Miami, which was on track for a direct hit from Hurricane Irma, was thrown a lifeline on Saturday as the storm’s path veered west.
Irma was downgraded from a Category 4 to a Category 3 storm on Saturday mid-morning as it hovered over Cuba but officials warned that it could regain strength over the course of the weekend. Irma is expected to move up the southwest coast on Sunday, bringing with it 130mph winds and life threatening rain after battering Cuba on Saturday.
It will remain off the coast of Florida until Monday when meteorologists predict it will then hit Tampa as a Category 3 storm. After the new forecast emerged on Saturday, the mayor of Tampa said ominously: ‘It’s not looking good for us.’
Miami is still under an evacuation order and officials are warning residents not to return to their homes in light of the news that Irma is moving west because it is still at risk of severe storm surge.
Irma is so powerful that no matter where it hits and even before it does, the entire southern section of the state is at risk of storm surge, deadly wind and rain.
More than 5million people have been evacuated in anticipation of it and 50,000 people are in shelters across the state.
On Saturday morning, Governor Rick Scott, who has been pleading with residents for days to leave evacuation zones before Irma hits, said : ‘This is a catastrophic storm. We have never seen this before. The storm is bigger than our state.
‘If you are in an evacuation zone, I hope you leave right this minute,’ he said from Sarasota. Gov. Scott said he felt the state was ‘prepared’, stating confidently: ‘Everybody is ready but I’ve got to get people out. This is encompassing our whole state.’
He said he had called up 7,000 National Guard troops to help deal with the catastrophe. People in Florida are being told to prepare three days worth of food and water to ride out the zone.
In the largest evacuation effort in US history, millions of people in the Sunshine State and in parts of Georgia have been told to leave their home before Irma strikes on Sunday afternoon.
All of the airports in southeast Florida are now closed and anyone who is still there is being told to leave urgently or take refuge in one of the shelters being set up.
In Miami, officials admitted they were ‘rewriting the book’ as they went along to try to prepare for Irma. Evacuees who have been able to get to a shelter compared the cramped conditions inside to Guantanamo Bay.
Some people are being turned away as high schools and other public spaces reach capacity.
As of Friday night, only 21 of the 42 planned shelters in Miami Dade County, which takes in a huge swathe of the city, had been announced.
The monstrous hurricane has already claimed 24 lives in the Caribbean and wiped out entire small islands.
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Source: Daily Mail