Hurricane and storm surge warnings were issued late Thursday for South Florida as Hurricane Irma advanced westward in the Caribbean, with a northward turn toward Florida expected over the weekend. Irma battered Turks and Caicos early Friday, with waves as high as 20 feet expected to hit those islands. Communications went down as the storm struck, and the extent of the devastation was unclear. Expand / Collapse
An update at 2 a.m. EDT Fridayfrom the National Hurricane Center showed Irma to be located 20 miles north of Great Inagua Island and about 535 miles east-southeast of Miami -- with wind gusts of 160 mph. The storm was moving at about 16 mph, the hurricane center said. The hurricane center said its storm surge warning covers Jupiter Inlet southward around the Florida peninsula to Bonita Beach, as well as the Florida Keys.
Its hurricane warning covers Jupiter Inlet southward around the Florida peninsula to Bonita Beach, as well as the Florida Keys, Lake Okeechobee, and Florida Bay. In addition, a storm surge watch has been issued for the east coast of Florida, north of Jupiter Inlet to Sebastian Inlet and for the west coast of Florida north of Bonita Beach to Venice. A hurricane watch has been issued for the east coast of Florida north of Jupiter Inlet to Sebastian Inlet and for the west coast of Florida north of Bonita Beach to Anna Maria Island. Meanwhile, the government of the Dominican Republic has discontinued the hurricane warning for the country's northern coast, the hurricane center said. Earlier Thursday, Florida Gov. Rick Scott urged hundreds of thousands of people to evacuate before Hurricane Irma makes potential landfall — as forecast models on Thursday predicted the storm moving further west, more directly in the state's path. "If you live in any evacuation zones and you're still at home, leave!" Scott warned Floridians at a news conference Thursday. "Do not try to ride out this storm ... we can't save you once the storm hits."
At least 500,000 people in South Florida now face evacuation orders. Scott said that regardless of their location, people should be ready to get out. The governor noted that Florida's western coast "will still have hurricane conditions." The storm is expected to travel west in the coming days, and will remain a Category 5, or possibly drop to a 4, according to the NHC.