Hurricane Irma bears down on Tampa after leaving trail of devastation across Florida - latest news

Chris Graham

Hurricane Irma gave Florida a coast-to-coast pummelling with winds up to 130 mph on Sunday, swamping homes and boats, knocking out power to millions and toppling massive construction cranes over the Miami skyline.

The 400-mile-wide storm blew ashore in the mostly cleared-out Florida Keys, then marched up its western coast, its punishing winds extending clear across to Miami and West Palm Beach on the Atlantic side.

Irma was nearing the heavily populated Tampa-St. Petersburg area late on Sunday, though in a much-weakened state.

Hurricane Irma leaves path of destruction in Caribbean as it hits Florida, in pictures

While it arrived in Florida a Category 4 hurricane, by nightfall it was down to a Category 2 with winds of 100 mph (160 kph). Meanwhile, more than 160,000 people waited in shelters statewide as Irma headed up the coast.

President Donald Trump has said the US may have got a "little bit lucky" after Hurricane Irma veered from its original course and headed west along Florida's coast.

He said Irma may not have been quite as destructive as a result, but that things will play out over the next several hours.

Mr Trump addressed reporters on Sunday after returning to the White House from Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland where he spent the weekend monitoring the storm.

Irma will cost "a lot of money," he said, but he isn't thinking about that right now.

"Right now, we're worried about lives, not cost," he said,

Here is the current, real-time satellite view of the storm

As the storm ripped through Miami waist-deep water surged through streets at least three blocks from the shore.

Roads in the downtown area were turned into rivers as water raced between office buildings and blocks of flats, while street signs swung crazily.

More than 3 million homes and businesses across the state lost power, and utility officials said it will take weeks to restore electricity to everyone.

Two construction cranes collapsed in the high winds. No injuries were reported. One of them was left dangling perilously over a partially constructed high rise building. 

Miami's deputy fire chief Joseph Zahralban said people in nearby structures should move somewhere safe but there was nothing else emergency services could do to help.

He said: "The weather has deteriorated to the point where we're not comfortable even sending anybody out to even evaluate the situation. So our only concern right now is the protection of life, not property."

Hurricane Irma - as of 3pm Sunday

The crane was one of more than 20 in Miami that were unable to be dismantled in time and there were fears others could come crashing down.

One woman in Miami had to deliver her own baby girl during the storm as emergency services were unable to reach her. A fire service spokesman said: "We weren't able to respond. Dispatch told her how to do it and she's stable at home."

Among at least three people reported dead as Irma hit was sheriff's deputy Julie Bridges who died alongside another in a car crash about 60 miles from Sarasota. 

A partially collapsed construction tower crane as Hurricane Irma strikes in Miami Credit: EPA

In a separate accident, a man lost control of a truck in strong winds in Key West.

Irma made landfall in Florida on Sunday morning at Cudjoe Key with sustained winds of 130 mph, the National Hurricane Center said.

It was expected to bring up to 25 inches of rain in some parts of the Keys.

Some 6.4 million Floridians had been ordered to evacuate, more than a quarter of Florida' population, amid warnings they would be "on their own" if they stayed.  Of those who stayed 100,000 were in shelters, but some chose to remain in their own homes.

Tornado at Fort Lauderdale Beach

The Republican governor said on NBC that he spoke to President Donald Trump, and "everything I've asked out of the federal government, he's made sure he gave us."

Eyewall and Storm Surge !! #HurricaneIrma#KeyWestpic.twitter.com/jI9kItZWqJ

— Mike Theiss (@MikeTheiss) September 10, 2017

Once the storm passes, "we're going to need a lot of help," Mr Scott warned.

But he also described Florida as "a tough state. We're going to come through this."

6:28AM

Extent of damage unclear

Bryan Koon, Florida's emergency management director, says authorities had only scattered information about the storm's toll, but he remained hopeful.

"I've not heard of catastrophic damage. It doesn't mean it doesn't exist. It means it hasn't gotten to us yet."

A downed tree lies across Cape Coral Parkway during Hurricane Irma in downtown Cape Coral, Florida Credit: AP

6:00AM

Tampa region getting hammered 

The National Hurricane Centre says the core of Irma is now nearing Tampa in an area south of Lakeland - a community inland and to the east of the heavily populated Tampa Bay region.

A hurricane center update at midnight said Irma remained a Category 2 hurricane with top sustained winds of 100 mph (155 kph) and was located about 25 miles (35 kilometers) south of Lakeland.

The storm is moving north at 14 mph (22 kph).

Forecasters warned that Irma remained dangerous as it toppled power lines, tore up roofs and threatened coastal areas with storm surges as high as 15 feet (4.6 m). Tornadoes were also spotted through the southern part of the state.

By late on Sunday, at least 4.4 million homes and businesses had lost power, according to Florida Power & Light and other utilities.

5:11AM

Relief effort ramped up in Caribbean

As Irma continues to batter Florida, officials are sending in more aid and arranging stepped-up evacuations in remote Caribbean islands.

Many in the chain of Leeward Islands known as the playground for the rich and famous have criticised governments for failing to respond quickly to the disaster caused by the Category 5 hurricane.

The storm stripped the islands' formerly lush green hills to a brown stubble and flattened buildings, then swamped much of Cuba's coastline, including Havana's iconic Malecon seawall.

At least 24 people died in Anguilla, Barbuda, the French-Dutch island of St. Martin, St. Barts, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands. 

A helicopter of French army brings food to the Grand-Case Esperance airport, on Saint-Martin island Credit: AFP

Residents have reported shortages of food, water and medicine, and many have complained of looting.

The U.S. government said it was sending a flight on Monday to evacuate its citizens from one of the hardest hit islands, St. Martin. Evacuees were warned to expect long lines and no running water at the airport.

A Royal Caribbean Cruise Line ship was expected to dock near St. Martin to help in the aftermath, and a boat was bringing a 5-ton crane capable of unloading large shipping containers filled with aid. A French military ship was scheduled to arrive on Tuesday with materials to build temporary housing.

