French official reports 2 dead as Irma lashes Caribbean

Florida is urging evacuations as the Category 5 storm makes its way to the U.S.


Hurricane Irma, a record-breaking storm barreling its way through the Caribbean, is forcing evacuations as Florida preps for the worst.

Follow along for updates (all times ET).

3:30 p.m. French official reports 2 dead

France’s overseas minister is reporting at least two people are dead and two seriously injured after Irma crossed French-administered Saint Martin and St. Barthelemy.

In a translated report from French broadcaster BFMTV, Annick Girardin said communications are just beginning to return and lessening winds will make air reconnaissance easier.

Early reports suggested damage on parts of the smaller islands — a tropical region popular with tourists.

Barbuda, home to about 1,600 people, was “so badly damaged that there is no communication” from the island, said Keithley Meade, director of a meteorological office in Antigua and Barbuda.

“We have a lot of broken trees across the island,” Meade said from Antigua, whose 80,000 people comprise most of the two-island nation’s population.
Irma destroyed four of the most solid government buildings on the French-administered portion of nearby St. Martin, an island of about 75,000 people, French Interior Minister Gérard Collomb said Wednesday in Paris.

It’s likely that all other older buildings there have at least been damaged, he said.

Roughly 10 of these smaller islands — such as St. Martin, Antigua and Barbuda, and St. Kitts and Nevis — were pounded by hurricane conditions. One, Guadeloupe, has about 405,000 residents. The rest have about 264,400 people combined.

2 p.m. Irma shows no signs of slowing

Heavy rain and 185-mph winds lashed the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico’s northeast coast Wednesday as Hurricane Irma roared through Caribbean islands on its way to a possible hit on South Florida.

The U.S. National Weather Service said Puerto Rico — a US territory of about 3.4 million people — had not seen a hurricane of Irma’s magnitude since Hurricane San Felipe in 1928, which killed a total of 2,748 people in Guadeloupe, Puerto Rico and Florida.

Georgia’s Gov. Nathan Deal declared states of emergency in six coastal counties in the afternoon. Florida and South Carolina have already done the same for their entire states.

“The dangerousness of this event is like nothing we’ve ever seen,” Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello said. “A lot of infrastructure won’t be able to withstand this kind of force.”

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Irma’s winds would fluctuate, but the storm would likely remain at Category 4 or 5 for the next day or two as it roared past Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba, the Turks & Caicos and parts of the Bahamas.

The strongest Atlantic Ocean hurricane ever measured destroyed homes and flooded streets across a chain of small islands in the northern Caribbean, passing directly over Barbuda and leaving the island of some 1,700 people incommunicado.

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. Dutch marines who flew to three Dutch islands hammered by Irma reported extensive damage but no deaths or injuries.

While France received no immediate reports of casualties, the minister for French 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.”

By early Wednesday afternoon the center of the storm was east-southeast of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands and east of San Juan, Puerto Rico and heading west-northwest at 16 mph.

1:30 p.m. ‘Eerie but beautiful’

Among the people hunkered down ahead of Hurricane Irma is Richard Branson, the head of the Virgin Group.

Branson owns small Necker island in the British Virgin Islands and he’s posted a blog entry saying he and friends have “experienced a night of howling wind and rain as Hurricane Irma edges ever closer.”

He says “the atmosphere is eerie but beautiful.”

Like many in the region, Branson says he and his group will shelter indoors as the storm hits, though his guests may have it better than most. They’re headed for a concrete wine cellar.

He adds: “I suspect there will be little wine left in the cellar when we all emerge.”

12:37 p.m. State of emergency in South Carolina

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster has declared a state of emergency in to help prepare for a possible strike early next week from Irma.

McMaster made the declaration Wednesday after the National Hurricane Center’s forecast on Irma’s track shifted east, putting the prospect of a major hurricane just off the coast of Florida about 200 miles away from Charleston by Monday morning.

The declaration allows the state to begin certain preparations for an emergency and allows McMaster to use the National Guard if necessary.

South Carolina evacuated much of its coast in October when Hurricane Matthew skirted the shoreline before coming ashore just north of Charleston.

The last major hurricane to hit South Carolina was Hugo in September 1989 with winds of 135 mph.

11:45 a.m. Irma’s destruction

Some of the first images of the devastation wrought by Irma are coming out after the storm blew through the eastern Caribbean. See the destruction in the video below.

At midday, the storm was nearing the Virgin Islands.

10:51 a.m. More warnings as Irma churns through Caribbean

As Irma continues through the Caribbean, the eye of the “potentially catastrophic” hurricane is closing in on the Virgin Islands, according to the National Hurricane Center.

