Irma weakens to tropical storm

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TAMPA, Florida, (AP) - 12:30 p.m.

Hurricane Naples hits Naples, Florida.

Nearly 7.2 million homes and businesses are without power in multiple states as Tropical Storm Irma moves through the Southeast.

The vast majority were in Florida. The state’s emergency management officials said the storm cut power to more than 6.5 million account holders across the state as of Monday afternoon.

Eric Silagy, the CEO of Florida Power & Light, said Irma caused the most widespread damage in the company’s history. It affected all 35 counties in the utility’s territory which is most of the state’s Atlantic coast and the Gulf coast south of Tampa. The most extensive damage was likely in the Naples area, but a full assessment was ongoing. He said 19,500 electric workers have been deployed in the restoration effort.

Still, he said, it will take days for many people to be restored and, in some cases where the damage was extensive, weeks.

Meanwhile, Duke Energy reported Monday morning that more than 860,000 of the homes and businesses it serves in Florida were without power.

Georgia reported more than 570,000 homes and businesses without electricity, and there were 80,000 in South Carolina.

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8 a.m.

Irma has weakened to a tropical storm as it moves over Florida toward southern Georgia.

The storm's maximum sustained winds decreased Monday morning to near 70 mph. The U.S. National Hurricane Center says it's expected to weaken to a tropical depression by Tuesday afternoon.

Irma is centered about 105 miles north-northwest of Tampa, Florida, and is moving north-northwest near 18 mph.

Irma hit southern Florida on Sunday as a Category 4 hurricane, bringing roof-ripping winds, gushing floodwaters and widespread power outages.

7 a.m.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn says that while the city hasn't escaped Hurricane Irma's wrath, the situation isn't as bad as they had feared.

Speaking Monday morning on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," Buckhorn said "What we thought was going to be a punch in the face was a glancing blow."

Buckhorn did say there are a lot of downed power lines and debris.

He said Tampa's officials have vehicles positioned "to be sure that when that surge comes in we can keep people out of the streets."

He said he expected power to be out for some sections of Tampa for at least a couple more days.

Looting is an issue in Miami, police said.

On Sunday night, Miami police took two people into custody and detained two others.

Deputy Police Chief Luis Cabrera told the Miami Herald the officers went to the Shops at Midtown on Sunday afternoon as the winds of Hurricane Irma were at their strongest in South Florida. Cabrera says a group in a white truck hit multiple locations. Police have also received additional reports of looting in the city.

Police had issued a curfew Saturday night, partly to ward off looters by giving officers probable cause to stop anyone for being on the street during the storm.

Cabrera didn't have specific details about the looting incidents.

2:11 a.m.

Irma weakened to a Category 1 storm as the massive hurricane zeroed in on the Tampa Bay region early Monday after hammering much of Florida with roof-ripping winds, gushing floodwaters and widespread power outages.

The hurricane's maximum sustained winds weakened to 85 mph with additional weakening expected.

As of 2 a.m. EDT, the storm was centered about 25 miles northeast of Tampa and moving north-northwest near 15 mph.

Irma continues its slog north along Florida's western coast having blazed a path of unknown destruction. With communication cut to some of the Florida Keys, where Irma made landfall Sunday, and rough conditions persisting across the peninsula, many are holding their breath for what daylight might reveal.

9:25 p.m.

Miami International Airport has announced it will be closed Monday and begin only limited flights on Tuesday.

Orlando International Airport closed Saturday and won't reopen to passenger traffic until after Hurricane Irma has passed, a damage assessment has been completed, necessary recovery efforts made and the airlines are consulted to determine when best to resume operations.

Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport says on its website it has no timetable yet to reopen. Its last flights were Friday.

Tampa International Airport also is closed as Hurricane Irma moves up the Florida peninsula.

Airlines are preparing their recovery schedules, which may take several days to execute.

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9:05 p.m.

The county administrator in the Florida Keys says crews will begin house to house searches Monday morning, looking for people who need help and assessing damage from Hurricane Irma.

Monroe County Administrator Roman Gastesi says relief will arrive on a C-130 military plane Monday morning at the Key West International Airport.

Once it's light out, they'll check on survivors. They suspect they may find fatalities.

Gastesi says they are "prepared for the worst."

Hurricane Irma made landfall Sunday morning in Cudjoe Key.

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8:55 p.m.

The U.S. Departments of State and Defense are working on evacuation flights from Sint Maarten after Hurricane Irma.

Officials say U.S. citizens in need of evacuation should shelter in place until Monday, listening for radio updates, and then go to the airport by noon, bringing proof of citizenship and just one small bag.

The State Department adds that a Royal Caribbean Cruise Line ship has left the island.

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8:45 p.m.

More than 3.3 million homes and businesses - and counting - have lost power in Florida as Hurricane Irma moves up the peninsula.

The widespread outages stretch from the Florida Keys all the way into central Florida.

Florida Power & Light, the state's largest electric utility, said there were nearly 1 million customers without power in Miami-Dade County alone.

The power outages are expected to increase as the storm edges further north.

There are roughly 7 million residential customers in the state. (edited)

8:30 p.m.

Hurricane Irma's top sustained winds have dropped to 105 mph. That's still a Category 2 storm, meaning extensive damage will occur.

Masters says that if Irma's center had shifted just 20 miles to the north as it moved past Cuba, it could have hit the mainland United States as a Category 5.

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8 p.m.

Two manatees were stranded after Hurricane Irma sucked the water out of Sarasota Bay, in Florida's Manatee County.

Several people posted photos of the mammals on Facebook Sunday, hoping rescue workers or wildlife officials would respond. Michael Sechler posted that the animals were far too massive to be lifted, so they gave them water.

Marcelo Clavijo posted that a group of people eventually loaded the manatees onto tarps and dragged them to deeper water.

