hugh Taylor Birch State Park (Broward County)

Indian Key Historic State Park (Monroe County)

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park (Monroe County)

Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park (Monroe County)

Long Key State Park (Monroe County)

Oleta River State Park (Miami-Dade County)

San Pedro Underwater Archaeological Preserve State Park (Monroe County)

The Barnacle Historic State Park (Miami-Dade County)

Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park (Monroe County)

The following state parks will be closed by 5 p.m. today:

Atlantic Ridge Preserve State Park (Martin County)

Avalon State Park (St. Lucie County)

Cayo Costa State Park (Lee County)

Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park (Charlotte and Lee counties)

Collier-Seminole State Park (Collier County)

Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park (Collier County)

Estero Bay Preserve State Park (Lee County)

Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park (Collier County)

Fort Pierce Inlet State Park (St. Lucie County)

Gasparilla Island State Park (Lee County)

Jonathan Dickinson State Park (Martin and Palm Beach counties)

John D. MacArthur Beach State Park (Palm Beach County)

Koreshan State Historic Site (Lee County)

Lovers Key State Park (Lee County)

Mound Key Archaeological State Park (Lee County)

Savannas Preserve State Park (Martin and St. Lucie counties)

Seabranch Preserve State Park (Martin County)

St. Lucie Inlet Preserve State Park (Martin County)

Stump Pass Beach State Park (Charlotte County)

All other Florida State Parks remain open at this time.

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Thursday – 9:57 a.m. – Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is scheduled to visit the Polk County Emergency Operations Center in Winter Haven this morning to discuss Hurricane Irma emergency preparations, his press office said. He’ll then hold a 11:30 a.m. media availability.

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Thursday – 8 a.m. – The latest NHC report shows no projected change in intensity or direction:

Thursday – 7:48 a.m. – The most potent Atlantic Ocean hurricane ever, Irma weakened only slightly Thursday morning and remained a powerful Category 5 storm with winds of 180 mph (285 kph), according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center. The storm was increasingly likely to rip into heavily populated South Florida early Sunday, prompting the governor to declare an emergency and officials to impose mandatory evacuation orders for parts of the Miami metro area and the Florida Keys. Forecasters said it could punish the entire Atlantic coast of Florida and rage on into Georgia and South Carolina. “This could easily be the most costly storm in U.S. history, which is saying a lot considering what just happened two weeks ago,” said Brian McNoldy, a hurricane researcher at the University of Miami, alluding to the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey.

Thursday – 5:00 a.m. – Gov. Scott says he expects the state’s gas stations to have fuel within a day. Scott said Wednesday he is aware that there have been shortages and long lines, but that after talking with fuel retailers his goal is to see the stations restocked with gas by Thursday morning. Still, the governor urged people to only “take what they need” when they return to gas stations especially if they are not leaving the county that they are living with. There has been a run on gas and water and other supplies as Floridians await the likely arrival of Hurricane Irma.

Wednesday — 8:14 p.m. — According to the National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Irma is about 80 miles north of San Juan, Puerto Rico, and continues moving toward the west-northwest at about 16 mph. The Category 5 storm will pass north of Puerto Rico Wednesday evening, arriving either near or just north of the Dominican Republic and Haiti by sometime Thursday. Maximum sustained winds continue to stay at around 185 mph.

Wednesday — 6:40 p.m. — Gov. Rick Scott provided a 6:15 p.m. briefing on Hurricane Irma, which is about three days away from possibly hitting Florida.

After speaking with President Donald Trump, Scott said the “full resources of the federal government,” will be available for storm relief. Every Floridian must be “aggressive” in taking caution against Irma, he added. In advance of the storm

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will also assist with possible downed bridges, which Scott said would leave many Floridians stranded in the storm. FWC will have about 30 teams to assist.

One hospital in the Keys has already been evacuated, Scott noted, while the remaining hospitals in the area will be evacuated by Thursday.

Based on rainfall estimates, Scott said there is no immediate danger to the Lake Okeechobee dike, but the state will continue to work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“We need more volunteers,” Scott continued. “No resource will be spared to protect families.”

Wednesday — 6 p.m. — Hurricane Irma has now caused at least three deaths, as Florida, Georgia and South Carolina call for states of emergency ahead of the huge storm.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the Category 5 storm — called “extremely dangerous” by the National Hurricane Center (NHC) — was drubbing Barbuda in the Caribbean, where sustained winds of 185 mph with some even higher gusts, destroyed about 90 percent of the structures and vehicles.

