By Brian Lada, AccuWeather meteorologist and staff writer
By Katy Galimberti, AccuWeather staff writer
September 9,2017, 9:21:17PM,EDT
As of 9:20 p.m. EDT, this reports story will no longer be updated. Click here for the latest updates on Hurricane Irma.In total, 7 million people were urged to evacuate as major Hurricane Irma’s ferocious winds, storm surge and rain loom.
Irma has prompted the largest evacuation in U.S. history. A state of emergency has been declared in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia.
"Irma is only one of five known hurricanes during the satellite era to have reached sustained winds of 185 mph or higher," AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski said.
Nearly 6.3 million people have been asked to evacuate Florida, which is more than 30 percent of the state's population. Over 7 million people have been asked to evacuate the region in total.
The islands of St. Barthelemy, St. Martin and Anguilla in the northern Leeward Islands took a direct hit from Irma on Wednesday morning. Irma's 150-mph-plus winds and at least 12-foot storm surge caused catastrophic damage.
So far, Irma has killed at least 20 people in the Caribbean, the AP reported. One person was killed in Florida after falling 15 feet while putting up storm shutters.
Click here to see previous reports of how Florida is preparing for Irma.
Major Hurricane Irma likely to deliver destructive blow to Florida this weekend
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6:44 p.m. EDT Saturday: There is a tornado in Oakland Park, Fla., just north of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
More than 80,000 power outages reported by Florida Power & Light.
6:20 p.m. EDT Saturday: President Trump urges everyone to heed all warnings, because Hurricane Irma is a storm with tremendous power.
There is a blowout tide in Long Island, Bahamas. Strong east winds from Irma are blowing water away from the coast and causing areas that normally are under seawater to be dry.
"It’s likely flooding on the other side of that island as Irma’s winds cause water to pile up along the shore," AccuWeather Meteorologist Frank Strait said.
These strong east winds are forcing seawater to pile up along the east coast of Florida, which is leading to some flooding.
5:35 p.m. EDT Saturday: There is a Tornado Warning in Key West, Fla., Big Pine Key, Fla. and Summerland Key, Fla., until 6:00 p.m. EDT. Seek shelter immediately.
Key West, Florida, is already starting to see destruction as conditions are rapidly deteriorating due to Hurricane Irma. A couple of sailboats broke free and floated out to sea.
Here is a live look at Hurricane Irma from the southernmost point of Key West, Florida.
5:15 p.m. EDT Saturday: A new advisory from the National Hurricane Center shows a slight turn west. The Tampa area is now under a Major Hurricane Warning. Irma is currently a Category 3 Hurricane with maximum sustained winds at 125 mph.
4:45 p.m. EDT Saturday: The center of Hurricane Irma is forecast to track over the Florida Keys late on Saturday night or early on Sunday Morning as a major Category 4 hurricane.
AccuWeather Extreme Meteorologist Reed Timmer is in Key West, Florida where winds have been increasing throughout the day, occasionally gusting near 50 mph.
Some people have abandoned their vehicles in some of the higher grounds of the Florida Keys before evacuating the islands.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is relaxing pollution controls for emergency and backup power generating facilities in this part of Florida to help keep power on during and after Irma, the Associated Press reported.
This may lead to an increase in pollution, but will help the public during and after the storm.
3:31 p.m. EDT Saturday: Bridges across Florida are starting to close as Irma nears. Water is already topping seawalls in some areas in Florida.
2:59 p.m. EDT Saturday: Wind speeds are starting to pick up as Irma churns closer to Florida.
2:25 p.m. EDT Saturday: The number of power outages has climbed above 56,000 in Florida as winds pick up across Florida. Miami International Airport has measured a wind gust of 75 mph with stronger gusts likely into tonight.
Highways in southern Florida have very light traffic as many people across the region have either evacuated or have taken shelter.