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7:45 p.m.

Hurricane Irma set all sorts of records for brute strength before crashing into Florida, flattening islands in the Caribbean and swamping the Florida Keys.

It finally hit the mainland as a big wide beast, but not quite as monstrous as once feared. The once-Category 5 storm lost some of its power on the northern Cuba coast.

It's still raking Florida with devastating storm surges, winds and rain. Its top sustained winds are now 110 mph (177 kph) and the center of the storm is about 15 miles (25 kilometers) inland from Fort Myers.

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7:30 p.m.

It's been difficult to determine the extent of damage Hurricane Irma caused in the Florida Keys, where communication has been difficult and authorities are warning boaters and drivers to stay away.

But The Associated Press has been texting with John Huston, who has been riding out the storm in his house on Key Largo, on the Atlantic side of the island, just south of John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.

Every few minutes during the height of the storm, he sent another dispatch.

He described whiteout conditions, with howling winds that sucked dry the gulf side of the narrow island, where the tide is usually 8 feet deep. He kept his humor though, texting to "send cold beer" at one point. Now he sees furniture floating down the street with small boats.

He says the storm surge was at least 6 feet deep on his island, 76 miles from Irma's eye. He can see now that structures survived, but the storm left a big mess at ground level.

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7 p.m.

The Lee County Sheriff's Office says water began leaking through the roof at the Germain Arena shelter in Estero just as the eye of Hurricane Irma drew near.

Thousands of evacuees have crowded into the minor-league hockey stadium, which seats about 8,400 people and is being used as a shelter.

The sheriff's office posted on Facebook that authorities are monitoring the problem.

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6:50 p.m.

Florida officials are urging people to stay in their homes and shelters, even if it looks like Hurricane Irma has passed.

Miami-Dade County spokesman Mike Hernandez said he's seen reports of people leaving the county's hurricane shelters. It's too early for that, he says: "Just because it seems like the weather is clearing up, that doesn't mean it's safe to get out on the roads.

Miami Dade remains under curfew, much of it without electricity, and with downed power lines, flooding and poor visibility, moving around could be deadly.

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6:45 p.m.

An airborne relief mission is bringing emergency supplies to the Florida Keys, where Hurricane Irma made landfall Sunday morning.

Monroe County spokeswoman Cammy Clark said help is coming in C-130 cargo planes and other air resources.

Monroe County Emergency Management Director Martin Senterfitt calls it a humanitarian crisis.

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6:30 p.m.

Hurricane Irma should be moving directly over the Tampa Bay area around midnight. Residents of the highly populated area are fearing the worst.

A report by CoreLogic, the global property data firm, found nearly 455,000 Tampa Bay homes could be damaged by storm surges, the most of any major US metro area other than Miami and New York. Rebuilding those homes could cost $81 billion.

The reason Tampa Bay is so vulnerable is that the bay acts as a funnel for storm surges, forcing water into narrow channels with nowhere else to go.

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6:20 p.m.

The National Hurricane Center reports water levels are rising rapidly in Naples from Hurricane Irma's storm surge. A federal tide gauge in Naples reported a 7 foot rise of water in just 90 minutes.

A wind gust of 142 mph (229 kph) was recorded at the Naples Municipal Airport as the storm kept its top sustained wind speed of 110 mph (175 kph).

Irma has picked up forward speed and is moving inland at 14 mph (22 kph) and its eye is about 25 miles (40 kilometers) south southeast of Fort Myers.

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6:10 p.m.

Lauren Durham and Michael Davis had big plans for a beach wedding this month. Hurricane Irma had bigger plans.

So instead of a poofy white dress, Durham got married in her Air National Guard fatigues, with no makeup, in a vast hangar filled with rescue vehicles in Orlando. Davis is a senior airman in the guard, like his bride, so they had called to say they'd miss their own wedding.

Then on Sunday, a friend joked that they should get married during the hurricane. Dozens of people helped out, and a fellow guard member happens to be a notary and officiated. Someone even came up with a bouquet of flowers.

The happy couple believes in service before self, and besides, they figure it'll be a great story to tell their kids one day.

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6 p.m.

President Donald Trump has declared a major disaster in the state of Florida, making federal aid available to people affected by Hurricane Irma in nine counties already hit by the storm.

The federal help includes temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans for uninsured property losses and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover in the counties of Charlotte, Collier, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Pinellas, and Sarasota.

Federal funding also is available to governments and non-profit organizations for emergencies in all 67 Florida counties. For the first 30 days, that money will cover 100 percent of the costs of some emergency responses.

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5:15 p.m.

President Donald Trump says the U.S. may have gotten a "little bit lucky" after Hurricane Irma veered from its original course and headed west along Florida's coast.

He says Irma may not have been quite as destructive as a result, but that things will play out over the next several hours.

Trump addressed reporters Sunday after returning to the White House from Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland where he spent the weekend monitoring the storm.

Trump says Irma will cost "a lot of money" but he isn't thinking about that right now.

He says "right now, we're worried about lives, not cost."

Trump says he'll be having additional meetings about coordination for the storm response.

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5:15 p.m.

Hurricane Irma has weakened to a Category 2 storm, technically losing its major hurricane status, after making landfall in southwestern Florida. It is over land but hugging the coast as it moves north.

The National Hurricane Center said Irma's winds were at 110 mph (177 kph), just below major hurricane status, as the center of the still dangerous and wide storm moved farther inland. It was 5 miles (8 kilometers) north of Naples late Sunday afternoon. It came ashore on Marco Island at 3:35 p.m.

The hurricane center says "although weakening is forecast, Irma is expected to remain a hurricane at least through Monday morning."