A hurricane warning has been newly issued for the north coast of Haiti near its border with the Dominican Republic and a tropical storm warning for coastal areas further south.

Maximum winds remain at 185 miles per hour.

Elsewhere, Tropical Storm Jose in the eastern Atlantic is expected to gradually strengthen and form into a hurricane. In the southwestern Gulf of Mexico, Tropical Storm Katia is expected to hit the Mexican state of Veracruz.

9:45 a.m. Gov. Scott gives update

Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Hurricane Irma is stronger and bigger than Hurricane Andrew was and urged residents to follow evacuation orders.

Scott said a mandatory evacuation for tourists in the Florida Keys began on Wednesday. He said an evacuation order will start on Thursday for residents. He said other areas may also announce evacuation orders.

“Get out quickly,” Scott said in a Wednesday morning news conference. “I can’t stress this enough. Know your evacuation zone.”

He said the state is working to bring more fuel to gas stations and get supplies to stores so residents can be prepared. Photos on Tuesday showed long lines at gas stations and empty store shelves.

The storm appears as though it will make landfall in Florida late Sunday night or early Monday morning. Scott said the storm surge is the biggest concern for Florida.

Scott has also activated 1,000 Florida National Guard members and said that by Friday, all 6,000 available National Guard members may be asked to report for duty.

Scott said state offices will be closed on Friday.

8 a.m. Hurricane Irma continues over Caribbean islands

The most powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricane in recorded history bore down on the islands of the northeast Caribbean early Wednesday, following a path predicted to then rake Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba before possibly heading for Florida over the weekend.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Wednesday the state is anticipating additional evacuation orders as the storm gets closer.

“Do not sit and wait for this storm to come. Remember, we can rebuild your home – not your life.,” Scott said.

Hurricane Irma hit Barbuda at 2:00 a.m. EST, thrashing it with high winds as it marched on to other islands along its path on the Caribbean.

The massive Category 5 storm packed winds of up to 185 mph, the US National Hurricane Center said. It aimed at several islands, including Puerto Rico, Antigua, St. Kitts and Nevis, and the US Virgin Islands.

In the US Virgin Islands, Gov. Kenneth E. Mapp ordered a 36-hour curfew starting Wednesday at 6 a.m. local time.

“The beginning of the curfew coincides with the expected arrival of heavy rain and strong winds associated with Irma,” he said in a statement.

By 8:00 a.m. EST, Irma’s had made its way over the island of St. Martin, while the eye wall is pounded Anguilla.

President Donald Trump tweeted Wednesday morning that his team is already in place in Florida should Irma make landfall.

Overnight details on Hurricane Irma:

5 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 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 east of Tampico, Mexico, and is moving east-southeast near 2 mph.

4:00 a.m.

French authorities have ordered inhabitants to remain confined to their house and not go out under any circumstances in the French Caribbean islands of Saint Martin and Saint Barthelemy because of Hurricane Irma.

The French ministry of Interior has issued the highest possible alert for both islands of French overseas because they appear to be in the middle of the path of the dangerous Category 5 storm.

Schools, public services and ports have been closed.

Authorities recommend the population stay in the safest room of the house and get prepared for power cuts and disruption in the supply of water.

Two other French Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique have been placed under a more moderate alert.


3:20 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 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.

2:00 a.m.

The most powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricane in recorded history has made its first landfall in the islands of the northeast Caribbean.

The National Weather Service said the eye of Hurricane Irma passed over Barbuda around 1:47 a.m. Residents said over local radio that phone lines went down as the eye passed.

The National Hurricane Center said Irma was maintaining Category 5 strength with sustained winds near 185 mph and heading west-northwest on a path toward Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba before possibly heading for Florida over the weekend.

“Anguilla, all the way toward (Antigua and) Barbuda, all the way up even toward the British Virgin Islands (are) in grave danger of an eye wall hit at (at least) 150 mph — that devastates the island, no matter what island it is,” CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said Tuesday.

10:15 p.m. (Tuesday)

Bahamian 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.


8:10 p.m.

President Donald 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.
The dangerous Category 5 storm is wielding the most powerful winds ever recorded for a storm in the Atlantic Ocean. It is on a path that could take it toward Florida over the weekend.

Irma’s size and strength put the entire state on notice Tuesday. Residents and visitors prepared to leave in anticipation of catastrophic winds and floods.

Puerto Rico’s governor is also warning that the effects of Hurricane Irma could be catastrophic and calling the storm more dangerous than Hurricane Harvey.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. (Click to Site)

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