Some 70 percent of the beds at the main hospital in the French portion of St. Martin were severely damaged, and more than 100 people in need of urgent medical care have been evacuated. Eight of the territory's 11 pharmacies were destroyed, and Guadeloupe was sending medication.

On Tuesday, French President Emmanuel Macron was scheduled to arrive in St. Martin to bring aid and fend off criticism that he didn't do enough to respond to the storm's wrath.

Macron promised to go to the region as soon as weather conditions allowed. Soon after Irma left 10 dead on St. Martin, Category 4 Hurricane Jose threatened the area, halting evacuations for hours before heading out to sea and causing little additional damage.

4:23AM

Latest images

Vehicles drive through a flooded street as Hurricane Irma passes through Naples, Florida Credit: AP
The crumbled canopy of a gas station damaged by Hurricane Irma is seen in Bonita Springs in Florida Credit: Reuters
Floodwaters cover part of 3rd Ave in Dania Beach, east of U.S. Route 1, Florida Credit: AP
A guest walks toward the lobby of a hotel illuminated by emergency lights following a power outage in Tampa, Florida Credit: Bloomberg

4:13AM

Irma bears down on Tampa

Hurricane Irma is now bearing down on the Tampa-St. Petersburg region.

The storm remains a dangerous Category 2 hurricane despite weakening a bit more to 100 mph (160 kph). 

The National Hurricane Center says Irma's eye is about 50 miles (80 kilometers) southeast of Tampa and moving at a fast clip of 14 mph (22 kph). Still a large hurricane, its tropical storm force winds extend out 415 miles (665 kilometers).

Forecasters say they expert Irma's centre to stay inland over Florida and then move into Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee.

They also expect Irma to weaken further into a tropical storm over far northern Florida or southern Georgia on Monday as it speeds up its forward motion. The hurricane center says the storm is still life-threatening with dangerous storm surge, wind and heavy rains.

3:37AM

Third crane collapses

A third construction crane has toppled in Florida in the powerful winds of Hurricane Irma.

Officials say it happened at a project on Fort Lauderdale beach during the storm Sunday.

Officials with developer The Related Group told the Sun-Sentinel the crane collapse caused no injuries and did not appear to damage anything else.

Two other cranes toppled earlier in Miami as Irma swirled up the state.

A partially collapsed construction tower crane after the full effects of Hurricane Irma struck in Miami, Florida Credit: EPA

3:33AM

Boris Johnson defends response

Boris Johnson has pledged to be there "in the long term" for British people whose Caribbean homes were ripped apart by Hurricane Irma.

Brushing aside critics, the Foreign Secretary said there had been an "unprecedented" relief effort from the UK and that he had "no doubt" Britain would meet the challenges ahead.

Irma has claimed at least 24 lives, including five in the British Virgin Islands and one each on Anguilla and Barbuda, and left thousands of people homeless when it smashed into the region on Wednesday.

"These are British people and we are here for the long term and we will come through with a recovery plan working with our partners in the region.

Read the full story.

3:19AM

Tornadoes strike hurricane-stricken area

3:10AM

Hialeah Hospital's generator at risk

Florida Senator Marco Rubio says Hialeah Hospital is running low on diesel to run its generator. 

2:48AM

National Weather Service update

2:47AM

Three million without power

Hurricane Irma knocked out power to more than 3 million homes and businesses in Florida on Sunday, threatening millions more as it crept up the state's west coast, and full restoration of service could take weeks, Reuters reports.

So far, the brunt of the storm has affected Florida Power & Light's customers in the states' southern and eastern sections, and its own operations were not immune, either.

"We are not subject to any special treatment from Hurricane Irma. We just experienced a power outage at our command center. We do have backup generation," FPL spokesman Rob Gould said on Sunday.

FPL, the biggest power company in Florida, said more than 2.9 million of its customers were without power by 7:40 p.m. (2030 GMT), mostly in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. More than 200,000 had electricity restored, mostly by automated devices.

2:42AM

Sir Richard Branson shows damage on Necker island

Sir Richard Branson has shared a video showing the "huge" damage wrought by Hurricane Irma on Necker island, as he appealed for aid for the devastated British Virgin Islands.

 

The British billionaire and adventurer hunkered down in the wine cellar of his home on his private island as it suffered a direct hit from the Category 5 Hurricane Irma.

"As you can see from the photos, much of the buildings and vegetation on Necker has been destroyed or badly damaged," Sir Richard wrote from Puerto Rico, where he was mobilising aid efforts  for the British Virgin Islands and wider Caribbean.

Read the full story here. 

2:28AM

'Prepared for the worst'

The county administrator in the Florida Keys says crews will begin house to house searcheson Monday morning, looking for people who need help and assessing damage from Hurricane Irma.

Monroe County Administrator Roman Gastesi says relief will arrive on a C-130 military plane Monday morning at the Key West International Airport.

Once it's light out, they'll check on survivors. They suspect they may find fatalities.

Gastesi says they are "prepared for the worst."

A lake is hit by Hurricane Irma in Pembroke Pines, Florida Credit: AFP

2:11AM

Miami airport badly damaged

Te head of Miami International Airport says it has sustained significant water damage throughout and will be closed throughout Monday.

2:01AM

"Whoa, did you just see that?'

CNN's Anderson Cooper interrupts a reporter to point out the glow from a blown transformer in Tampa. 

"Whoa, did you just see that?" @andersoncooper points out the glow from a blown transformer in Tampa. #HurricaneIrmahttps://t.co/vvF6e1yjd4

— CNN (@CNN) September 11, 2017

1:39AM

American Airlines travel update

American Airlines says it will resume limited operations at its Miami International Airport hub on Monday evening, but it will take days before the airline returns to normal operations.

The Fort Worth, Texas, airline cancelled all flights at the airport starting on Friday evening in anticipation of Hurricane Irma, along with flights at three other south Florida airports. All American flights remain cancelled through Monday at 12 other Florida airports, as well as Hilton Head, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia.

Departing passengers form a long queue to check in at Orlando International Airport ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Irma making landfall, in Florida Credit: Reuters

1:22AM

Stranded manatees rescued

Two manatees were stranded after Hurricane Irma sucked the water out of Sarasota Bay, in Florida's Manatee County.