The hurricane center says the eye of Irma should hug Florida's west coast through Monday morning and then push more inland over northern Florida and southwestern Georgia on Monday afternoon. The forecast puts the storm generally over the populated Tampa-St. Petersburg region a couple hours after midnight into Monday morning.

Jeff Masters is meteorology director of the private Weather Underground. He says the fact that the storm approached the Tampa region from over land and from the south could slightly reduce the expected storm surge, although he says it will still be dangerous.

Irma is producing deluges of 2 to 4 inches (5 to 13 centimeters) of rain an hour, which can cause flash flooding.

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5:15 p.m.

The storm surge near Cudjoe Key may be flooding the nearby Florida Key Deer Refuge, home to fewer than 1,000 of the endangered Key deer.

The unique subspecies of white-tailed deer about 3 feet (1 meter) tall at the shoulder, the size of a large dog, but wildlife officials were not immediately concerned that the herd had been lost to floodwaters.

Dan Clark is refuge manager for the Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges Complex. He says the deer are "excellent swimmers."

Clark evacuated his staff Wednesday, and he spoke with The Associated Press by phone from Pinellas County.

He says the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff planned to return as soon as weather permitted to begin assessing how the deer and other endangered species fared throughout the narrow, low-lying island chain.

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5:15 p.m.

Police in Florida have arrested nine people who were caught on TV cameras looting sneakers and other goods from a sporting goods store and a pawn shop during Hurricane Irma.

Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Rick Maglione said the group was arrested Sunday as the storm roared across South Florida. Maglione called the idea of stealing sneakers during a hurricane "a fairly bad life choice."

Local TV images showed the alleged looters running in and out of a store through a broken window carrying boxes of sneakers.

It wasn't immediately clear what charges those arrested would face. Their identities also were not immediately released.

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5:15 p.m.

South Florida Water Management District chief engineer John Mitnik says it will probably be 7 p.m. Sunday before the storm surge in Miami completely subsides. He said the district is prepared for the storm surge expected on the Gulf coast and will have crews out repairing canals and drainage equipment as soon as it is safe.

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5:15 p.m.

Wildlife officials say Florida residents and visitors should stay away from sea turtle nests and refrain from any attempts to save them from Hurricane Irma.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says in a news release that the public must not interfere with any sea turtle eggs, even if they think they're helping.

Officials say sea turtles have a nesting strategy that accommodates natural storm events, with each female depositing several nests throughout the season. No storm season is a total loss for Florida's sea turtles. Even in 2004, when Florida sustained direct hits from several hurricanes, officials say 42 percent of state's loggerhead nests hatched, well within the normal range.

Anyone who sees exposed turtle eggs or nests should contact wildlife officials.

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5:15 p.m.

Officials are warning boaters to stay away from the Florida Keys in the wake of Hurricane Irma.

Monroe County spokeswoman Cammy Clark said in an email Sunday evening that nearshore waters are filled with navigation hazards like debris, sunken boats, loose boats, buoys and markers.

Residents with boats already in the Keys should avoid driving them in the nearshore waters.

Hurricane Irma made landfall Sunday morning in Cudjoe Key.
4:30 p.m.

The Marco Island police department is warning people who didn't evacuate to get to higher floors in their buildings.

The department issued the warning in a tweet on Sunday just as Hurricane Irma made landfall on the island.

Forecasts have called for life-threatening storm surge of up to 15 feet (4.5 meters) along the coast.

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4:30 p.m.

The University of Miami will not reopen either its main campus in Coral Gables or its Marine campus before Sept. 18 while it assesses the damage caused by Hurricane Irma.

The school says it is "proactively planning the recovery process." Numerous out-of-state students went back home last week to wait out the storm and it remains unclear when they will even be able to travel back to South Florida.

Miami's annual football rivalry game with Florida State has already been pushed back to Oct. 7. It had been scheduled for Sept. 16 in Tallahassee, the state capital that is also in Irma's projected path.

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4:30 p.m.

Electric car maker Tesla says it has temporarily increased the battery capacity of some of its cars to help drivers escaping Hurricane Irma.

The electric car maker said the battery boost was applied to Model S and X cars in the Southeast. Some drivers only buy 60 or 70 kilowatt hours of battery capacity, but a software change will give them access to 75 kilowatt hours of battery life until Saturday. Depending on the model, that could let drivers travel about 40 more miles before they would need to recharge their cars.

Tesla said it made the change after a customer asked the company for help evacuating. The company said it's possible it will make similar changes in response to similar events in the future.

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3:45 p.m.

Hurricane Irma has made landfall on Marco Island, Florida, as a Category 3 hurricane.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami said Irma's powerful eye roared ashore at Marco Island just south of Naples with 115-mph (185-kph) winds, for a second U.S. landfall at 3:35 p.m. Sunday.

Category 3 storms have winds from 111 to 129 mph, but 130-mph (21-kph) wind gust was recently reported by the Marco Island Police Department.

Irma's second U.S. landfall was tied for the 21st strongest landfall in the U.S. based on central pressure. Irma's first U.S. landfall in the Florida Keys was tied for 7th.

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3:30 p.m.

More than 2.1 million customers have lost power in Florida with Hurricane Irma striking the state.

Florida Power & Light reported the numbers Sunday afternoon. The utility, which services much of south Florida, says more than 845,000 of those customers are in Miami-Dade County.

Duke Energy, the dominant utility in the northern half of Florida, has about 13,000 outages with the outer bands of Irma sweeping across the region.

The power companies say they have extra crews on hand to try to restore power - when it becomes safe to do so.

FPL spokesman Rob Gould says an estimated 3.4 million homes and businesses will lose power once the worst of Irma reaches the Florida mainland.

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3:30 p.m.

Hurricane Irma is affecting the House of Representative's work schedule in Washington.