According to the French ministry — which oversees the territories — at least two people died and at least two others were seriously wounded in St. Martin and St. Barthelemy.

At least one person died in Barbuda, where there is widespread damage, Antigua & Barbuda’s National Office of Disaster Services representative Midcie Francis told ABC News. Irma is now measured at about 450 miles in diameter and is bearing down on San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Wednesday — 5:04 p.m. — The Nuclear Regulatory Commission says it is preparing to shut down two Florida nuclear plants that could be in the path of Hurricane Irma. Additional inspectors are on-site at the Turkey Point plant south of Miami, and the St. Lucie plant along the state’s eastern coast. NRC spokesman Roger Hannah says both nuclear plants are preparing for the storm, checking to ensure any outside equipment is tied down or moved and emergency generators are working and secure. Hannah said both plants were operating as usual Wednesday, with plans to shut down if necessary ahead of the hurricane’s expected landfall in Florida late Saturday or early Sunday. Current projections place Turkey Point, above the Florida Keys near Homestead, Florida, directly in the hurricane’s path.

Wednesday — 4:26 p.m. — University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy says Irma “could easily be the most costly storm in U.S. history, which is saying a lot considering what just happened two weeks ago” in Texas. And former hurricane hunter Jeff Masters says both high winds and large storm surges will damage expensive properties from Miami all the way up the Florida Peninsula and beyond. That includes President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate. Masters says that if Irma “goes right up the Gold Coast like the current models are saying, then the Gold Coast is going to become the Mud Coast.” The National Hurricane Center’s latest long-term forecast moved Irma’s northward track slightly eastward from the center of the peninsula, but that doesn’t mean much. Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen says people should “stop paying attention to the skinny black line,” because the margin-of-error for the storm four days out is wider than the entire state of Florida, so things can change. Bottom line, Feltgen says, is that nobody in Florida is off the hook.

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Wednesday — 4:09 p.m. — The Florida Department of Corrections has canceled weekend visitation at all institutions for Saturday and Sunday. From the release: “The cancellation includes all major institutions, work camps, community release centers and annex facilities. Department staff are working around the clock to make necessary precautions for inmates in facilities statewide. Water and food supplies are being brought in and evacuation determinations will be made in the best interest of the inmates and public safety. In the event of an evacuation, announcements will be made upon completion. Inmate locations will be posted on the website approximately 24 hours after relocation, per standard protocol. For more information, visit www.dc.state.fl.us.”

Wednesday — 4 p.m. — Florida’s senators are calling on Congress to include relief money for Hurricane Irma in the disaster aid package the House passed earlier Wednesday for Hurricane Harvey. That package includes $7.85 billion to help Texas and Louisiana recover. Senators Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson say with Irma could cause catastrophic destruction throughout the state, and they’re concerned that the Federal Emergency Management Agency won’t have the resources it needs to respond if Congress doesn’t act soon. Their joint, bipartisan letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell notes that FEMA is currently scheduled to run out of money by Friday.

Wednesday — 3:45 p.m. — People in Florida are getting mixed messages on whether and when to evacuate ahead of Hurricane Irma. Broward County has just ordered coastal evacuations, mandatory but with no enforcement, as is typical in Florida. Miami Beach has advised evacuating, but not made it mandatory. Miami-Dade County says it may start ordering evacuations today, but has not done so yet. And Gov. Scott says anyone who intends to evacuate should “get out now.” However, with a storm track forecast up the middle of the state, it is unclear to many people where they should go.

Wednesday — 3:15 p.m. — As Hurricane Irma bears down on Florida, the Florida Association of Professional Lobbyists has canceled its annual conference in Orlando set for this week. The event has been pushed back to Nov. 1-3. Also, the Florida Board of Medicine has canceled its 2 p.m. Thursday board meeting because of Irma. Among other things, it was scheduled to discuss the latest rules governing medical marijuana. A new meeting date has not been set.

Wednesday — 2:34 p.m. — A Georgia speedway is opening its vast campgrounds to people evacuating from Hurricane Irma. Atlanta Motor Speedway officials said in a statement Wednesday that its tent and RV campgrounds will host evacuees free of charge beginning on Thursday. The speedway is about 25 miles (40 kilometers) south of Atlanta, and typically handles thousands of race fans who camp on the grounds during its annual NASCAR race weekend.