Several people posted photos of the mammals on Facebook Sunday, hoping rescue workers or wildlife officials would respond. Michael Sechler posted that the animals were far too massive to be lifted, so they gave them water.

Marcelo Clavijo posted that a group of people eventually loaded the manatees onto tarps and dragged them to deeper water.

This photo provided by Michael Sechler shows a stranded manatee in Manatee County. Florida as Irma approached Credit: AP

1:02AM

Location update

The National Hurricane Centre has issued its latest update to the jurricane, saying Irma is moving northward near Fort Myers.

It says dangerous storm surges are expected in areas of onshore winds along the Florida West coast.

12:58AM

Some of the record Irma has broken

Irma set plenty of records, according to a two-page list compiled by Colorado State University researcher Phil Klotzbach:

  •  Its 185 mph (297 kph) winds were the highest on record for the open Atlantic ocean, outside the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean sea. Only one other storm in the entire Atlantic basin - 1980's Allen - was stronger.
  • It spent three consecutive days as a top-of-the-scale Category 5 hurricane, the longest in the satellite era.
  • It generated the second most Accumulated Cyclone Energy - a key measurement that combines strength and duration - in the satellite era.
  • It was the strongest storm to hit the Leeward Islands.
  • It's the first Category 5 hurricane to hit Cuba, which regularly gets assaulted by hurricanes, in nearly 100 years.

12:43AM

Shark evacuation

Cypress Rudloe waits to evacuate his last remaining nurse shark at the Gulf Specimen Marine Lab, across the street from Dickerson Bay, ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Irma September 10, 2017 in Panacea, Florida. Gulf Specimen is a marine teaching lab and has evacuated two sharks and a loggerhead sea turtle to Atlanta. Credit: Getty

12:19AM

Fort Myers currently feeling full force of Irma

The National Hurricane Center says the eyewall of Irma is now hammering Fort Myers. 

12:09AM

Whirlwind romance?

11:56PM

Whiteout conditions in Fort Myers

"You can't see a thing out there!" Powerful winds and rain create whiteout conditions as #Irma hits Fort Myers, FL https://t.co/5Kz3EN1ESVpic.twitter.com/SglVc99jGq

— ABC News (@ABC) September 10, 2017

11:54PM

2.6 million without power

Hurricane Irma knocked out power to more than 2.6 million homes and businesses in Florida on Sunday, threatening millions more as it crept up the state's west coast, and full restoration of service could take weeks, local electric utilities said.

Irma hit Florida on Sunday morning as a dangerous Category 4 storm, the second highest level on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, but by afternoon as it barreled up the west coast, it weakened to a Category 2 with maximum sustained winds of 110 miles per hour (177 kph).

East Oakland Park Boulevard is completely blocked by a downed street light pole as Hurricane Irma hits the southern part of the state Credit: Getty

So far, the brunt of the storm has affected Florida Power & Light's customers in the states' southern and eastern sections, and its own operations were not immune, either.

"We are not subject to any special treatment from Hurricane Irma. We just experienced a power outage at our command center. We do have backup generation," FPL spokesman Rob Gould said Sunday.

11:31PM

Water levels rising in Naples

The National Hurricane Center reports water levels are rising rapidly in Naples from Hurricane Irma's storm surge. A federal tide gauge in Naples reported a 7 foot rise of water in just 90 minutes, AP reports.

A wind gust of 142 mph was recorded at the Naples Municipal Airport as the storm kept its top sustained wind speed of 110 mph (175 kph).

Irma has picked up forward speed and is moving inland at 14 mph (22 kph) and its eye is about 25 miles (40 kilometers) south southeast of Fort Myers.

11:09PM

Trump declares disaster in Florida

President Donald Trump has declared a major disaster in the state of Florida, making federal aid available to people affected by Hurricane Irma in nine counties already hit by the storm.

The federal help includes temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans for uninsured property losses and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover in the counties of Charlotte, Collier, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Pinellas, and Sarasota.

Federal funding also is available to governments and non-profit organizations for emergencies in all 67 Florida counties. For the first 30 days, that money will cover 100 percent of the costs of some emergency responses.

10:57PM

French president to visit devastated French Caribbean island on Tuesday

The French government on Sunday defended its hurricane preparations for the hard-hit Caribbean islands of St. Martin and St. Barts, rejecting criticism by political opponents and by islanders who felt abandoned as their homes and towns were devastated.

French President Emmanuel Macron announced he would be traveling to St. Martin on Tuesday on an Airbus carrying aid supplies to show that Paris is committed to both helping and rebuilding its far-away territories pummeled by Hurricane Irma.

Some Caribbean officials said Britain was also too slow in responding to destruction on the British Virgin Islands and the Dutch government faced criticism for not acting more quickly to evacuate tourists stranded on St. Maarten, the Dutch side of St. Martin. The Dutch king is also heading to the region.

10:28PM

Irma's path

 

10:27PM

Married during the storm

Lauren Durham and Michael Davis, both members of the Air National Guard were planning to get married on a beach next weekend but were deployed to assist in the relief efforts for Hurricane Irma. Instead they got married Sunday in fatigues in a vast hangar filled with rescue vehicles and paramedics. 

 

10:25PM

"Life threatening" storm surge hits west coast of Florida

HURRICANE IRMA BRINGING LIFE-THREATENING STORM SURGE ALONG FLORIDA'S WEST COAST, INCLUDING FLORIDA KEYS -NHC

10:12PM

Dutch king surveys the hurricane's course

Dutch King Willem-Alexander (L) visits a meteorological institute on September 10, 2017 in Willemstad, on the Dutch island of Curacao, off of Venezuela, that was hit by Hurricane Irma

 

10:08PM

Latest advisory from the National Weather Center

BULLETIN Hurricane Irma Advisory Number  47

NWS National Hurricane Center Miami FL      

AL112017

500 PM EDT Sun Sep 10 2017

...IRMA NEAR NAPLES FLORIDA... ...DANGEROUS STORM SURGES EXPECTED IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE EYE PASSAGE ALONG THE FLORIDA WEST COAST...