A notice from the House majority leader's office says the House now doesn't plan to take any votes Monday because of "the large number of absences" as a result of the storm.

The first votes of the week are expected Tuesday evening.

The House leadership will keep tabs on the situation and announce updates as necessary.

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3:15 p.m.

The eye of Hurricane Irma is nearing Naples, Florida, and continues to cause destruction over a wide swath of South Florida.

The National Hurricane Center said Irma had winds of 120 mph (195 kilometers) and was centered 20 miles (30 kilometers) south of Naples on Sunday afternoon. It was moving north at 12 mph (19 kilometers per hour). At that rate, the center of the storm should come ashore sometime between 4 and 5 p.m.

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3:30 p.m.

Hurricane Irma has pushed water out of a bay in Tampa, but forecasters are telling people not to venture out there, because it's going to return with a potentially deadly vengeance.

On Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa, approximately 100 people were walking Sunday afternoon on what was Old Tampa Bay - a body of water near downtown. Hurricane Irma's winds and low tide have pushed the water unusually far from its normal position. Some people are venturing as far as 200 yards (180 meters) out to get to the water's new edge. The water is normally about 4 to 5 feet (1 to 1.5 meters) deep and reaches a seawall.

The U.S. Hurricane Center has sent out an urgent alert warning of a "life-threatening storm surge inundation of 10 to 15 feet (3 to 5 meters) above ground level" and telling people to "MOVE AWAY FROM THE WATER!"

The waters retracted because the leading wind bands of Irma whipped the coastal water more out to sea. But once the eye passes and the wind reverses, the water will rush back in.

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3:30 p.m. Hurricane Irma is affecting the House of Representative's work schedule in Washington.

A notice from the House majority leader's office says the House now doesn't plan to take any votes Monday because of "the large number of absences" as a result of the storm.

The first votes of the week are expected Tuesday evening.

The House leadership will keep tabs on the situaton and announce updates as necessary.

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3:15 p.m.

Miami City Manager Daniel Alfonso says a second tower crane has collapsed into a building under construction in the city's downtown area. Alfonso told The Associated Press that the crane collapsed in a large development with multiple towers being built by Grand Paraiso.

Another crane collapsed earlier Sunday onto a high-rise building that's under construction in a bayfront area filled with hotels and high-rise condo and office buildings, near AmericanAirlines Arena. Officials said no one was injured as the result of either crane's collapse.

High winds are impeding Miami authorities' ability to reach the cranes, and authorities are urging people to avoid the areas.

Alfonso says the approximately two-dozen other cranes in the city are still upright and built to withstand significant wind gusts.

The tower cranes working on construction sites throughout the city were a concern ahead of Irma. Moving the massive equipment, weighing up to 30,000 pounds (13,600 kilograms), is a slow process that would have taken about two weeks, according to city officials.

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2 p.m.

The National Hurricane Center says a slightly weakened but still powerful Irma will slam the Naples and Marco Island with its strongest winds in a couple of hours.

Irma's winds dropped to 120 mph (195 kilometers per hour), down from 130 mph, and forecasters say it should weaken a bit more before landfall. But it still expected to a strong major hurricane as it rakes Florida from its western edges across to the east.

The storm is 35 miles (55 kilometers) south of Naples and has picked up speed moving north at 12 mph (19 kilometers per hour).

The now Category 3 hurricane will keep on battering all of South Florida with high wind and surge, forecasters say. The hurricane center in western Miami, across the state from the eye of the mammoth storm, recorded an 81 mph (130 kilometers per hour) wind gust.

"This is a life-threatening situation," the hurricane center posted.

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2 p.m.

An apparent tornado spun off by Hurricane Irma has destroyed six mobile homes in Florida.

Palm Bay Police Department Lt. Mike Bandish said no one was injured in Sunday's tornado, but that a 93-year-old man refused to leave his damaged home. He told Florida Today that officers tried to convince him to leave, but he wouldn't.

Palm Bay is on Florida's central Atlantic Coast near the Kennedy Space Center. The eye of Irma was hundreds of miles away when the tornado struck.

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2 p.m.

Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Elaine Duke says she doesn't have any doubt that the federal government can respond to Hurricane Irma and the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey simultaneously.

Duke spoke Sunday afternoon at Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters. Talking about efforts to respond to Irma in Florida and the aftermath of Harvey in Texas she says, "I know we're ready and ... I don't have any doubt ... that as a federal government we can do this and will do this."

Duke says she and FEMA chief Brock Long spoke earlier Sunday with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence and that they are "absolutely pleased with the response" and that they "understand that we're just getting started in many ways."

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2 p.m.

Some exterior paneling of AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami, home of the NBA's Heat, has been damaged by wind. The arena is near the downtown Miami location where a crane snapped as Irma pounded away Sunday. But a team official told The Associated Press that an initial investigation showed no structural damage. They'll investigate further once conditions make it safe for workers to be outside. The Heat do not play in the arena until their preseason opener on Oct. 1.

At Raymond James Stadium in Tampa - where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers play football - local, regional and statewide authorities are using the parking lots and surroundings as a staging area for high-water vehicles and equipment. On Saturday afternoon, several U.S. Marine amphibious vehicles were parked side by side, giant tanks that are ready to plunge into floodwater if needed.

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2 p.m.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott says members of his family who evacuated from Naples ahead of Hurricane Irma are leaving again now that it appears the killer storm will descend on the state capital.

Scott's wife, First Lady Ann Scott, as well as his daughter, his son-in-law and grandchildren left southwest Florida and came to the state capital. Scott owns a waterfront mansion in an area that is in the path of the hurricane.

But Scott said Sunday that his daughter and grandchildren will be leaving Tallahassee to go to Washington, D.C. His daughter just gave birth to twins. Scott said it would be "tough for them if we lose power."