12:55 p.m EDT Saturday: Another 700,000 people have been asked to evacuate in Florida ahead of Irma with many of the new evacuations being along the western coast of the state. This brings the total number of people asked to evacuate across the region up to nearly 7 million, according to the Associated Press.
Crowds of people have headed to shelters across western Florida amid the new evacuation orders, causing many shelters to quickly fill to capacity.
Florida officials are warning coastal areas of catastrophic storm surge from Irma, particularly in the southwestern part of the state.
Naples, Florida, is one area that may experience some of the worst storm surge, potentially inundating areas up to 15 feet above sea level near the coast.
11:30 a.m. EDT Saturday: Irma has weakened slightly, but still remains a major Category 3 hurricane with sustained winds of 125 mph.
While the eye is currently located along the coast of Cuba, the northern part of the storm is beginning to hit Florida with heavy downpours and gusty winds. At least 30,000 customers are without power with this number likely to rise as Irma tracks closer later this weekend.
Mandatory evacuations have been expanded around Cape Coral and Fort Myers, Florida, due to the threat of significant storm surge.
People in these areas that need to evacuate can go to one of the many shelters that have opened up in Lee Country, Florida. Pets are welcome at all shelters.
10:14 a.m. EDT Saturday: Winds from Irma's outer bands are starting to cause tree damage in the Florida Keys, AccuWeather's Extreme Meteorologist Reed Timmer reports.
10:00 a.m. EDT Saturday: Mandatory evacuations are now underway in coastal South Carolina. Eight barrier islands across Beaufort, Jasper and Colleton counties were told to evacuate, including Hilton Head. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster issued the evacuation notices on Friday.
9:41 a.m. EDT Saturday: Florida Gov. Rick Scott held a press conference from Sarasota County on Saturday morning to provide updates on the state's preparations ahead of Irma.
All fuel ports in Florida are closed. Officials are working to keep gas stations open as long as possible. Officials will bring in more fuel trucks as soon as it is safe.
"I want to be clear. We are under a state of emergency," Gov. Scott said. "But if you are in an evacuation zone, I hope you will go right this minute."
"Florida is tough, Florida is resilient, Florida is unbreakable," he said.
9:27 a.m. EDT Saturday: Wind gusts up to 55 mph are reaching Miami-Dade County. Funnel clouds are possible and a tornado warning has been issued for west-central Miami-Dade County and Monroe County.
9:22 a.m. EDT Saturday: Florida Keys officials have made their last attempt to offer shelter to those who did not evacuate. Shelters taking in people: Sugarloaf High School, Key West High School, Marathon High School and Coral Shores High School.
"No services available. Go there if you feel unsafe," the NWS Key West office tweeted.
8:26 a.m. EDT Saturday: More than 26,000 are without power in Miami-Dade County, according to the Florida Power and Light company. Irma's outer bands have started to lash South Florida.
"Irma continues to straddle the Cuba coast, but outer rain bands are already reaching across South Florida and the Keys," AccuWeather Meteorologist Jordan Root said. "Very heavy rain and strong wind gusts are occurring with these rain bands. Conditions will only continue to deteriorate through the rest of the day and tonight as Irma heads northwestward and eventually turns northward towards Florida."
7:56 a.m. EDT Saturday: Georgia officials have closed all eastbound lanes of I-16 from Savannah to Dublin in order to ease westbound traffic away from the coast.
7:21 a.m. EDT Saturday: Damaging winds from Irma's outer bands are starting to blast the Keys and South Florida cities. NWS Miami reports of gusts between 50-60 mph in Miami-Dade County.
5:20 a.m. EDT Saturday: Irma is now a Category 4 hurricane. The storm is expected to reach Category 5 strength once again prior to making landfall in Florida on Sunday morning.
5:00 a.m. EDT Saturday: As the outer rain bands of Irma continue to encroach on South Florida, a wind gust of 66 mph was measured on Lower Matecumbe Key in the Florida Keys at 4:33 a.m.