SUMMARY OF 500 PM EDT...2100 UTC...INFORMATION ----------------------------------------------

  • LOCATION...26.2N 81.8W ABOUT 5 MI...10 KM N OF NAPLES FLORIDA ABOUT 30 MI...45 KM SSE OF FT. MYERS FLORIDA
  • MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS...110 MPH...175 KM/H
  • PRESENT MOVEMENT...N OR 350 DEGREES AT 14 MPH...22 KM/H
  • MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE...938 MB...27.70 INCHES

10:01PM

First images from Marco Island

Marco Island

 

10:00PM

Sheriff warns against shooting guns at Irma

Remember the story about Floridians planning to shoot their guns at Irma?

"To clarify, DO NOT shoot weapons @ #Irma," the office of the sheriff of Pasco County, on the state's west coast, tweeted late Saturday as the storm made landfall.

"You won't make it turn around & it will have very dangerous side effects" the message added, in reference to the unpredictable flight path shots fired may follow.

A Facebook diagram about "shooting the storm"

The idea started as a joke on Facebook, inspired by "a combination of stress and boredom," 22-year-old Ryon Edwards of DeLand told the BBC.

As of Sunday afternoon, some 54,000 people had marked themselves as "interested" in the event.

Many appeared to take the bizarre idea in the spirit Edwards seemed to intend, posting pictures of themselves in underwear or camouflage waving guns. One even suggested using a flame-thrower to teach Irma a lesson.

Other people saw no humor in the idea as the eye of the deadly storm rumbled ever nearer to Florida, with some calling Edwards "stupid" and saying he could "get people killed."

Given the large number of legal gun owners in Florida, the Pasco sheriff decided it was necessary to clarify things.

Edwards - whose Facebook page shows a bearded and tattooed young man cradling a gray cat - himself acknowledged that things had gotten out of hand.

"It was cool to see the response this got," Edwards later posted, adding, "On another note, I've learned that about 50% of the world could not understand sarcasm to save their lives."

9:47PM

Fatal car crashes in Florida

A man died when his pickup truck crashed into a tree in the Florida Keys during Hurricane Irma

 

9:33PM

Downtown Miami inundated

Our night picture editor, Laura Hegarty, has spotted these striking images on Twitter.

 

9:30PM

Donald Trump takes questions on the White House lawn

Here's the full Q&A with Trump on the South Lawn:

Donald Trump taking questions on Sunday afternoon

Q: Mr. President, how's the Irma response so far?

POTUS: I think it's been going really well. It's a rough hurricane, as you better than anybody. The Coast Guard has been amazing already. You've been hearing what they're doing right in the middle of the storm. FEMA has been incredible. We're working very well with the governor and the other governors in the surrounding states.

I just got back — we had the Cabinet, the whole Cabinet now. Every group is coordinating really well. The bad news is this some big monster, but I think we're very well put.

Q: Message for people in the storm's path?

Well, I hope there aren't too many people in the path. You don't want to be in that path. That's a path you don't want to be in. We tried to warn everybody. For the most part, they've left, but that's a bad path to be in.

Q: [inaudible]

I'll be going to Florida very soon.

Donald Trump on Sunday at the White House

Q: What concerns you most?

Just the power of those hurricanes. Probably, I saw somebody say 57 years now. Now, who knows what that means? But it's about the biggest ever recorded at land, and unfortunately, we got it. 

Now, it may, we may have been a little bit lucky that it went on the west. It may not have been quite as destructive, but we're going to see how it's going to play out over the next five or six hours. 

I'm going in now for meetings, but it's all about coordination. I think we're really well coordinated as well as you could possibly be. And I'll tell you what, we have great people, and a group that really deserves tremendous credit is the United States Coast Guard. What they've done — I mean, they've gone right into that, and you never know. When you go in there, you don't know if you're going to come out. They are really — if you talk about branding, no brand has improved more than the United States Coast Guard.

And FEMA, and the entire group, FEMA's been incredible. So, now we'll see what happens. Really, I think the hard part is now beginning.

Q: How much will this cost?

Right now, we're worried about lives, not cost.

 

9:26PM

Scene in Miami

 

9:24PM

Donald and Melania Trump arrive back at the White House after weekend at Camp David

Donald and Melania Trump are back in Washington DC

 

9:19PM

View from the heart of the Hurricane

My colleague, Rob Crilly, is in Fort Lauderdale.

He writes:

We're at the peak of the storm here in Fort Lauderdale.

My phone has just gone with yet another tornado alert and the rain is sheeting down so hard that it has started to seep under the door of my hotel room.

Part of the guttering came down earlier and fronds of palm trees litter the car park which is now several inches deep in water.

The most frightening moment came with huge a rumble an hour or so ago.

A tornado moving fast from Fort Lauderdale Airport must have come close enough that I could hear its terrifying sound - resembling a freight train - as it raced north-east.

8:42PM

White House statement

President Donald J. Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and members of their Cabinet received a briefing from Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Brock Long, and Homeland Security Advisor Thomas P. Bossert on the ongoing Federal response and recovery operations for Hurricane Irma.  

They also discussed Federal support for Hurricane Harvey recovery, which is still in the early stages.  

President Trump stressed that his top priorities are life-saving and life-sustaining efforts in affected areas.  

He emphasized the need to remain steadfast in supporting the recovery efforts in Texas, Louisiana, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico while responding to those affected by Hurricane Irma on the United States mainland.  

Finally, he praised the leadership provided by the Governors of affected States and territories, the Department of Homeland Security, and FEMA before, during, and after the storm impacts.  

The President mentioned that he is in regular contact with Governors currently in the path of Hurricane Irma, as well as Governors of the States and territories already impacted by the storm.  

He continues to extend his thoughts and prayers to those affected, while recognizing the many volunteer and faith-based organizations dedicating their time and efforts to help their fellow Americans.

8:30PM

Gusts hit 130mph

 

8:21PM

Eye of the storm nears Naples

EYE OF HURRICANE IRMA, STILL A CATEGORY 3 WITH WINDS UP TO 120 MPH (195 KPH), APPROACHES NAPLES, FLORIDA -NHC

8:14PM

Hurricane Irma - in pictures

Hurricane Irma leaves path of destruction in Caribbean as it hits Florida, in pictures

 

8:11PM

Police warn against over-indulgence at "hurricane parties"

My colleague, Julie Allen, writes:

Police are warning against the temptation to overindulge at so-called hurricane parties. 