The governor said he doesn't know what storm preparations have taken place at the governor's mansion, located a few blocks north of the Capitol. He said he "hasn't really been there" because he has been in other parts of the state or at the state emergency operations center.

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2 p.m.

Major General Michael Calhoun, the head of Florida's National Guard, says that more than 10,000 National Guard members from other states are going to be coming into the state.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has already called up 7,000 members of the Florida National Guard to help with recovery efforts from Hurricane Irma. Those members have been dispatched to shelters around the state and will be involved in handing out supplies in storm-ravaged areas once Irma has passed through.

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2 p.m.

Georgia's governor has declared an emergency for the entire state as Hurricane Irma's approach triggers widespread severe-weather threats, including the first-ever tropical storm warning for Atlanta.

Gov. Nathan Deal's new emergency declaration came Sunday as Irma churned near Florida. The National Hurricane Center predicted the storm's center to cross Monday into southwest Georgia, where a hurricane warning was issued for communities including Albany and Valdosta.

Portions of western Alabama and coastal South Carolina were also under tropical-storm warnings.

The National Weather Service confirmed it had never before issued a tropical-storm warning for Atlanta, where wind gusts could reach 55 mph (88 kph). Meanwhile Savannah and the rest of coastal Georgia were under evacuation orders for the second time since Hurricane Matthew brushed the region last October.

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2 p.m.

More than 500 emergency responders are sleeping on cots in the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, waiting to dispatch to areas devastated by Hurricane Irma.

The convention center had planned to host an elevator-industry gathering this weekend. Instead, more than 1,000 emergency vehicles are lined up in its halls: boats, ambulances, fork lifts, buses, 18-wheelers, fire trucks, and 62 helicopters.

Rescue teams from Florida, Colorado, New York, California and Arizona were checking their gear and resting up so that they would be prepared to hit the road as soon as the storm clears. Some of those emergency workers never even made it home from responding to Hurricane Harvey before turning around and deploying to Florida.

Sean Gallagher is with the Florida Forest Service, which is coordinating the staging operation. He says the convention center's loading dock doors will close as soon as the winds in Orlando rise to hurricane levels to protect the vehicles and responders inside and won't open again until the winds die down.

Then, rapid response teams will rush into the most devastated areas to do recognizance and triage where the rescue operations are most needed.

Until then, they are crammed in the convention center's side rooms and cots. The convention center has pallets of 13,000 ready-to-eat meals.

Aaron Janssen is a helicopter mechanic with a medical aviation company. He's sleeping in a tent next to his helicopter, with his wife and 9-year-old Chihuahua named Marley. He didn't want to leave them behind at their Orlando home while he worked.

Marley spent the day chasing a pigeon around the hangar.

"She's loving it," he said. "She hadn't figured out yet that she's never going to catch that pigeon."

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2 p.m.

Miami Beach officials say emergency services have been suspended until winds drop below 40 mph (64 kph), and no one will be allowed into the city until roads have been cleared. The city would continue a mandatory 8 p.m. curfew for the next two nights.

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2 p.m.

Actor Robert De Niro says a resort development company he is involved with on Barbuda will work with local officials to help with reconstruction on the island devastated by Hurricane Irma.

De Niro says in a statement that he was "beyond saddened to learn of the devastation" in Barbuda.

The actor is a principal in the Paradise Found Nobu Resort planned for Barbuda. Construction has not yet started on the project.

He said the company will work with local officials to "to successfully rebuild what nature has taken away from us."

Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne says 90 percent of the structures and vehicles on the small island were destroyed in the storm. A 2-year-old boy was killed. About 1,400 people live on the island and most have now been evacuated to Antigua.

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2 p.m.

The State Department says it and the Defense Department are resuming their evacuation of U.S. citizens from Sint Maarten via a military flight to Puerto Rico.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert says the department is communicating with Americans there through social media, radio, and by phone.

The department also is coordinating with AirBnB to identify and communicate with U.S. citizens not located at hotels who may have rented residences on the island.

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2 p.m.

Vice President Mike Pence says Hurricane Irma is a "storm of historic, epic proportions."

Pence spoke Sunday afternoon while visiting the headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Agency in Washington. He says that President Donald Trump has been monitoring the storm "24/7."

Pence says "the people of Florida need to know that our hearts and our prayers and all of our efforts are with them and will be with them until this storm passes."

Pence says Irma "continues to be a very dangerous storm" and he urged people to "heed the warnings of local officials" to either shelter in place or evacuate, depending on where they are.

He says Irma is a "very dangerous storm" and a "life-threatening storm."

Pence says "it's enormously important that every American in the path of this storm take the warnings of state and local officials to heart."

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1:30 p.m.

Florida Power & Light says it will be weeks, not days, before electricity is fully restored because of the damage being done by Hurricane Irma.

Spokesman Rob Gould said Sunday that an estimated 3.4 million homes and businesses will lose power once the worst of Irma reaches the Florida mainland. He expects thousands of miles (kilometers) of poles and lines will need to be replaced, particularly on the Gulf coast. As of Sunday afternoon, about 1.5 million customers were without power.

He said 17,000 restoration workers from as far away as California and Massachusetts are already stationed around the state, but it will take time to rebuild the system.

The utility covers much of the state, including most cities on the Atlantic coast and the Gulf coast south of Tampa. It does not cover Tampa and St. Petersburg, two major cities in Irma's forecast path.

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1:30 p.m.

At least 25 people in one Florida county have been arrested for violating a curfew imposed as Hurricane Irma approached the state.

Palm Beach County authorities say the arrests were made after a 3 p.m. Saturday curfew was imposed. The misdemeanor charge can carry a fine of up to $500 and potentially 60 days in jail.

