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Florida governor to residents: ‘Leave now’ – CNN – Hurricane Irma strengthens, hits Cuba on its way to Florida

tracking hurricane Irma

(CNN) – Hurricane Irma hit northern Cuba during its long, destructive march toward Florida, where it’s expected to hammer the state with whistling winds, heavy rain and surging waves.

Florida authorities went door-to-door warning residents of the massive hurricane, sending crowds jamming highways as they fled north.

The powerful Category 5 storm had maximum sustained winds of 160 mph when it made landfall on Cuba’s Camaguey Archipelago, the National Hurricane Center said late Friday.
CNN’s Patrick Oppmann said he was nearly blown over by the powerful storm as it suddenly blasted on Cuba’s northern coastal resort town of Caibarien.
“It was incredibly forceful. I’ve covered plenty of hurricanes before but nothing like this one,” he said late Friday. “Rain came in that was pretty much blinding and knocked out power in the town.”
Many people have evacuated the town in the past couple of days, he said. Those who remain say they are prepared but this is a storm like few have ever experienced before.
Conditions are going to continue to deteriorate into Saturday, he added, and those still in Caibarien have no other option now than to stay put.

Millions urged to evacuate

Irma edged closer to South Florida after killing 24 people in the Caribbean this week, and strengthened to a Category 5 storm in Cuba.
Hours earlier Friday, it was a Category 4.
Irma is expected to be near the Florida Keys and South Florida by early Sunday, and many residents there have moved inland. About 5.6 million people in the state have been ordered to evacuate, Gov. Rick Scott said.
Florida officials sent dire warnings imploring residents on the path of the storm to evacuate.
“If you have been ordered to evacuate, leave now. Not tonight, not in an hour, now,” Scott said Friday night. Staying in homes could subject residents to storm surge as high as 12 feet, the governor added.
The National Weather Service also urged residents to evacuate .
“This is as real as it gets, nowhere in the Florida Keys will be safe … you still have time to evacuate,” it tweeted.

Here are the latest developments

— Irma’s center was about 275 miles southeast of Miami on Saturday morning.
— It appears Miami will avoid a direct hit but will still get pounded by strong winds, storm surge and heavy rains.
— Irma’s center will move near the north coast of Cuba on Saturday, near the Florida Keys on Sunday morning, and near the southwest coast of Florida on Sunday afternoon, the National Weather Service said.
— Before Irma hit Cuba, it had slammed the Turks and Caicos, and southeastern Bahamas.

NWS Key West @NWSKeyWest

, now a Cat 5, continues to churn north of Cuba in the Straits of Florida, This morning may be your last chance to Evacuate!!!

— The Red Cross said as many as 26 million people could be exposed to destructive winds and torrential rain just in the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba. It said 1.2 million people have been battered by the storm.
Barbuda, one of two major islands in the nation of Antigua and Barbuda, is barely habitable, with about 95% of its buildings damaged, Prime Minister Gaston Browne said.
Browne estimated the damage will cost $100 million to fix on the island of 1,800 residents.
Anguilla, Barbuda, St. Martin and St. Barts are under a hurricane warning for Hurricane Jose, which could pass close to those islands Saturday. The government called for voluntary evacuations from Barbuda, Browne said.
Are you affected by Irma? Text, iMessage or WhatsApp your videos, photos and stories to CNN: +1 347-322-0415.

Sorgente: Florida governor to residents: ‘Leave now’ – CNN

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