"We want everyone to be alert," Titusville Police Department Deputy Chief Todd Hutchinson said.

"And that would involve restraint when it comes to alcohol."

Shop owners in recent days have noticed shopping trolleys filled with liquor and cases of beer, according to USA Today.

 

8:09PM

Meanwhile, back in the Caribbean...

From Cuba to Antigua, Caribbean islanders began counting the cost of Hurricane Irma on Sunday after the brutal storm left a trail of death, destruction and chaos that could take the tourist-dependent region years to recover from.

The ferocious Category 5 storm, which killed at least 28 people across the region, devastated housing, power supplies and communications, leaving some small islands almost cut off from the world. European nations sent military reinforcements to keep order amid looting while the damage was expected to total billions of dollars.

Devastated streets in the British Virgin Islands

Ex-pat billionaires and poor islanders alike were forced to take cover as Irma tore roofs off buildings, flipped cars and killed livestock, raging from the Leeward Islands across Puerto Rico and Hispaniola then into Cuba before turning toward Florida.

Waves of up to 36 feet (11 meters) smashed businesses along the Cuban capital Havana's sea-side drive on Sunday morning. Further east, high winds whipped Varadero, the island's most important tourist resort.

"It's a complete disaster and it will take a great deal of work to get Varadero back on its feet," said Osmel de Armas, 53, an aquatic photographer who works on the beach at the battered resort.

Havana's Malecon

Sea-front hotels were evacuated in Havana and relief workers spent the night rescuing people from homes in the city center as the sea penetrated to historic depths in the flood-prone area.

U.S President Donald Trump issued on Sunday a disaster declaration for Puerto Rico, where Irma killed at least 3 people and left hundreds of thousands without power. Trump also expanded federal funds available to the U.S. Virgin Islands, which suffered extensive damage to homes and infrastructure.

Further east in the Caribbean, battered islands such as St. Martin and Barbuda were taking stock of the damage as people began emerging from shelters to scenes of devastation.

St Martin, the Dutch-French island in the Caribbean devastated by Irma

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the death toll on the Dutch part of St. Martin had risen to four from two, and that 70 percent of homes had been damaged or destroyed.

Following reports of looting, the Netherlands said it would increase its military presence to 550 soldiers on the island by Monday, and Rutte said that to ensure order, security forces were authorized to act with a "firm hand".

Dutch authorities are evacuating tourists and injured people to Curacao to the south, where Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Interior Minister Ronald Plasterk are expected to arrive today.

7:42PM

Irma now Category 3

Irma downgraded to Category Three hurricane, remains 'powerful': forecasters

Hurricane Irma as it nears Naples

 

7:30PM

Update from Florida governor

 

7:29PM

"MOVE AWAY FROM THE WATER"

 

7:27PM

Doctors flying into Florida

US Air Force transport plane carries doctors to provide assistance to those impacted by Hurricane Irma in Orlando

 

7:17PM

Ten thousand additional National Guard members

From Washington DC, Julie Allen writes:

Before the storm had barely begun, plans for the recovery effort were already underway. At a lunchtime press conference, Major General Michael Calhoun of the Florida National Guard announced that 10,000 National Guard members from 14 states will arrive in Florida to assist. 

"Help is coming by air land and sea," he said.

7:06PM

Serious flooding in Havana

The latest images from Cuba show significant flooding in the capital.

The centre of Old Havana
Havana
Old Havana
Cubans stay in a flooded street in Havana on Sunday

 

6:57PM

Burglar in Florida shot by police as he raids empty house

Deputies shot and wounded a burglar and arrested his accomplice at a Florida home as Hurricane Irma blew in.

The Broward Sheriff's Office said in a news release on Sunday that the homeowners in Weston were out of town but saw the burglars remotely inside the house through a home surveillance system.

Deputies responded shortly before 3am and one of the two juvenile males was shot outside the home. He was taken to a local hospital for treatment of non-life threatening injuries. The other person was arrested.

Their names were not immediately released.

6:45PM

Latest from the national weather center

SUMMARY OF 100 PM EDT...1700 UTC...INFORMATION ----------------------------------------------

  • LOCATION...25.4N 81.7W ABOUT 50 MI...80 KM S OF NAPLES FLORIDA
  • MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS...130 MPH...215 KM/H
  • PRESENT MOVEMENT...N OR 350 DEGREES AT 9 MPH...15 KM/H
  • MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE...933 MB...27.55 INCHES

6:26PM

Family film tree narrowly missing their house

 

6:14PM

Florida couple rescued after trying to sail through storm

Florida sheriff's deputies rescued a couple who tried to ride out Hurricane Irma on a small sailboat.

Christine Weiss of the Martin County Sheriff's Office said a passer-by noticed the couple was in trouble on Sunday. It happened just off Jensen Beach, which is on the Atlantic Coast north of Palm Beach.

A sailboat submerged off Key West

Video shows a Martin County patrol boat manned by deputies John Howell and James Holloran and Detective Mathew Fritchie pulling up next to the sailboat.

The task of helping the couple onto their boat was precarious as both boats bobbed in choppy water. Deputies then took them to shore.

The names of the couple were not released. They were not injured.

6:07PM

Swimming pool under water...

A pool is submerged in Key Largo, Florida

 

6:05PM

Sheriff's deputy among dead in series of fatal car crashes

A sheriff's deputy is among three people who have died so far in Irma due to car crashes.

Deputy Julie Bridges, 42, died in a head-on collision in Hardee County, east of Sarasota, early on Sunday.

Sheriff Arnold Lanier told AFP:

"She had been working in a shelter all night, and ran home to get some supplies."

The roads were "wet and windy," he added, noting that Bridges was the mother of a young son and had worked for the sheriff's department for 13 years.

Ocean Drive in South Beach, Miami

The other driver, a corrections officer on his way to work in a private vehicle, was also killed, said Mr Lanier.