Officials announced the curfew as a safety measure and to prevent looting and other crimes. They say some of those arrested could face other charges, such as drug possession or drunken driving.

The curfew will be lifted after a storm damage assessment is done.

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1:30 p.m.

A meteorologist calculates that Hurricane Irma will dump about 10 trillion gallons (38 trillion liters) of rain on Florida over a day-and-a-half time period. That's about 500,000 gallons (1.9 trillion liters) for every Florida resident.

Private meteorologist Ryan Maue of WeatherBell Analytics based his calculations on weather service forecasts. He also calculates it will dump 6 trillion gallons (23 trillion liters) on Georgia.

By comparison, Hurricane Harvey, which stalled over the Texas coast, dumped about 20 trillion gallons (76 trillion liters) on Texas and 7 trillion gallons (26 trillion liters) of rain on Louisiana in about five days. One place around Houston got more than 50 inches (130 centimeters) of rain. Irma is expected to crawl steadily through the Sunshine State.

The National Hurricane Center projects 15 to 20 inches (38 to 50 centimeters) of rain with spots up to 25 inches (64 centimeters) for the Florida Keys. Western Florida is forecast to get 10 to 15 inches of rain (25 to 38 centimeters), with as much as 20 inches (50 centimeters) in spots. The rest of Florida and southeastern Georgia is projected to get 8 to 12 inches (20 to 30 centimeters) of rain, with isolated outbursts up to 16 inches (40 centimeters).

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9:25 a.m.

Hurricane Irma has made landfall in the Florida Keys.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said the center of the massive hurricane made landfall on Cudjoe Key in the lower Florida Keys at 9:10 a.m.

Its top sustained winds are 130 mph.

Forecasters say a gust of 106 mph was reported on Big Pine Key.

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7:00 a.m.

Hundreds of thousands of people are without power in Florida as Hurricane Irma's winds and rain lash the state.

Irma's center was over water off Key West early Sunday, but places including Miami were being hit with strong winds and rain.

Florida Power & Light Company said that about 430,000 customers were without power Sunday morning. Miami-Dade County had the most outages with about 250,000. Broward County had 130,000 outages. Palm Beach County had more than 40,000 outages.

The utility said that it has mobilized crews and is working to restore power as it can.

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10:15 p.m.

The National Weather Service says the first hurricane-force wind gust has been recorded in the Florida Keys as Irma inches closer to the state.

The weather service says the Smith Shoal Light station recorded a 74 mph (119 kph) wind gust on Saturday night.

The center of Irma is headed toward the Keys and has sustained winds of 120 mph (193.11 kph).

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9:10 p.m.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center says wind gusts near hurricane strength have been recorded in the Florida Keys as the center of Irma moves closer to the state.

Forecasters said Saturday night that Marathon had reported a wind gust of 71 mph (114 kph) and sustained winds of 51 mph (82 kph). Irma is about 105 miles (170 kilometers) southeast of Key West.

It has winds of 125 mph (200 kph).

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8:15 p.m.

Prime Minister William Marlin of St. Maarten says about 1,600 tourists who were in the Dutch Caribbean territory have been evacuated and efforts are being made to move 1,200 more.

Marlin says many nations and people have offered help to St. Maarten, but weather conditions will determine how this can be coordinated.

Authorities are still trying to determine the extent of damage to the island, but he said 28 police officers lost homes during Hurricanes Irma and Jose.

The prime minister said Saturday that St. Maarten remains under curfew and looting that took place immediately after the storm has subsided.

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8 p.m.

Meteorologists say heavy rain squalls spawning tornadoes are hitting South Florida part of Hurricane Irma's leading edge.

The National Hurricane Center says a hurricane hunter airplane found Irma's winds dropped from 125 mph to 120 mph, but that's likely to soon increase again now that the center of the storm is over bathtub-warm water.

Hurricane force winds extend 70 miles (110 kilometers) out from the 30-mile (48-kilometer) wide storm eye.

Marathon International Airport recently reported a sustained wind of 48 mph (77 kilometers per hour) and a gust to 67 mph (108 kilometers per hour).

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7:30 p.m.

Hurricane Irma is starting to spin up funnel clouds and at least one tornado, leading to warnings for parts of South Florida.

The National Weather Service in Miami posted on Twitter Saturday evening that a tornado had touched the ground in the Fort Lauderdale suburb of Oakland Park. It wasn't immediately clear how much damaged was caused.

Tornado warnings have been issued for Fort Lauderdale, Coral Springs, Pompano Beach and Sunrise in Broward County, as well as parts of nearby Palm Beach and Hendry Counties.

Meanwhile, Florida Gov. Rick Scott is urging Floridians to be "patient" and not quickly rush back to their homes once Irma passes. He says the massive storm is likely to cause widespread damage and that people should stay away until they are told by local officials that they can return.

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7:10 p.m.

The center of Hurricane Irma has now cleared the Cuban coast and entered the Florida Straits, where bathtub-warm water of nearly 90 degrees (32 degrees Celsius) will enable the storm to intensify.

Irma had fallen to a Category 3 storm with 125 mph winds, but National Hurricane Center spokesman and meteorologist Dennis Feltgen says it's already showing signs at high altitudes of regaining its previous powerhouse strength and becoming better organized.

And because this storm is more than 350 miles (563 kilometers) wide, the Miami area is NOT in the clear just because Irma's eye is shifting to the west.

The forecasts even have Irma maintaining hurricane strength well into Georgia on Monday.

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6:40 p.m.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott says at least 76,000 people are without power as Irma unleashes winds and rain on the state.

Scott said Saturday night that the outages expected to grow as Irma moves closer to the state.

He warned people that the storm is life-threatening.

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6:30 p.m.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott is telling people that have been ordered to evacuate that now is the time to go.