Here is the 2 p.m. modeling and track:

Wednesday — 2 p.m. — The cavalry has been called: the U.S. Northern Command says it’s “fully engaged with federal, state, territorial and international mission partners as the command balances support to the response for Hurricane Harvey and the planning and pre-positioning of DoD assets in preparation for Hurricane Irma.” The command says its “incident support bases” will be Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey and Robins Air Force Base in Georgia. In addition, the amphibious ships USS Kearsarge and USS Oak Hill, along with the Marines of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, are in the region to respond “if requested.”

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Wednesday — 1:59 p.m. — There are long lines and crowds at gas stations in Key Largo, but traffic is moving northbound as people evacuate the Florida Keys. Bill Duclo says Hurricane Irma “is going to be pretty bad,” so he wants “to get going while the going is good.” He’s taking his whole family to Georgia. Michelle Reynolds says she’s got half a tank of gas, and will keep looking since the station she stopped at ran empty. She says she’s never experienced a Category 5 storm and just wants to get to higher ground. Ian Craig says that gasoline seems to be running out everywhere in the Keys, but he’s not going to stay with his 7-year-old boy, even if he has to take a long expensive ride on Uber.

Wednesday — 1:45 p.m. — U.S. Sugar said Wednesday it is taking “all available precautions to ensure the safety of its people, property and equipment. Our farmers are drawing down water levels in farm canals and securing equipment and buildings. Our railroad is securing rail cars and equipment. Our sugar factory, citrus processing plant and water treatment plant are securing facilities and equipment.  Once preparations are complete, we will be sending our people home to make personal storm preparations and/or evacuation plans. All operations also are planning for post-storm assessment, cleanup and restoration of operations.” Note: The sugar-cane harvest for the 2017-18 crop is scheduled to begin Oct. 1, so only the sugar refinery is currently in operation. Citrus harvest is scheduled to start in mid-December.

Wednesday — 12:42 p.m. — All Florida state courts will be closed Friday as Hurricane Irma approaches and threatens most of the state, Chief Justice Jorge Labarga said Wednesday, citing the safety of court users, court staff and judges. “The hazards associated with Hurricane Irma may impede the ability of litigants, witnesses, jurors, judges, court staff and others in the performance of their duties and obligations … throughout the state of Florida,” Labarga’s order reads, noting that Gov. Scott had declared a state of emergency and ordered state offices throughout Florida to be closed on Friday. By Wednesday morning, courts in several South Florida counties had already announced that they would be closed on Friday and some on Thursday as well.

Wednesday — 12:13 p.m. — The Department of Environmental Protection’s Florida Park Service has closed one state park and all campgrounds in the Florida Keys in preparation for imminent weather conditions including strong winds and rain. Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park in Monroe County is closed until further notice. The following state park campgrounds are closed:

— Bahia Honda State Park (Monroe County)

— Curry Hammock State Park (Monroe County)

— John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park (Monroe County)

— Long Key State Park (Monroe County)

All other Florida state parks remain open at this time. Additional park closures are anticipated later today and tomorrow. Go to floridastateparks.org and the Florida State Parks Facebook page for continuously updated information.

Wednesday — 12:02 p.m. — Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam announced on Wednesday that his department ”has readied millions of servings of food that will be on-hand for Hurricane Irma response efforts,” under the Division of Food, Nutrition and Wellness’ Emergency Support Function (ESF). “We are doing everything we can to support statewide disaster preparedness efforts so we can quickly address arising needs in the wake of Hurricane Irma,” he said in a statement. The food includes:

— 6.3 million servings of meat, eggs, nut butters, and beans

— 3.8 million servings of canned and frozen vegetables in USDA foods on-hand

— 2.6 million servings of cheese

— 1.6 million servings of canned fruit and applesauce

— 120,000 dehydrated meals for delivery to mass care agencies in preparation for landfall.

Putnam also announced that more than 100 Florida Forest Service personnel, as well as aircraft, off-road vehicles and mobile command posts, are preparing to respond to Hurricane Irma and assist in search and rescue missions, debris clearing, distributing supplies and more. The Florida Forest Service, which Putnam oversees, is responsible for incident management and assists emergency responders in clearing debris and distributing supplies. Additionally, the department’s Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement provides law enforcement services to police departments and county sheriff’s offices as necessary.

