Breaking News Bar
updated: 9/8/2017 9:28 PM

Irma bears down on Florida; more than 5M told to flee coast

hello
Success - Article sent! close
  • Ryan Kaye loads sandbags into his truck at a makeshift filling station provided by the county as protection ahead of Hurricane Irma, Friday, Sept. 8, 2017, in Palm Coast, Fla.

    Ryan Kaye loads sandbags into his truck at a makeshift filling station provided by the county as protection ahead of Hurricane Irma, Friday, Sept. 8, 2017, in Palm Coast, Fla.
    Associated Press

  • A man walks along the beach at sunrise ahead of Hurricane Irma in Daytona Beach, Fla., Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. Coastal residents around South Florida have been ordered to evacuate as the killer storm closes in on the peninsula for what could be a catastrophic blow this weekend.

    A man walks along the beach at sunrise ahead of Hurricane Irma in Daytona Beach, Fla., Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. Coastal residents around South Florida have been ordered to evacuate as the killer storm closes in on the peninsula for what could be a catastrophic blow this weekend.
    Associated Press

  • A child walks past a ride sitting empty at an amusement park along the boardwalk ahead of Hurricane Irma in Daytona Beach, Fla., Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017. South Florida officials are expanding evacuation orders as Hurricane Irma approaches, telling more than a half-million people to seek safety inland.

    A child walks past a ride sitting empty at an amusement park along the boardwalk ahead of Hurricane Irma in Daytona Beach, Fla., Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017. South Florida officials are expanding evacuation orders as Hurricane Irma approaches, telling more than a half-million people to seek safety inland.
    Associated Press

  • Residents fill up sandbags Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017, in Orlando, Fla., as they prepare for Hurricane Irma. Long lines of vehicles waited for hours to get a 10 sandbag limit at the City of Orlando Public Works. (Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel via AP)

    Residents fill up sandbags Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017, in Orlando, Fla., as they prepare for Hurricane Irma. Long lines of vehicles waited for hours to get a 10 sandbag limit at the City of Orlando Public Works. (Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel via AP)
    Associated Press

  • Jone Yoon boards up his beach souvenir shop ahead of Hurricane Irma in Daytona Beach, Fla., Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017. South Florida officials are expanding evacuation orders as Hurricane Irma approaches, telling more than a half-million people to seek safety inland.

    Jone Yoon boards up his beach souvenir shop ahead of Hurricane Irma in Daytona Beach, Fla., Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017. South Florida officials are expanding evacuation orders as Hurricane Irma approaches, telling more than a half-million people to seek safety inland.
    Associated Press

  • Northbound traffic, right, on I-75 through Sarasota, Fla., is heavier than normal, but still moving on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017. Many South Florida residents are evacuating and heading north as Hurricane Irma approaches. (Mike Lang /Sarasota Herald-Tribune via AP)

    Northbound traffic, right, on I-75 through Sarasota, Fla., is heavier than normal, but still moving on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017. Many South Florida residents are evacuating and heading north as Hurricane Irma approaches. (Mike Lang /Sarasota Herald-Tribune via AP)
    Associated Press

  • Richard Jay, left, and his wife Shanta board up their motel ahead of Hurricane Irma in Daytona Beach, Fla., Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. Coastal residents around South Florida have been ordered to evacuate as the killer storm closes in on the peninsula for what could be a catastrophic blow this weekend.

    Richard Jay, left, and his wife Shanta board up their motel ahead of Hurricane Irma in Daytona Beach, Fla., Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. Coastal residents around South Florida have been ordered to evacuate as the killer storm closes in on the peninsula for what could be a catastrophic blow this weekend.
    Associated Press

  • Shay Rymer, a native of Houston, Texas, helps boards up the motel he's living in ahead of Hurricane Irma in Daytona Beach, Fla., Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. Rymer has family recovering from Hurricane Harvey's flooding in Houston as he now prepares to take shelter and ride out Hurricane Irma in the motel. Coastal residents around South Florida have been ordered to evacuate as the killer storm closes in on the peninsula for what could be a catastrophic blow this weekend.

    Shay Rymer, a native of Houston, Texas, helps boards up the motel he's living in ahead of Hurricane Irma in Daytona Beach, Fla., Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. Rymer has family recovering from Hurricane Harvey's flooding in Houston as he now prepares to take shelter and ride out Hurricane Irma in the motel. Coastal residents around South Florida have been ordered to evacuate as the killer storm closes in on the peninsula for what could be a catastrophic blow this weekend.
    Associated Press

  • A note is posted to a gas pump after the station ran out of gas ahead of Hurricane Irma in Daytona Beach, Fla., Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. Coastal residents around South Florida have been ordered to evacuate as the killer storm closes in on the peninsula for what could be a catastrophic blow this weekend.

