Forecasters say Irma now aimed at Keys, Tampa

Forecasters say Irma now aimed at Keys, Tampa”

As Hurricane Irma pounds the Caribbean and threatens catastrophic damage to Florida, some people from Miami to St. Petersburg say they're not evacuating for this storm.

"The center of Irma will move into southwestern Georgia later today, and move into eastern Alabama Tuesday morning", the National Hurricane Center said.

Hurricane Irma's winds have slowed slightly while it rakes Cuba, but the massive storm is expected to strengthen again as it approaches Florida.

The region is expected to experience gusty winds starting Saturday morning, with winds around 20 miles per hour and increasing throughout the day and strengthening to tropical storm-force Saturday night, Gilmore said.

The storm has been pounding Cuba, and forecasters say it will get stronger once it moves away.

"The bad news is that this is some big monster", Trump told reporters at the White House, saying damage from the storm would be very costly.

Andrew a quarter century ago was an unusually compact major storm that roared east-to-west nearly in a straight line and hit just south of the core of Miami.

About 9 million people in Florida may lose power, some for weeks, said Florida Power & Light Co, which serves nearly half of the state's 20.6 million residents.

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.

"Wherever Hurricane Irma goes, we'll be there first", Pence said.

-Three people died in Georgia: A 62-year-old man who was on his roof was killed in Worth County, which experienced wind gusts of 69 miles per hour, according to Kannetha Clem, a spokeswoman for the Worth County Sheriff's Office.

The size and trajectory of the storm has prompted officials to order evacuations along both coasts of Florida, including some of the state's population centers.

The tiny islands directly crossed by Irma, like Barbuda and St. Martin, did little to weaken it, but the storm's intensity could be measurably diminished by a close encounter with a larger land mass, such as Cuba, en route to the USA mainland, scientists said.

There are now 1,700 members of Florida Highway Patrol working the roadways on 12-hour shifts, Scott said.

Georgia was also preparing for the hurricane effects of Irma.

France's Director of Public Safety has held a press conference in Paris on the recovery efforts in the French overseas island territories of Saint Martin and Saint Barthelemy that are reeling from Hurricane Irma.

There is a 50 percent chance of rain on Saturday, with highs near 90 ahead of the hurricane, which is forecast to make a northerly turn later Saturday, forecasters said. "The river that runs through the city is about to flood", she said.

Kate Hale, Miami-Dade's emergency management chief - who grabbed national attention during Andrew by beseeching "where the hell is the cavalry on this one?" - said by almost every measure Irma looks far worse.

Much less certain is the role of global climate from human-induced atmospheric increases in heat-trapping "greenhouse" gases, scientists said.

In the Gulf of Mexico, Hurricane Katia made landfall late Friday north of Tecolutla, Mexico and weakened to a tropical storm.

Andrew razed Miami's suburbs with winds topping 165 miles per hour (265 kph), damaging or blowing apart over 125,000 homes. It was expected to weaken further throughout the day.

Dutch marines have dropped flyers from a helicopter warning beleaguered inhabitants on the devastated nation of St. Maarten to head to shelters as Hurricane Jose barrels through the Caribbean.

Storm surge all depends on the tack of Irma.

Herrin said the jail is built to withstand a Category 5 hurricane.

Gov. Rick Scott is urging anyone living in an evacuation zone in southwest Florida to leave by noon as the threat of Hurricane Irma has shifted west.

Irma regained Category 5 status late Friday.

Asked for a specific number of those who could lose power, Long said, "You know it's hard to speculate, but some of the estimates could be 5 million people without power based on this, you know, south-to-north trajectory, and it's not just Florida; it's going to be moving into Georgia as well ... over the next five days".

Many residents and tourists were left reeling after the storm ravaged some of the world's most exclusive tropical playgrounds, known for their turquoise waters and lush green vegetation.

On Saturday morning, the state was already beginning to feel Irma's muscle.

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