What’s next for Hurricane Irma? What to expect as storm approaches Florida

MIAMI — The ferocious Hurricane Irma caused multiple deaths and left thousands homeless on islands across the northern Caribbean as it cut a devastating path that could lead to a catastrophic strike on Florida. 

Irma weakened only slightly Thursday from its peak, remaining a powerful Category 5 storm with winds of 175 mph. 

Here’s a look at what to expect as Irma approaches:

What’s ahead for Irma?

Irma appears increasingly likely to rip into heavily populated South Florida early Sunday. Gov. Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency, and mandatory evacuation orders are in place for parts of the Miami metro area and the Florida Keys. 

“We cannot save you once the storm hits,” Scott warned, urging residents to heed local evacuation orders.

Parts of South Florida were placed under a hurricane watch Thursday. 

Forecasters said Irma could rake the entire Atlantic coast of Florida and rage on into Georgia and South Carolina. 

Georgia’s governor has ordered a mandatory evacuation starting Saturday from the state’s Atlantic coast ahead of Hurricane Irma. That includes the city of Savannah. 

What has Irma done so far?

French, British and Dutch rescuers struggled to rush aid to a string of Caribbean islands Thursday after Hurricane Irma left at least six dead and thousands homeless. 

Nearly every building on the island of Barbuda was damaged when the eye of the storm passed early Wednesday. That left about 60 percent of the island’s roughly 1,400 people homeless, Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne told The Associated Press. 

About a million people were without power in Puerto Rico after Irma sideswiped the island, but there were no immediate reports of large-scale casualties. 

Evacuation traffic jams

After parts of southern Florida were placed under an evacuation order, some drivers faced traffic jams and fuel shortages as they tried to head north to safety. At least 31,000 people fled the Florida Keys, which could begin seeing wind and rain from Irma as early as Friday night, Gov. Rick Scott said. 

Motorists head north, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017, in Islamorada, Fla.

Alan Diaz / AP

The Republican governor acknowledged that traffic jams and gas shortages were “frustrating,” and said federal authorities and other states were helping to move more fuel into the state. 

“We are aggressively working around the clock to bring more fuel to Florida gas stations,” Scott said…

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