Florida rushing to evacuate as Hurricane Irma already blamed for 2 deaths

A man photographs the ocean before the arrival of Hurricane Irma, in luquillo, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. Irma roared into the Caribbean with record force early Wednesday, its 185-mph winds shaking homes and flooding buildings on a chain of small islands along a path toward Puerto Rico, Cuba and Hispaniola and a possible direct hit on densely populated South Florida. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)

With Hurricane Irma expected to make landfall as early as Saturday, those in the state of Florida are rushing to evacuate before the record-breaking storm arrives.

With 185 mile-per-hour winds, the storm is expected to be even more devastating than Hurricane Andrew, the storm that left Florida in tatters over two decades ago.


At least two people died and two others were seriously injured in the islands of St. Barts and St. Martin, French Overseas Affairs Minister Annick Girardin said Wednesday.

The fatalities are the first to be blamed on the storm.


Irma has already reached the Caribbean, making its first landfall among the northeast islands.

Its path will take it to Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba before heading for Florida.

Officials warned people to seek protection from Irma's "onslaught" in a statement that closed with: "May God protect us all," The Associated Press reported.

A utility company in Puerto Rico predicted the damage would be so severe that the island would be without power for months, The Miami Herald reported.


A Category 5 storm, Irma is the most powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricane in recorded history, according to some experts.

In a statement on Twitter, President Donald Trump said "Hurricane looks like largest ever recorded in the Atlantic!"

Florida Gov. Rick Scott activated 900 members of the Florida National Guard Wednesday in anticipation -- a day after he had called up an initial 100 members.

The National Weather Service director said Wednesday his staff is "very worried about the impact of winds and surge on the Keys" as Irma approaches.


Tourists are under a mandatory evacuation order, which began Wednesday morning.

Residents will then be ordered to evacuate, but many gas stations across southern Florida are experiencing shortages.

Though Florida law prohibits extreme price hikes for commodities such as food, water, hotels and lumber, it doesn't cover airlines tickets — that's up to federal regulators.

As a result, the sheer volume of tickets has spiked prices to a historic height, with one man telling The Associated Press he paid almost $2,000 to fly his relative to South Carolina.


Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd posted on his official Twitter account Wednesday that deputies will check identification at the county's shelters -- and anyone with a warrant will be arrested and taken to "the safe and secure shelter called the Polk County Jail."

Judd also wrote that sex offenders and sex predators would not be admitted to the shelters.


Hurricane Katia formed Wednesday in the Gulf off the coast of Mexico with sustained winds of 75 mph; mere minutes after the U.S. National Hurricane Center said Hurricane Jose had formed in the open Atlantic, far from land and well east of Hurricane Irma.

Jose has winds of 75 mph and is quickly strengthening, but poses no immediate threat to land.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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