He says this is the last chance they will have to make a good decision.

The governor says millions of people will see life-threatening winds and storm surge as Irma approaches the state.

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6:20 p.m.

President Donald Trump is cautioning people in Irma's path to "get out of its way" and not worry about possessions.

Trump says property is replaceable but lives are not, and that safety must come first.

He says the nation is grieving for those who've been killed by the powerful storm, which spent the week churning its way across the Caribbean, leaving death and destruction in its wake. Hurricane Irma is forecast to hit Florida's southern coast at daybreak Sunday.

Trump says the U.S. is as prepared as it can be for a storm as monstrous as Irma.

Trump spoke at a weekend Cabinet meeting at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland. He posted a brief video of his remarks on Twitter.

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6:05 p.m.

More than 75,000 people have flocked to shelters in Florida to escape Hurricane Irma's potentially deadly winds and storm surge.

The state said Saturday that more than 400 shelters are open, mostly in schools, churches and community centers.

A hectic scene happened outside a minor league hockey arena in southwest Florida, where thousands of people were stuck in line. Some waited for more than five hours to get inside because only two doors were open.

When rain began falling heavily, more doors were open and the 8,400 seat Germain Arena quickly filled.

More than 6 million people have been warned to evacuate.

6 p.m.

There's a wild bunch riding out Hurricane Irma inside the Key West jail.

Just ahead of Hurricane Irma, 426 inmates were evacuated by bus to lockups in Palm Beach County.

Then, things got really wild. The Monroe County Sheriff's Office runs an Animal Farm, housing 250 animals that have been abandoned, abused, confiscated or donated. And with a storm surge threatening to swamp the farm, the sheriff's office figured the jail cells are much safer for the animals.

The new population of the Key West jail includes Mo the Sloth and Kramer the Emu, along with horses, pigs, goats, sheep, tropical birds, alligators, snakes, turtles and others.

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5:45 p.m.

Authorities say they are investigating whether Irma's wind and rains contributed to a fatal crash in the Florida Keys.

Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay said Saturday that first responders patrolling during a lull in the storm found the man's truck wrapped around a tree.

The sheriff says after receiving a report of the crash, his office found a tow truck that quickly removed the truck and body for safekeeping.

The Florida Highway Patrol will investigate when it is safe. The man's identity was not released.

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French President Emmanuel Macron is coming under criticism for his government's handling of Hurricane Irma and failing to fully prepare France's Caribbean territories for its devastating blow.

Far right leader Marine Le Pen, who lost the presidency to Macron in May, accused the government Saturday of having "totally insufficient" emergency and security measures in place.

Families of stranded island residents have taken to social networks to voice similar criticism after at least nine were killed and homes destroyed across St. Martin and St. Barts.

Macron held an emergency meeting later Saturday about Irma and approaching Hurricane Jose, and Prime Minister Edouard Philippe insisted that the government's support for Irma's victims isn't "empty words."

The criticism comes as Macron's popularity has been sinking over unpopular domestic policies.

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5:20 p.m.

Hurricane Irma is done with Cuba and is slowly chugging to the Florida Keys and the state's west coast.

The National Hurricane Center extended storm surge and hurricane warnings on both sides of Florida's coasts.

The center warns the threat of catastrophic storm surge flooding is highest along the southwest coast of Florida, where 10 to 15 feet of inundation above ground level is expected.

Southwest Florida is sometimes called "surge central" by storm experts.

Irma continues to have 125 mph (200 kph) winds, but forecasters say it should regain some of its lost strength and eventually hit Florida probably as a Category 4 hurricane.

Strong hurricane-force winds will reach the Florida Keys by Sunday morning. Already Fort Lauderdale's airport reported sustained winds of 47 mph (76 kilometers per hour).

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4:20 p.m.

The general in charge of the Ohio National Guard says 7,000 soldiers from several states will be sent to Florida to help with the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

Maj. General Mark Bartman told The Associated Press Saturday that the Ohio National Guard will be part of a contingent that also includes National Guard units from Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan. The Ohio National Guard is sending as many as 3,500 Ohio soldiers.

Bartman says Ohio Guard soldiers will head to Florida starting sometime next week. It's the Ohio National Guard's first large deployment of soldiers for U.S. disaster relief since Hurricane Katrina along the Gulf Coast in 2005.

The general says Ohio Guard soldiers will be involved in varying missions that could include providing security alongside local law enforcement and helping transport stranded people to shelters.

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4:15 p.m.

Florida officials have started allowing people to drive on the shoulders of Interstate 4, the main highway that links Tampa to Orlando.

The Florida Department of Transportation and the Florida Highway Patrol announced the move on Saturday. It came in the aftermath of updated forecasts that show Hurricane Irma taking aim at Tampa.

State officials have been permitting motorists to use shoulders instead of allowing one-way flow on the state's highways. Florida has told more than 6 million to evacuate ahead of the killer storm and the mass exodus has jammed the roads.

Gov. Rick Scott has resisted calls to reverse the flow of lanes. Georgia's governor authorized one-way traffic in order to help with evacuations in that state. State officials cautioned that driving on the left-hand shoulder is only allowed when motorists are directed to do so by police and highway signs.

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4 p.m.

France's government is sending hundreds more soldiers and police to restore order to the Caribbean island of St. Martin amid looting and chaos after Hurricane Irma.

The government also told all residents to stay inside and put the island and nearby St. Barts on its highest alert level as a new storm, Hurricane Jose, bears down on the area.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced Saturday night that France is sending Foreign Legion troops, paratroopers and other reinforcements to St. Martin starting Sunday.

France already has several hundred gendarmes, soldiers and other security forces but Philippe acknowledged that they are working in difficult conditions and need help.