Wednesday — 11:23 a.m. — The Florida State University College of Criminology and Criminal Justice has canceled a Fallen Officer Memorial dedication ceremony scheduled for this Friday. “The uncertainty of the impending impact by Hurricane Irma as well as travel and lodging issues for many out-of-town guests has forced this unforeseen and disappointing decision,” the school said in a release. The event will be rescheduled.

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Wednesday — 11:12 a.m. — The state’s Office of Insurance Regulation issued a notice to all health insurers, managed care organizations, and other health entities reminding them of their statutory obligation to allow Florida residents to refill their prescriptions early in all 67 counties as designated by the Governor’s Executive Order for Hurricane Irma. A link to the notice is available here.

Wednesday — 11:02 a.m. — The Tallahassee Democrat announced that it is temporarily suspending the paywall for its online news site, tallahassee.com, to “provide our community with important public-safety information.” Readers now can access an unlimited number of stories, regardless of subscription status, the paper said in a notice Wednesday morning.

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Wednesday — 11 a.m. — The track for Category 5 Hurricane Irma has shifted slightly more to the east coast of Florida:

Wednesday — 10:45 a.m. — Because of Irma, the Florida Commission on Ethics has canceled its Sept. 8 meeting. Items on the agenda will be moved to the Oct. 20 meeting, the commission said in a statement: “An agenda and materials for that meeting will be provided to you a couple weeks prior to the meeting.”

Wednesday — 10:33 a.m. — Amy Zubaly, Executive Director of the Florida Municipal Electric Association, issued this statement Wednesday on member utilities’ Hurricane Irma preparations: “Florida’s municipal electric utilities have been preparing for Hurricane Irma. We have been in touch with mutual aid partners across the country and are lining up resources to immediately assist affected Florida communities with power restoration. We have also been in close communication with Gov. Scott, who we commend for his assistance in helping us prepare and his tremendous leadership during this time of uncertainty. As we get ready for the impacts of Hurricane Irma, we encourage Floridians to do the same. Get a plan and be prepared.”

Wednesday — 10:06 a.m. — Gov. Scott activated an additional 900 members of the Florida Army and Air National Guard to support with planning, logistics and operations in preparation for potential impacts from Hurricane Irma. These 900 members will respond to requests across the state to ensure communities are fully prepared for the storm. Scott has now activated a total of 1,000 Guard members and the remaining 6,000 National Guard members will be reporting for duty no later than Friday morning.

Wednesday — 10 a.m. — Hurricane Irma roared into the Caribbean with record force early Wednesday, its 185-mph winds shaking homes and flooding buildings on a chain of small islands along a path toward Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba and a possible direct hit on South Florida. The strongest Atlantic Ocean hurricane ever recorded passed almost directly over the island of Barbuda, causing widespread flooding and downing trees. France sent emergency food and water rations to the French islands of Saint Martin and Saint Barthelemy, where Irma ripped off roofs and knocked out all electricity.

The regional authority for Guadeloupe and neighboring islands said the fire station in Saint Barthelemy was flooded by more than 3 feet (1 meter) of water and no rescue vehicles could move. The government headquarters on Saint Martin was destroyed. There were no immediate reports of casualties but the minister for overseas territories, Annick Girardin, said “We have a lot to fear for a certain number of our compatriots who unfortunately didn’t want to listen to the protection measures and go to more secure sites … We’re preparing for the worst.”

Wednesday — 5:21 a.m. — As Hurricane Irma continues to roar across the Caribbean on a path toward Florida, a new tropical storm has formed in the Gulf of Mexico. Tropical Storm Katia formed early Wednesday off the coast of Mexico. The U.S. National Hurricane Center says Katia’s maximum sustained winds are near 40 mph (65 kph) with some strengthening forecast over the next two days. But the hurricane center says Katia is expected to stay offshore through Friday morning. The storm is centered about 105 miles (165 kilometers) east of Tampico, Mexico, and is moving east-southeast near 2 mph (4 kph).