The third fatality was a man who died on Saturday near Key West when his truck slammed into a tree, the Monroe County Sheriff's Office said in a statement. The truck was carrying a generator, ABC News reported.

5:43PM

Florida governor requests major disaster declaration

Rick Scott, the governor of Florida, has just told a press conference that he has requested a major disaster declaration from President Donald Trump.

Rick Scott, the governor of Florida

He said:

"There is a serious threat of significant storm surge flooding along the entire west coast of Florida and 15 feet of impact above ground level in southwest Florida."

5:04PM

Storm chaser shows full force of the wind

A storm chaser has demonstrated the full force of Hurricane Irma as he attempted to stand up against its lashing winds in the Florida Keys.

Juston Drake, a meteorologist, was filmed stumbling backwards as he battled winds exceeding 100mph in Saddlebunch Keys, just off the mainland Florida.

Wearing a paintball mask, which was quickly ripped from his face, Mr Drake is almost blown off his feet at points as he attempts to get a wind speed reading.

Read the full story here - or just watch in awe at the video below...

@JustonStrmRider tearing it up! pic.twitter.com/VhC97GZJBa

— Simon Brewer (@SimonStormRider) September 10, 2017

5:03PM

Pictures from Florida

A crane atop a high-rise under construction in downtown Miami collapsed Sunday Credit: Gideon J. Ape
The view from Miami Credit: AFP
The high winds uprooted trees in Fort Lauderdale Credit: Getty
And caused tornadoes off the coast Credit: Reuters

 

4:50PM

Irma sucking back the ocean

This video from Tampa mirrors similar scenes in the Bahamas where the hurricane has sucked back the sea, leaving just sand. The ocean is expected to crash back over the land again as the wind changes doirection.

 

4:34PM

'Ground zero'

Tampa’s mayor, Bob Buckhorn, has delivered a dire warning for everyone in one of Florida’s most densely populated regions.

“We know we are ground zero for this storm. We have avoided it for 90 winds but our time has come to be ready,” he wrote on Twitter. “We are about to get punched in the face by this storm.

“If you are out on the streets after 6pm we will direct you to get inside. We are taking this curfew very seriously,” he wrote.

“We will not be able to come help you if the winds are sustained at 40mph or greater. We cannot put our first responders at risk.”

These are the final hours to act, he added: “We could potentially take a direct hit in the Tampa Area. Take the time now to secure objects in your yard so they don’t become projectiles. The curfew will help us do our jobs to get in and clean up the debris. And @TampaElectric needs to get in to restore power.”

"We are going to have a lot of friends and neighbors who need our help, let’s look out for each other and we will get through this.”

4:30PM

Rescued Brit 'thankful' to be alive

A British tourist caught in the path of Hurricane Irma has said he is "thankful to be here" after he was rescued by the US Air Force.

Alex Woolfall was on holiday on the Caribbean island of St Martin when the historic storm struck.

The PR consultant, from London, went on Twitter to post updates as winds battered the Westin Hotel, where he was sheltering in a concrete stairwell.

He wrote: "My God this noise! It's like standing behind a jet engine!! Constant booms & bangs. At least concrete stairwell not moving"

Alex Woolfall as the British tourist caught in the path of Hurricane Irma is being rescued by the US Air Force

Mr Woolfall said he was airlifted to safety in Puerto Rico by a military plane as powerful Hurricane Jose was approaching.

"I am just tired but very thankful to be here," he told the Press Association after his rescue.

"I think probably all those on vacation would say it was a nightmare but it's over for us.

"What about the people of St Martin and the other islands? I just hope the aid and support they need comes."

Mr Woolfall described the devastation on the island after Irma hit.

"It's very badly damaged and it's heart-breaking to see people whose homes have been destroyed sitting outside in the street, especially when you see young children too."

Mr Woolfall said local hotel staff continued coming to work, despite the damage to their own property, while the manager worked tirelessly to arrange planes.

"I found that astonishing and very moving," he added.

Here's an incredible reminder of the before and after footage of the Caribbean islands:

 

4:26PM

Crane blown over in Miami

 

3:42PM

Daredevil weatherman steps into storm to take reading

Simon Brewer, a meteorologist and "extreme" weather journalist, has just posted this footage on his social media account, which shows him being blasted backwards by the storm as he takes a reading of its speed. 

 

2:51PM

Three million homes to go dark during Irma

As many as three million homes and business are expected to lose power due to Irma, according to Florida Power & Light, the state's main energy company. 

Eric Silagy, chief executive, warned it could be "multi weeks" before before electricity is restored to all. As of 9am EST, at least 850,000 homes were in the dark.

Storm waters are surging in Key West as Hurricane Irma’s powerful eyewall moves into the Lower Keys, according to local journalist Larry Kahn who reported that “everything is underwater I mean everything."He added that a man died at the Marathon High School shelter last night.

The rough waters where the Miami River meets Biscayne Bay shows the full effects of Hurricane Irma strike in Miami, Florida Credit:  ERIK S. LESSER

Mr Kahn said he was told by a Sheriff’s Office deputy that the death was due to natural causes. “He was staying in one of the classrooms,” he added. “Police came up, along with a couple of nurses who are here, actually, got everyone out of the room and sealed it off.”

Emergency responders across South Florida urged residents to stay off the roads “Power lines are down and roads are flooded,” warned Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue. “It is extremely dangerous outside with flying debris. Stay inside and bunker down.”

2:27PM

Two dead in Florida car crash 

The Florida Highway Patrol says two people have died in a head-on crash in a county where Hurricane Irma's wind and rain have started to blow in.

Agency spokesman Greg Bueno said the crash happened Sunday morning in Hardee County, which is southeast of Tampa.

People walk along a street in South Beach as Hurricane Irma arrives at south Florida, in Miami Beach, Florida Credit: CARLOS BARRIA

It wasn't immediately clear what role the weather may have played. He says troopers are investigating the crash and no further details were immediately available.

Bueno said in an email that the area is starting to feel the effects of Hurricane Irma.

The National Weather Service has issued a tornado warning for the county, saying a severe thunderstorm was in the area.