    A note is posted to a gas pump after the station ran out of gas ahead of Hurricane Irma in Daytona Beach, Fla., Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. Coastal residents around South Florida have been ordered to evacuate as the killer storm closes in on the peninsula for what could be a catastrophic blow this weekend.
    Associated Press

  • Leonel Geronimo, stuffs food into his suitcase as he and others wait for a bus in anticipation of Hurricane Irma in Miami Beach, Fla., Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. Geronimo wants to get to a shelter off the beach, but is not sure what bus to take or which shelter to go.

    Leonel Geronimo, stuffs food into his suitcase as he and others wait for a bus in anticipation of Hurricane Irma in Miami Beach, Fla., Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. Geronimo wants to get to a shelter off the beach, but is not sure what bus to take or which shelter to go.
    Associated Press

  • Hanz Paez, left, and Cirous Amiri, right buy wood at a Home Depot in South Miami Dade to secure their property in anticipation of Hurricane Irma early Friday, Sept. 8, 2017 in Miami, Fla. The National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Irma weakened a bit more but remains a powerful threat to Florida.

    Hanz Paez, left, and Cirous Amiri, right buy wood at a Home Depot in South Miami Dade to secure their property in anticipation of Hurricane Irma early Friday, Sept. 8, 2017 in Miami, Fla. The National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Irma weakened a bit more but remains a powerful threat to Florida.
    Associated Press

  • Customers at a Home Depot in South Miami Dade buy building materials to secure their property in anticipation of Hurricane Irma early Friday, Sept. 8, 2017 in Miami, Fla. The National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Irma weakened a bit more but remains a powerful threat to Florida.

    Customers at a Home Depot in South Miami Dade buy building materials to secure their property in anticipation of Hurricane Irma early Friday, Sept. 8, 2017 in Miami, Fla. The National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Irma weakened a bit more but remains a powerful threat to Florida.
    Associated Press

  • Luis Garcia, right, packs a car that he and five other members of his extended family will use to evacuate north from their home in Miami Beach, Fla, Friday, Sept. 8, 2017.  Cuba evacuated tourists from beachside resorts and Floridians emptied stores of plywood and bottled water after Hurricane Irma left at least 20 people dead and thousands homeless on a devastated string of Caribbean islands and spun toward Florida for what could be a catastrophic blow this weekend.

    Luis Garcia, right, packs a car that he and five other members of his extended family will use to evacuate north from their home in Miami Beach, Fla, Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. Cuba evacuated tourists from beachside resorts and Floridians emptied stores of plywood and bottled water after Hurricane Irma left at least 20 people dead and thousands homeless on a devastated string of Caribbean islands and spun toward Florida for what could be a catastrophic blow this weekend.
    Associated Press

  • Heavy traffic traveling north bound on Interstate 75 moves slowly, as a major evacuation has begun in preparation for Hurricane Irma, Friday, Sept. 8, 2017, in Forrest Park, south of Atlanta.

    Heavy traffic traveling north bound on Interstate 75 moves slowly, as a major evacuation has begun in preparation for Hurricane Irma, Friday, Sept. 8, 2017, in Forrest Park, south of Atlanta.
    Associated Press

  • In this geocolor image GOES-16 satellite image taken Friday, Sept. 8, 2017, at 11:45 UTC, sunlight, from the right, illuminates Hurricane Irma as the storm approaches Cuba and Florida. Cuba evacuated tourists from beachside resorts and Floridians emptied stores of plywood and bottled water after Hurricane Irma left at least 20 people dead and thousands homeless on a devastated string of Caribbean islands and spun toward Florida for what could be a catastrophic blow this weekend.  (NOAA via AP)

    In this geocolor image GOES-16 satellite image taken Friday, Sept. 8, 2017, at 11:45 UTC, sunlight, from the right, illuminates Hurricane Irma as the storm approaches Cuba and Florida. Cuba evacuated tourists from beachside resorts and Floridians emptied stores of plywood and bottled water after Hurricane Irma left at least 20 people dead and thousands homeless on a devastated string of Caribbean islands and spun toward Florida for what could be a catastrophic blow this weekend. (NOAA via AP)
    Associated Press

  • Sandbags sit outside a police station office as a worker secures the grounds of a hotel along the beach ahead of Hurricane Irma in Daytona Beach, Fla., Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. Coastal residents around South Florida have been ordered to evacuate as the killer storm closes in on the peninsula for what could be a catastrophic blow this weekend.

    Sandbags sit outside a police station office as a worker secures the grounds of a hotel along the beach ahead of Hurricane Irma in Daytona Beach, Fla., Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. Coastal residents around South Florida have been ordered to evacuate as the killer storm closes in on the peninsula for what could be a catastrophic blow this weekend.
    Associated Press

  • Workers dismantle the facade of a funhouse at an amusement park ahead of Hurricane Irma in Daytona Beach, Fla., Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017. South Florida officials are expanding evacuation orders as Hurricane Irma approaches, telling more than a half-million people to seek safety inland.

