What You Should Know About Hurricane Irma So Far
A man struggles against the winds on the Miami River. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

What You Should Know About Hurricane Irma So Far

As the powerful storm heads into the US, millions are bracing for its impact.
11 September 2017, 7:47am

What's Happening Right Now?

  • The northern wall of Hurricane Irma—one of the most powerful Atlantic storms ever recorded—made landfall in Florida on Sunday morning, passing over the Keys before 8 AM. Its center made landfall in Cudjoe Key at 9:10 AM.
  • Three people, including a sherrif's deputy, were reported dead as of Sunday afternoon.
  • Earlier Sunday morning, officials upgraded Irma to a Category 4 storm, with winds reaching speeds of upwards of 130 miles per hour. It is the first Category 4 hurricane to hit the state in 12 years. (Later on Sunday, it was downgraded to a Category 3.)
  • Surprising storm watchers' predictions, the storm's arc has largely curved west, with Tampa and St. Petersburg—which both haven't been directly hit by a storm like this in nearly a century—right in its path of destruction. It is reportedly moving up the coast at 9 miles per hour.
  • Life-threatening flooding and destructive winds are expected for Florida's entire southern coastline, stretching from Fort Myers and Naples to Miami and West Palm Beach. By Sunday morning, the National Weather Service in Miami reported up to 100 MPH winds outside of the city, and extensive damage was already seen in the area.
  • Miami-Dade Police are reportedly unable to respond to any calls.
  • Irma hits Florida after leaving a trail of destruction in the Caribbean. As of Sunday morning, the death toll in the string of islands hit by the storm's onslaught—Turks and Caicos, Antigua and Barbuda, US and British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Anguilla, to name a few—was at least 25.
  • Residents told reporters that hurricanes are expected in the region, but devastation of this degree is unprecedented. Many of those island communities have been nearly obliterated, and storm conditions are largely blocking relief efforts from reaching those without food or shelter. Several islands were still without electricity or running water as of Sunday morning.

A highway in Tampa. Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images

What's Being Done?

  • "Evacuate. Not tonight, not in an hour. You need to go right now," Florida Governor Rick Scott said in an address Saturday night. He called Irma "the most catastrophic storm the state has ever seen," and asked the country to send help, and their prayers.
  • Scott ordered mandatory evacuations for 16 counties in Florida, and voluntary evacuations have been ordered for an additional 13 counties closer inland. (The counties affected can be found here.) As of Sunday morning, approximately 6.5 million people were asked to evacuate, or nearly a third of the state's population, in what is said to be one of the largest evacuations in American history.
  • Florida utility companies reported that 1.5 million were already without power on Sunday.
  • Just days after a deal was struck on $15 billion in federal relief for Hurricane Harvey, President Donald Trump authorized an increase in federal funding and cost-sharing responsibilities for debris removal and emergency measures in the US Virgin Islands. The president has convened his cabinet at Camp David to monitor the storm, and is reportedly in regular contact with Scott.
  • By Sunday morning, thousands of National Guard units nationwide had been deployed to Florida and surrounding areas, in addition to other local law enforcement agencies.
  • The vast majority of airports in Florida have closed, or are closing soon, with major airlines taking flights offline. Renowned travel website the Points Guy has a list of airport closures.
  • According to the Florida Division of Emergency Management, over 500 shelters have been made available statewide, serving over 50,000 residents. Makeshift shelters are said to be popping up in areas not previously thought to be affected by the storm, and filling up extremely fast. (The agency is keeping tabs on open shelters throughout the state here.)
  • Local news outlets like the Miami Herald have detailed the best charities to donate to.

A bank door bends to the wind in Miami. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

What's Going to Happen Next?

  • Irma is expected to hit St. Petersburg and the Tampa Bay area Sunday night.
  • The storm will then move north along the Gulf Coast throughout Monday, and into Georgia and Alabama on Tuesday. Savannah, Georgia, has been placed under mandatory evacuation, and a state of emergency is in place for both Carolinas, specifically islands off the coast. Alabama is also under a state of emergency.
  • The Florida Keys and coastal cities continue to face devastating levels of flooding heading into Sunday night. Upward of 15 feet of stormwater is expected to consume the area. "Everything is underwater," said Larry Kahn, the editor of local news site FlKeysNews.com. "I mean everything."

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