2:19PM

Woman gives birth despite hurricane 

Doctors were forced to talk a Florida woman through delivering her baby at home while Hurricane Irma's outer bands lashed Miami.

The City of Miami said on its Twitter account early Sunday that firefighters couldn't respond in time to the woman in the Little Haiti neighborhood. So doctors from Jackson Health System talked her through the birth of the baby girl at home.

People walk along a street in South Beach as Hurricane Irma arrives at south Florida, in Miami Beach Credit:  CARLOS BARRIA

Authorities say firefighters were able to make it to the woman Sunday morning and take her to the hospital after the girl was born.

Miami-Dade fire spokeswoman Erika Benitez said the fire department is responding to calls on a case-by-case basis as strong winds and rain lash the area. They are encouraging residents to stay inside because of downed power lines and debris.

1:44PM

Police: Please don't shoot at hurricane 

Florida authorities have issued another stern warning about Hurricane Irma: Shooting bullets into the storm won't help keep you safe.

The Pasco County Sheriff's Office tweeted late Saturday: "DO NOT shoot weapons @ (hashtag) Irma. You won't make it turn around (and) it will have very dangerous side effects."

The sheriff's office, which is in the Tampa Bay-area, was responding to a Facebook event page created two Florida men inviting people to shoot at Irma.

The page reads: "YO SO THIS GOOFY ... LETS SHOW IRMA THAT WE SHOOT FIRST ..."

The invitation presumably was a joke, but 80,000 people indicated they were "going" or "interested" in the event.

In a tweet early Sunday, the Pasco County Sheriff's Office asked the thousands of people who had shared the page to also share their request for volunteers needed at hurricane shelters.

1:06PM

Irma 'about to make landfall' in Lower Keys

The National Hurricane Centre says Irma is about to make landfall in Lower Florida Keys. 

12:35PM

Eye 15 miles southeast of Key West 

The eye of Hurricane Irma is now just 15 miles southeast of Key West, forecasters report. 

12:34PM

Hurricane has hit Florida Keys

Forecasters report that the hurricane has hit Florida Keys. More to follow. 

12:06PM

Hundreds of thousands left without power 

Hundreds of thousands of people are without power in Florida as Hurricane Irma's winds and rain lash the state.

Irma's center was over water off Key West early Sunday, but places including Miami were being hit with strong winds and rain.

Florida Power & Light Company said that about 430,000 customers were without power on  Sunday morning. Miami-Dade County had the most outages with about 250,000. Broward County had 130,000 outages. Palm Beach County had more than 40,000 outages.

 

11:22AM

'Irma will hot Florida Keys in 40mins'

According to CNN, meteorologists believe the eye of Hurricane Irma will hit the Florida Keys area in roughly 40 minutes. 

11:03AM

 Watch: Defiant Floridians who plan to ride out the storm

 

10:25AM

Hurricane Jose spares French Caribbean islands

Storm-hit Saint Martin and Saint Barts escaped a further battering by Hurricane Jose, which had "markedly less" of an impact on the French Caribbean islands than anticipated, France's meteorological agency said Sunday.

The meteorological agency had issued its highest warning, saying the Category Four Hurricane Jose could become a "dangerous event of exceptional intensity".

 A man walks on a street covered in debris after hurricane Irma hurricane passed on the French island of Saint-Martin, near Marigot Credit:  MARTIN BUREAU

But "there's not a cloud in the sky," one AFP reporter at the scene said.

Jose passed 135 kilometres (83 miles) north of Saint Barts and 125 kilometres from Saint Martin - 95 percent of which has already been ravaged by Hurricane Irma, which struck three days ago and is expected to reach Florida at 1000 GMT Sunday.

"Thanks to a passage which was further away than anticipated, the effects on the territory were markedly less," the meteorological agency said.

Many on St Martin, an island which is divided between France and The Netherlands and known for its vibrant nightlife and pristine beaches, had been concerned about where to go ahead of the second storm.

9:52AM

Fears of looting on British Virgin Islands

British troops and police have been deployed to restore law and order on the British Virgin Islands after reports of looting in the wake of deadly Hurricane Irma, the Defence Secretary has said.

Some 500 British troops have been sent to the region, with 120 stationed in the British Virgin Islands, which has been devastated by the historic storm.

Britain's Defence Minister Michael Fallon speaks during a press conference in Sydney on July 27, 2017 Credit: PETER PARKS

Asked how big the looting problem was in the British territory, Sir Michael Fallon told BBC One's The Andrew Marr Show: "There has been a security issue there and that's why we're now prioritising getting armed troops in and police coming in behind them to strengthen the local police force.

"You can understand the island has been devastated, it's been difficult for people to move around until you get helicopters there, but there are troops now there assisting the Governor to ensure law and order is maintained."

A man sits on a life guard tower as the wind blows at the beach in advance of Hurricane Irma's expected arrival in Hollywood, Florida Credit: CARLO ALLEGRI

Responding to criticism over the Government's response to the disaster, Sir Michael pointed to the 16,000-tonne aid ship, equipped with marines, a helicopter, and pallets of aid, which was stationed in the Caribbean for the hurricane season.

"We pre-positioned a ship in the Caribbean for the hurricane season," he said.

"Mounts Bay was not there by chance. We pre-positioned our ship there to help on the islands, she's already been helping on the islands and as soon as we were clear which airfields could be used we got our flights in. We have troops helping at the moment."

9:48AM

Irma, seen from space

These satellite images show the sheer scale of the hurricane from space. 

They were posted on Twitter by Randy Bresnik, the US astronaut. 

Picture of Hurricane Irma posted on Twitter by US astronaut Randy Bresnik
Satellite image of the hurricane

 

9:08AM

4m children at risk in Florida, aid workers warn

Up to four million children are in the path of Hurricane Irma,  Save The Children has warned, as it announced the deployment of aid workers and supplies to the area. 

“There are a multitude of risks to children during storms such as Irma—including storm damage, the chance of separation from parents and the psychological impacts of natural disaster,” said Carolyn Miles, the president of Save the Children in the United States.