Wednesday — 5:20 a.m. — Officials in the island chain south of the Florida mainland are expected to announce evacuations as Hurricane Irma moves west through the Caribbean toward the state. Officials in the Florida Keys say they expect to announce a mandatory evacuation for visitors starting Wednesday and for residents starting Thursday. The Category 5 hurricane is expected to reach Florida by the weekend. On Wednesday morning it was about 40 miles (65 kilometers) north of Antigua. People in South Florida raided store shelves, buying up water and other hurricane supplies. Long lines formed at gas stations and people pulled shutters out of storage and put up plywood to protect their homes and businesses.

Wednesday — 5:01 a.m. — Here is the 5 a.m. track for Irma:

Wednesday — 5 a.m. — Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis says his government has ordered a mandatory evacuation of islands in the southern part of the island chain because of Hurricane Irma. Minnis says the Category 5 storm poses a dire threat to the islands of Mayaguana, Inagua, Crooked Island, Acklins, Long Cay and Ragged Island. People who live on the islands will be flown Wednesday to Nassau on the island of New Providence. Minnis says it will be the largest hurricane evacuation in the history of the Bahamas. People who don’t evacuate will be at “great danger” from storm surge caused by what he called a “monster” hurricane. Minnis says emergency personnel may not be available to rescue them when the storm is at its height between Thursday and Friday.

Monday — 7:37 p.m. — President Trump has declared emergencies in Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands as Hurricane Irma prepares for landfall. The declarations authorize the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster relief efforts in those places.

Monday — 7:10 p.m. — Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam announced the suspension of rules on moving livestock and pets within the state. “By suspending the intrastate movement requirements for the transportation of animals, we can ensure that Floridians and visitors can quickly and safely move their pets and livestock out of harm’s way,” Putnam said in a prepared statement. Also, Putnam said Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi have waived requirements related to moving livestock and pets from Florida.

Monday — 6:17 p.m. — Hurricane Irma is maintaining 185 mph winds as it heads to the northern Leeward Islands as a “potentially catastrophic” tropical system.

The 5 p.m. advisory from the National Hurricane Center puts Irma 130 miles east of Antigua, moving at 15 mph to the west. The storm is expected to turn west-northwest for Tuesday evening and through the next couple of days.

Monday — 4:09 p.m. — Both Florida U.S. Senators — Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson — are calling President Trump to approve a request by Gov. Scott for a pre-landfall emergency declaration for the state ahead of Hurricane Irma, now a Category 5 storm heading into the Caribbean.

“As the current projections indicate, this major hurricane will heavily impact Florida communities, and we urge you to immediately approve this request to ensure that full federal resources are made available,” the two senators said in a joint letter Tuesday. “While the storm is not predicted to make landfall until later this week, the state and federal government must work together in order to help reduce the potential loss of life and destruction of property. As we recently witnessed with Hurricane Harvey, preparation and upfront resources are paramount.”

Monday — 3:39 p.m. — The following is a statement from U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson as Florida prepares for Hurricane Irma:

“I’ve talked to Brock Long, the head of FEMA, he’s ready and is prepositioning people and supplies around the state. I’m talked to the commandant of the Coast Guard, Admiral Zukunft, and he is already prepositioning ships and aircraft to come in right after the storm hits. I’ve talked to Col. [JasonKirk with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, he’s ready and says Lake Okeechobee still has the capacity to hold another three feet of water before this hurricane would threaten the dike. I spoke to General Calhoun with the Florida National Guard. They are ready and prepositioned. And I’ve talked to the secretary of transportation, Elaine Chao, and asked her to urge the state to go ahead and lift the tolls on South Florida’s roadways, particularly I-95 and Florida’s Turnpike, to make it easier for folks who are starting to evacuate.”

Monday — 3:37 p.m. — Gov. Scott directed the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to suspend tolls across the entire State of Florida in preparation for Hurricane Irma. By suspending all tolls, Floridians and visitors will more easily be able to prepare for any potential storm impacts, access important hurricane supplies, and quickly and safely evacuate when necessary.

Monday — 3:03 p.m. — Officials in the Florida Keys are gearing up to get tourists and residents out of the possible path of Hurricane Irma. Monroe County spokeswoman Cammy Clark says in a news release that they are instituting a “Phased Evacuation,” which includes a mandatory evacuation for tourists to begin sunrise Wednesday.

An evacuation plan for residents is also underway but a timetable hasn’t been determined.