4:15 a.m. EDT Saturday: The last evacuees are getting out of Key West, now including police, as Hurricane Irma makes its way closer to Florida. Wind gusts as high as 59 mph have been measured on the peninsula as the storm tracks nearer.
Local media report that 19 out of Broward County's 20 shelters have filled up, taking in close to 14,000 people.
"Irma is skirting the northern Cuba coast as a Category 5 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 160 mph," AccuWeather Meteorologist Renee Duff said.
"The storm will continue on a west course before turning toward Florida on Saturday evening and night," she said. "A landfall is likely in the Keys on Sunday morning prior to a second landfall along the southwestern Florida coast."
3:40 a.m. EDT Saturday: Seven thousand Coast Guard members have been called to serve ahead of Irma.
1:40 a.m. EDT Saturday: There are reports of wind gusts reaching 59 mph at the University of Miami.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott reached out on social media seeking volunteers to help in the wake of Hurricane Irma. He tweeted especially seeking 1,000 nurses at specialty shelters. To volunteer for the recovery efforts, click here.
12:30 a.m. EDT Saturday: Palm Beach County says a 3 p.m. curfew is in place for Saturday. No one should be out on the streets as the hurricane approaches. Those who did not evacuate are encouraged to seek shelter.
11:55 p.m. EDT Friday: The outer bands of Irma are nearing Miami and the Florida Keys. There have been wind gusts there in between 40 and 45 mph.
11:00 p.m. EDT Friday: Irma has made landfall in central Cuba as a Category 5 hurricane. It has maximum sustained winds of 160 mph.
10:40 p.m. EDT Friday: The power is reportedly out in Caibarién and other towns along Cuba's northern coast.
Two of Florida's power plants say they are prepared for Irma's coming wrath. Florida Power and Light control both in St. Lucie and Turkey Point. The president of FPL says these are some of the "the strongest structures in the world," encased in six feet of cement and reinforced in steel.
9:30 p.m. EDT Friday: The eye of Hurricane Irma is nearing the coast of Cuba with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph. This makes it a strong Category 4 hurricane, just shy of Category 5 status.
Meanwhile, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has issued a state of emergency, becoming the sixth state to do so ahead of Irma's arrival in the United States.
7:40 p.m. EDT Friday: Officials have ordered 5.6 million people to evacuate Florida ahead of Hurricane Irma, according to the Associated Press. This is more than 25 percent of the state's population.
This is now the largest evacuation in United States history, more than Hurricane Rita in 2005, when 3.7 million people were told to evacuate.
Some highways around Miami had very little traffic throughout the day as many people have evacuated the city.
5:45 p.m EDT Friday: The National Weather Service in Key West is warning residents of the Florida Keys that the time to evacuate is quickly running out.
"Catastrophic, life-threatening wind and storm surge impacts are expected in the Florida Keys Saturday night and Sunday. Nowhere in the Florida Keys will be safe," the NWS Office said.
Meanwhile, the state of emergency has been expanded in Georgia to include 94 of Georgia’s 159 counties.
3:34 p.m. EDT Friday: Florida Gov. Rick Scott is not only worried about wind speed and rain, he is emphasizing the dangers of storm surge.
3:01 p.m. EDT Friday: Major Orlando attractions have announced closures ahead of Irma's impact:
Walt Disney World will close early on Saturday evening and stay closed on Sunday and Monday.
Universal Orlando will close at 7 p.m. on Saturday and remain on closed Sunday and Monday.
Sea World Orlando will also close early on Saturday and stay closed on Sunday and Monday.
2:58 p.m. EDT Friday: South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said in a press conference on Friday afternoon that he’s holding off on deciding whether to evacuate the state’s coast.
McMaster said he will wait for the National Hurricane Center’s 5 p.m. advisory before announcing his decision, but that state officials are prepared to evacuate if need be.
"Until we say otherwise, coastal residents should plan on evacuating Saturday at 10 a.m.," he said. "That may change at 6 o'clock this evening."
For some counties, McMaster rescinded part of an executive order that required medical facilities to evacuate.