    Workers dismantle the facade of a funhouse at an amusement park ahead of Hurricane Irma in Daytona Beach, Fla., Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017. South Florida officials are expanding evacuation orders as Hurricane Irma approaches, telling more than a half-million people to seek safety inland.
    Associated Press

 
 

MIAMI -- Irma trained its sights on Florida and officials warned more than 5 million people that time was running out Friday and ordered them to evacuate ahead of the deadly hurricane as it followed a path that could take it from one end of the state to the other.

By late Friday, Irma had regained Category 5 strength with winds of 160 mph (260 kph). Forecasters expect the storm to be near the Florida Keys on Sunday morning and approach the state's southwest coast by that afternoon.

Forecasters adjusted the storm's potential track more toward the west coast of Florida, away from the Miami metropolitan area of 6 million people, meaning "a less costly, a less deadly storm," University of Miami researcher Brian McNoldy said.

Nevertheless, forecasters warned that its hurricane-force winds were so wide they could reach from coast to coast, testing the nation's third-largest state, which has undergone rapid development and more stringent hurricane-proof building codes in the last decade or so.

"This is a storm that will kill you if you don't get out of the way," National Hurricane Center meteorologist Dennis Feltgen said. "Everybody's going to feel this one."

Irma killed at least 20 people in the Caribbean and left thousands homeless as it devastated small resort islands known for their warm, turquoise water.

In Florida, gas shortages and gridlock plagued the evacuations, turning normally simple trips into tests of will. Parts of interstates 75 and 95 north were bumper-to-bumper, while very few cars drove in the southbound lanes.

"We're getting out of this state," said Manny Zuniga, who left his home in Miami at midnight Thursday to avoid the gridlock. "Irma is going to take all of Florida."

Despite driving overnight, he still took 12 hours to reach Orlando - a trip that normally takes four hours. From there, he and his wife, two children, two dogs and a ferret were headed to Arkansas.

In one of the country's largest evacuations, about 5.6 million people in Florida - more than one-quarter of the state's population - were ordered to evacuate and another 540,000 were told to leave the Georgia coast. Authorities opened hundreds of shelters for people who did not leave. Hotels as far away as Atlanta filled up with evacuees.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott said people fleeing could drive slowly in the shoulder lane on highways. He hasn't reversed the southbound lanes because he said they were needed to deliver gas and supplies.

"If you are planning to leave and do not leave tonight, you will have to ride out this extremely dangerous storm at your own risk," Scott said.

Tony Marcellus racked his brain to figure out a way to get his 67-year-old mother and 85-year-old grandfather out of their home five blocks from the ocean in West Palm Beach. He lives 600 miles away in Atlanta. He checked flights but found nothing and rental cars were sold out, so he settled on a modern method of evacuation.

He hired an Uber to pick them up and drive them 170 miles to Orlando, where he met them to take them to Atlanta. He gave the driver a nice tip.

"I have peace of mind now," said Marcellus' mother, Celine Jean. "I've been worried sick for days."

Several small, poor communities around Lake Okeechobee in the south-central part of Florida were added to the evacuation list because the lake may overflow - but the governor said engineers expect the protective dike to hold up. Many people in the area said they wouldn't leave because they either had no transportation or nowhere to go.

Disney World parks will close early Saturday and remain shuttered through Monday, as will Universal Orlando and Sea World.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said he planned for enough space to hold 100,000 people before the storm arrives, although most shelters were only beginning to fill on Friday.

Hurricane Andrew in 1992 revealed how lax building codes had become in the country's most storm-prone state, and Florida began requiring sturdier construction. Now, experts say a monstrously strong Irma could become the most serious test of Florida's storm-worthiness since then.

Andrew razed Miami's suburbs with winds topping 165 mph (265 kph), damaging or blowing apart over 125,000 homes. Almost all mobile homes in its path were obliterated. The damage totaled $26 billion in Florida's most-populous areas. At least 40 people were killed in Florida.

CoreLogic, a consultant to insurers, estimated that almost 8.5 million Florida homes or commercial properties were at extreme, very high or high risk of wind damage from Irma.

Police in the Fort Lauderdale suburb of Davie said a 57-year-old man who had been hired to install hurricane shutters Thursday morning died after falling about 15 feet (5 meters) from a ladder and hitting his head on a pool deck. The man's name wasn't immediately released.

Forecasters predicted a storm surge of 8 to 12 feet (2.4 to 3.7 meters) above ground level along Florida's southwest coast and in the Keys. As much as a foot of rain could fall across the state, with isolated spots receiving 20 inches.

With winds that peaked at 185 mph (300 kph), Irma was once the most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the open Atlantic.

___

Galofaro reported from Orlando. Associated Press writers Seth Borenstein in Washington; Gary Fineout in Tallahassee, Terrance Harris in Orlando and David Fischer in Miami contributed to this report.

___

HURRICANE NEWSLETTER - Get the best of the AP's all-formats reporting on Irma and Harvey in your inbox: http://apne.ws/ahYQGtb

Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.