Clark says government offices, parks and schools will close and there will be no shelters in Monroe County. The county’s three hospitals are also beginning evacuation plans. U.S. 1 is the only route in and out of the island chain off the southern peninsula of Florida. Clark says residents and tourists should begin filling their tanks with fuel to prepare to drive to the mainland.

“For the Florida Keys, if you were to create the worst-case scenario that is what we are looking at,” Monroe County Emergency Operations Center Director Martin Senterfitt told CBS Miami.

At the National Hurricane Center’s 2 p.m. ET advisory, officials say Irma’s maximum sustained winds had increased to near 185 mph, and the storm is now located about 180 miles east of Antigua, moving west at 14 mph. Beyond that of the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, the NHC is calling Irma the strongest hurricane in the history of the Atlantic basin.

According to the NHC: “The chance of direct impacts from Irma later this week and this weekend is increasing in the Florida Keys and portions of the Florida Peninsula. Everyone in hurricane-prone areas should ensure that they have their hurricane plan place.”

Monday — 1:15 p.m. — With Hurricane Irma gaining strength, becoming a Category 5 and seemingly heading toward South Florida, Reps. Kionne McGhee, Daisy Baez, Nick Duran and Robert Asencio convened to call on Gov. Scott to suspend tolls during preparation.

Their statement:

“In light of the Governor’s recent declaration of a State of Emergency regarding Hurricane Irma, we call on Governor Scott and Miami-Dade Transit to suspend all roadway tolls effective immediately, as provided for under Florida law. People in Miami-Dade County preparing for a possibly severe natural disaster should not have to choose between buying vital emergency goods like water, candles, and batteries and paying tolls.”

Monday — 11:39 a.m. — Gov. Scott activated 100 members of the Florida Air and Army National Guard to support with planning, logistics and operations in preparation for potential impacts from Hurricane Irma. These 100 members will be stationed across the state, and will advise the Governor on available and needed resources to ensure communities are fully prepared for the storm. Additionally, all 7,000 National Guard members will be reporting Friday morning.

Scott’s statement:

“Today I am activating 100 members of the Florida Air and Army National Guard to immediately begin assisting with ongoing Hurricane Irma preparation. Per my direction, they will be stationed throughout the state. I have also directed all 7,000 guard members to report for duty this Friday, however, if resources are needed before then, I stand ready to activate as many guard members needed to support our aggressive preparedness actions. With Hurricane Irma now a category 5 storm, we must do all we can to prepare our families and communities for any potential impact from this major weather event. We do not know the exact path of this storm, but weather can change in an instant and while we hope for the best, we must prepare for the worst.”

Monday — 11:09 a.m. — House Speaker Richard Corcoran told House members today that Hurricane Irma was being closely monitored. “As the path of the storm becomes more clearly defined, we will, in consultation with the Senate, make a final decision regarding the status of House committee and subcommittee meetings scheduled for next week,” Corcoran said in an email.

Monday — 11:05 a.m. — Tropical Storm Jose has formed in the open Atlantic far from land. Jose is located to the east of Hurricane Irma, which is a powerful and dangerous storm heading toward Antigua and perhaps the U.S. Jose is the 10th tropical storm of the season. It has maximum sustained winds of 40 mph (65 kph) and is about 1505 miles (2420 kilometers) east of the Lesser Antilles.

Monday — 10:45 a.m. — Gov. Scott requested that Pres. Donald Trump declare a pre-landfall emergency for the State of Florida in preparation for Hurricane Irma. A pre-landfall declaration will provide important resources and assistance from the federal government and would free up funding sources for emergency protective measures such as shoring up beach dunes, building emergency berms and planning for potential evacuations.

Scott’s statement:

“Last evening, I spoke with President Trump regarding Florida’s preparedness actions and he offered the full resources of the federal government as we get ready for this major storm. This morning, I am requesting the president declare a pre-landfall emergency for the State of Florida to help preposition necessary resources and support emergency protective measures across the state. Our state emergency management officials are working with our federal and local partners to prepare for any potential impacts from this dangerous storm, and it is crucial that we have access to every available resource to protect our families and communities.

“While we do not yet know the exact path of Irma, major impacts to Florida are potentially possible and we cannot wait to take aggressive preparedness actions. I continue to urge all Floridians to remain vigilant, stay tuned into local weather alerts and have a disaster plan in place today. We will remain focused on making sure families and visitors have timely information on Hurricane Irma and we keep issuing important updates as we monitor the storm throughout the day.”

