Irma, a Category 5 storm churning in the Atlantic with 175 mph sustained winds, killed at least 10 people on Wednesday as it devastated small northeastern Caribbean islands such as Barbuda and left hundreds of thousands of customers in Puerto Rico without power.
A storm surge watch is in effect for portions of south Florida and the Florida Keys. Irma could also impact parts of North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.
As many as 10 people were reported dead after the storm blew its way past smaller islands on Wednesday into Thursday.
“Regardless of which (Florida) coast you live on, be prepared to evacuate,” Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Thursday at a news conference, with forecasters warning the storm could reach South Florida by Sunday.
Mandatory evacuations have been issued for many counties in South Florida, but Scott said others in Florida need to watch Irma’s path and be ready to move.
Almost 16 million people across 10 countries, states and territories are in the path of the storm, according to the US Census Bureau.
Follow along for updates throughout the day (all times EDT):
The National Hurricane Center has issued a hurricane warning for southern Florida. The warning extends from Jupiter Inlet on the east coast of the state, southward around the Florida Peninsula to Bonita Beach on the west coast. The warning included the Florida Keys, Lake Okeechobee, and Florida Bay. The same area had previously been under a hurricane watch.
The warning also applies to Haiti from the northern border with the Dominican Republic to Le Mole St. Nicholas, the southeastern Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands, the Cuban provinces of Camaguey, Ciego de Avila, Sancti Spiritus,
Villa Clara and the central and northwest Bahamas.
A hurricane watch has been issued for the east coast of Florida north of Jupiter Inlet to Sebastian Inlet and for the west coast of Florida north of Bonita Beach to Anna Maria Island.
Georgia, too, is ordering coastal evacuations. People in the Savannah area and everywhere along the coast east of Interstate 95 — including Brunswick and St. Simons Island — are ordered to leave, starting Saturday, Gov. Nathan Deal said.
Meanwhile, Governor Rick Scott announced Thursday that all public K-12 schools, state colleges, state universities and state offices will be closed from Friday to Monday.
“Today, I am directing the closure of all public schools, state colleges, state universities and state offices for their normal…