A palm tree collapses onto a car in Florida

“We urge parents to do everything they can to help keep their children safe and out of harm’s way, including talking to their children about the storm, filling out an In Case of Emergency card and evacuating to shelters or safer areas when told to do so by authorities.”

Mother-of-two Katherine Ann, from Brandon, Florida, told the charity: "My decision to evacuate my home and move further inland was for my children.

"I spoke to my 6-year-old about my own memories of hurricanes when I was growing up and answered his questions as truthfully as possible. The hurricane will be loud and scary, but I reminded him that there are caring adults all around to help protect him and his brother.”

8:27AM

From earlier: Tornado spotted at Fort Lauderdale

 Twitter user Gabriel Ben shot this striking footage of a tornado approaching Fort Lauderdale Beach. 

 

8:16AM

Eye of storm now 40 miles from Key West

Ryan Beesely, a Meteorologist at Fox 5 Atlanta, reports that Irma is now just 40 miles away from Key West. 

 

8:02AM

Floridians take shelter in Germain Arena

These pictures show Gretchen Summer, 79, and her son, Dave Payson, 52, taking shelter from Hurricane Irma inside the Germain Arena in Estero, Florida. 

Inside the Germain Arena Credit: Reuters

Also in the arena are Sheryl and Rick Estes. 

Germain Arena in Estero, Florida

 

7:51AM

Latest path

As Irma increased in strength  she has also swung to the west.

The change in trajectory as she heads towards the Florida Keys could mean that Tampa and Miami are spared the head-on blow they are expecting.

Instead, St Petersburg could be hit, then moving on to Clearwater before finally moving inland, northwest of Ocala.

5:52AM

Tampa mayor preparing for Irma

 

5:38AM

Hurricane Jose bearing down on Caribbean, but weaker than expected

Another powerful storm, Category Four Hurricane Jose, was heading toward the same string of Caribbean islands Irma has pummeled in recent days, though it was now forecast to be weaker than initially expected.

The deteriorating weather grounded aircraft and prevented boats from bringing relief supplies to hard-hit islands.

4:49AM

Webcam captures somebody being knocked over by the waves

Even with Irma some way off the Florida coast, the waves are already powerful enough to send somebody flying.

 

4:42AM

Latest advice from the National Hurricane Centre

The centre is warning of an "imminent danger" of a life threatening storm surge and flooding in parts of Florida.

 

4:24AM

Tampa bracing itself for a tough few weeks 

Tampa had not expected to find itself in the storm's path, but the change of trajectory has made the city vulnerable.

A Red Cross volunteer (R) gives out room assignments at a shelter within the Pizzo Elementary School in Tampa, Florida, Credit: Jim Watson/AFP

"We train for this all year round," Bob  Buckhorn, Tampa's mayor told CNN. "We recognise living in Florida this was always a risk."

The risk faced by the city has been exacerbated by the fact that the storm surge is likely to coincide with high tide.

"What we have in Tampa is a predicament. We will emerge from it. But it will be a tough tough few weeks."

3:49AM

Around 140,000 without power

As the winds  begin to pound southern Florida, damage  is being done to the electrical infrastructure, "We have powerlines down, some transformers are down, but we are holding out," Major Richard Rand of North Miami Beach told CNN,

He estimated that around 140,000 people were without power in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties.

His officers are on the ground to head off the threat of looting. "We are trying to keep away the element we don't want in the city - breaking into our homes and businesses."

3:20AM

Dedicated pet shelter set up in Miami Dade

A school has been converted into a dedicated shelter for pets. Families can leave their animals there before going to a shelter of their own.

Dogs sit inside their cages as hundreds of people gather in a pet-friendly emergency shelter at the Miami-Dade County Credit: Saul Loeb/AFP

Elsewhere Southwest Airlines flew 60 animals stranded by Hurricane Harvey from Houston to San Diego.

Read more here

3:00AM

Hurricane Irma winds reaching 125mph

Hurricane Irma, which at 10 pm local time was less than 100 miles off Key West, has been strengthening, with winds reaching 125 mph, forecasters said.

 

2:20AM

'Time to talk about climate change' says Miami's Republican mayor'

Miami's mayor,  Mayor Tomás Regalado, has called on Donald Trump - who once dismissed climate change as a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese - to think again.

“If this isn’t climate change, I don’t know what is," he said after declaring an emergency in his city.

“This is a truly, truly poster child for what is to come.”

“I don’t want to be political, but the fact of the matter is that this is a lesson that we need protection from nature,” he added. “So, I think this is a lesson for the people to say you know what? We have to be prepared.”

1:44AM

Wide ranging power cuts feared 

Already 76,000 people are without electricity. It is feared that outages could affect around 9 million people when Irma hits Florida

1:22AM

Winds reach Florida's southern shore 

Hurricane Irma's winds have started battering the southern shores of Florida, ahead of making landfall.

Dark clouds are seen over Miami's skyline before the arrival of Hurricane Irma Credit: Carlos Barria/Reuters

“The storm is here,” Florida's governor, told a news conference, adding that 25,000 people had already lost power.The full force of the hurricane is not expected until Sunday with Florida's west coast set to face the worst battering with storm surges reaching 15 feet in places.

1:06AM

'Just get out of its way'  - Donald Trump

President Donald Trump on Saturday has urged any U.S. residents still in Hurricane Irma's path to "just get out of its way" and not worry about possessions, as he monitored the powerful storm's advance on Florida from the secluded Camp David presidential retreat.

Irma was expected to strike the Florida Keys at daybreak Sunday, with Hurricane Jose following closely behind.

Donald Trump holds a cabinet meeting about Hurricane Irma, at Camp Davi Credit: White House Photo/Twitter

Trump said Irma is a "storm of enormous destructive power and I ask everyone in the storm path to heed all instructions, get out of its way."

"Property is replaceable but lives are not and safety has to come first," Mr Trump said at a Cabinet meeting at the president retreat in Maryland, 

"Don't worry about it. Just get out of its way,"  he said."We've never seen anything like this." 

12:08AM

First sightings of a tornado in Fort Lauderdale

Skies are darkening in Fort Lauderdale reports Rob Crilly from the Florida resort amid early sightings of  a tornado offshore. 

 

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