Hurricane Irma slams Cuba on way to Florida
Hurricane Irma gained strength overnight, then returned to Category 4 status after making landfall on Cuba and heading toward the Florida Keys.
A 5 a.m. ET Saturday advisory from the National Hurricane Center said the storm was about 45 miles east of Caibarien, Cuba, and about 245 miles south-southeast of Miami, with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph. The storm was moving at 12 mph.
The forecast for Irma's path shifted to the southwest of Florida's heavily populated Miami area as time ran out for residents to evacuate.
Forecasters expected the storm to reach the Keys on Sunday morning and approach the state's southwest coast by that afternoon.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott said people who hadn't left the state by Friday night would have to ride out the storm at their own risk.
Trailing Irma in the Caribbean was Hurricane Jose, which neared Category 5 strength as it followed Irma's path - posing a threat of further damage to small Caribbean islands that were already devastated by Irma.
Dutch marines dropped flyers from a helicopter warning beleaguered inhabitants on the devastated nation of St. Maarten to head to shelters as Hurricane Jose barreled through.
In Cuba, Irma lashed the tourist resort areas of the island nation's northern coast.
In Miami Beach, some residents chose to ride out the storm at home instead of heed Gov. Rick Scott's orders to evacuate.
"Where am I going to go?" said Kathleen Paca, 56, in a South Beach bar. "It's not going to be that bad. I'm on the second floor and have impact windows. I've thrown coconuts at my windows and they don't break."
The hurricane center's 5 a.m. advisory said that hurricane and storm surge warnings for Florida's west coast were being extended northward from Anclote River to Chassahowitzka.
The hurricane warning for Florida's east coast was extended northward to the Flagler/Volusia County line.
A tropical storm watch was issued north of Fernandina Beach to Altamaha Sound, Georgia, with additional watches and warnings possible later Saturday for portions of the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina, as well as portions of the Florida Gulf Coast.
Irma was expected to take a turn toward the northwest by late Saturday, with a turn toward the north-northwest Saturday night or Sunday.
The center of the storm will move near the north coast of Cuba on Saturday, near the Florida Keys on Sunday morning, and then near the southwest coast of Florida Sunday afternoon.
Some fluctuations in intensity are likely during the next day or two, but Irma is expected to remain a powerful hurricane as it approaches Florida, the hurricane center said.
Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency said dozens of staff were working to help secure some of the nation's most contaminated toxic waste sites as Hurricane Irma bore down on Florida.
The Associated Press surveyed six of the 54 Superfund sites in Florida ahead of Irma's arrival, all around Miami in low-lying, flood-prone areas. AP's journalists found minor issues, such as three unsecured, steel drums in a grassy field containing contaminated soil and water.Cuba, Devestation, Flooding , Cuba , Hurricane Irma, Category 4, Strengthening, Florida Keys