Monday — 8:07 a.m. — The National Hurricane Center’s special 7:45 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 5, advisory pegs Irma as an extremely dangerous 175-mph storm — a Category 5. It is moving west at 14 mph and was located 270 miles east of the Antigua. Its minimum central pressure is 929 MB.

Monday — 5 a.m. — Officials across the northeastern Caribbean canceled airline flights, shuttered schools and urged people to hunker down indoors as Hurricane Irma barreled toward the region as a powerful Category 4 storm expected to strengthen more before nearing land late Tuesday.

States of emergency were declared in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and all of Florida while people on various Caribbean islands boarded up homes and rushed to find last-minute supplies, forming long lines outside supermarkets and gas stations.

Irma’s maximum sustained winds increased to near 150 mph (240 kph) early Tuesday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said. It was centered about 320 miles (515 kilometers) east of the Leeward Islands and moving west at 14 mph (22 kph).

Authorities warned that the storm could dump up to 10 inches (25 centimeters) of rain, cause landslides and dangerous flash floods and generate waves of up to 23 feet (7 meters).

Satellite image provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows Hurricane Irma nearing the eastern Caribbean.

Sunday — 10:20 p.m. — Gov. Rick Scott‘s official schedule has been updated to show that he had a phone call with President Donald Trump regarding Hurricane Irma.

Sunday — 7 p.m.Fox News reports that Gov. Rick Scott is declaring a state of emergency in the state as rapidly growing Hurricane Irma is expected to make landfall later this week.

The state of emergency is for all Florida’s 67 counties. Scott said that the state would “prepare for the worst and hope for the best” as Irma is expected to hit the state sometime Friday.

Sunday — 5 p.m. — Hurricane Irma has strengthened into a Category 4 storm as it approaches the northeast Caribbean.

The storm’s center is 490 miles (790 kilometers) east of the Leeward Islands late Monday afternoon. It has maximum sustained winds of 130 mph (215 kph) and is moving west at 13 mph (20 kph).

Emergency officials are warning that Irma could dump up to 10 inches (25 centimeters) of rain, unleash landslides and dangerous flash floods and generate waves of up to 23 feet (7 meters) as the storm draws closer.

A hurricane warning has been issued for Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Martin, Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Maarten and St. Barts. A hurricane watch is in effect for Puerto Rico, Vieques, Culebra, the British and U.S. Virgin Islands and Guadeloupe.

Sunday — 11: a.m. — There is an “increasing chance” that Florida and the Florida Keys will see “some impacts from” Hurricane Irma — which is currently closing in on the Caribbean — later this week and over the weekend, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said this morning, adding that it’s still too early to determine what direct impacts the storm may have.

ABC News meteorologists say at this time the possibilities of where Irma could reach in the U.S. span from Mobile, Alabama, to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, and the forecast cone of uncertainty now includes southern Florida and Miami.

The hurricane is expected to be near the Cuba coast by Saturday.

Irma’s winds have strengthened to 120 mph as the storm closes in on the Caribbean.

Hurricane warnings — which are usually issued 36 hours before the anticipated first occurrence of tropical-storm-force winds — are in effect for Antigua, Barbuda, Anguilla, Montserrat, St. Kitts, Nevis, Saba, St. Eustatius, Sint Maarten, Saint Martin and Saint Barthelemy as of 11 a.m. ET, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Hurricane watches — which typically are issued 48 hours before the anticipated first occurrence of tropical-storm-force winds — have been issued for the U.S. Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Vieques, Culebra and Guadeloupe.

Some Caribbean island were making preparations Sunday as the storm approached.

Puerto Rico will he sees him to be on the road so I guess he’s goneI don’t while you gather on the water  said offithere on the water yeahcials were p I think for him probably go to the probably go to the Vinoy were usually we said it give me some extra for waiting repared to deal with any emergency, but he still urged residents of the territory to take precautions, The Associated Press reported Sunday.

In Antigua, Prime Minister Gaston Browne recommended taking preventive measures, like cleaning drains, the AP said. Workers were also seen pruning trees and shrubs to help keep them from tearing down phone and power lines, the AP said.

In a statement, according to the AP, Browne said, while “the passage of a hurricane is not a matter to be taken lightly,” he added, “we must not panic.”

Material from The Associated Press was used in this post.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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