St. Martin saw several people killed and vast damage to homes, electricity and water supplies.

The broadcaster Francetvinfo reported Saturday that the island's jail was also destroyed and its 250 inmates are now at large.

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3:30 p.m.

Many Florida families say online retailers let them down at the worst possible moment with cancellations and no-shows ahead of powerful Hurricane Irma even before the weather deteriorated.

The Associated Press has received more than 50 complaints from South Florida families who were expecting flashlights, battery-operated radios, water bottles and first-aid kits after placing orders with online retailers.

Customers said on Saturday that they received the cancellations only after evacuations had begun in their neighborhoods and local markets' shelves had emptied. Some had placed orders as early as Monday.

Other said their packages arrived in Miami but were either stuck at a sorting facility for a few days or delayed because of problems with couriers.

A Nestle-owned water delivery company, ReadyRefresh, apologized on Twitter for service disruptions and delays.

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3 p.m.

More than 50,000 people in Florida are seeking shelter in schools, community centers and churches as Hurricane Irma nears the state.

The government-sponsored shelters were open Saturday as officials warned 6.3 million Floridians to evacuate. The storm was expected to make landfall in Florida on Sunday. Those with nowhere to turn headed to the shelters while others sought lodging at hotels or with friends and family.

Red Cross shelter coordinator Steve Bayer said most people at shelters are grateful and happy.

Steve and Judith Smith of Orlando fled their mobile home and wound up at their local middle school after all the nearby hotels were sold out.

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2:50 p.m.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is relaxing pollution controls for emergency and backup power generating facilities in the Florida Keys' Monroe County to help keep power generated during and after Hurricane Irma.

The agency on Saturday announced its decision in a press release after a request by Florida environmental officials.

The "no action assurance" letter will allow two utility-scale units in the county to operate beyond their typical operating periods.

The EPA said the extra operation may increase pollution, but that the decision is in the public interest given the emergency.

"EPA policy allows the agency to issue no action assurances in cases where it is necessary to avoid extreme risks to public health and safety and where no other mechanism can adequately address the matter," the agency's release said.

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2:20 p.m.

Forecasters expect winds of more than 110 mph (177 kph) from Hurricane Irma to smack the Florida Keys around daybreak Sunday.

Irma was lingering over the northern Cuba coast on Saturday. Its forward speed has slowed to 9 mph (15 kph) and it has yet to make the expected big northward turn toward Florida yet. Its maximum sustained winds were 125 mph (205 kph).

The U.S. National Hurricane Center's latest forecast - which still can change a bit and has a margin of error of dozens of miles - projects Irma's potent eye to make three landfalls into Florida.

First, there's a projected Sunday morning hit in the Lower Keys. Then later, after moving over water, Irma is expected to come ashore around Cape Coral or Fort Myers. From there it is predicted to steam inland go over the highly populated Tampa Bay region.

After Tampa, Irma is projected to briefly go back out to the Gulf of Mexico and then hit north of Homosassa Springs for a third landfall. In the following days, Irma is forecast to head through Florida and Georgia into Tennessee.

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2 p.m.

The White House says President Donald Trump and his Cabinet are receiving regular updates on Hurricanes Irma and Jose as they meet at the Camp David presidential retreat.

Elaine Duke, the acting homeland security secretary, is scheduled to provide a full briefing to the president and the rest of his team.

The White House adds that Trump and first lady Melania Trump are keeping everyone who has been affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma in their thoughts and prayers. They're also urging the public to closely follow safety advice from local authorities.

The president and first lady invited all Cabinet members and their spouses to the Maryland retreat for the weekend.

Besides hurricane briefings, the White House says Trump also planned to lead a discussion of the administration's priorities.

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1:50 p.m.

French ministers have decided to step up security on the Caribbean islands of St. Martin and St. Barts that were hit hard by Hurricane Irma and are now facing the approach of Hurricane Jose.

On Friday, looting and gunshots were reported on St. Martin, and a curfew was imposed there and in St. Barts until Wednesday.

According to a statement Saturday, French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb is sending two extra gendarme squadrons and some 150 soldiers. They will be there to strengthen checkpoints, reassure the public and prevent further looting and chaos.

One hundred firefighters are also being sent to the islands.

The statement also said that a tanker with water is being sent for residents without clean running water.

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1:25 p.m.

Cuban officials say Hurricane Irma has damaged crops in the rural eastern part of the country.

Civil Defense official Gergorio Torres tells reporters that authorities are still trying to tally the extent of the damage in Las Tunas province and nearby areas. He said damage seems to have been concentrated in infrastructure for crops including bananas.

Eastern Cuba is home to the island's poor, rural population. Once known for sugarcane and other crops, the agricultural industry was declining even before the hurricane.

Video images from northern and eastern Cuba show utility poles and signs uprooted by the storm and many downed trees as well as extensive damage to roofs. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

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12:55 p.m.

Georgia is bracing for potentially far-flung impacts from Hurricane Irma, which could swamp the coast with storm surge and topple trees and power lines in Atlanta.

The National Hurricane Center placed the entire Georgia coast under a hurricane watch Saturday as residents packed their cars and trickled onto the highways in six counties under a mandatory evacuation. A hurricane watch was also issued for the South Carolina coast from the Georgia line to Edisto Beach, about 40 miles (65 kilometers) southwest of Charleston.

Irma's center is forecast to enter southern Georgia far inland Monday and plow northward as a tropical storm or depression. Emergency officials expect tropical storm winds to reach Georgia's coast, where storm surges could be amplified by unusually high tides.

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12:45 p.m.

The Dutch government estimates 70 percent of houses on St. Maarten were badly damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Irma. That leaves many of the 40,000 residents reliant on public shelters as they brace for Hurricane Jose.

Interior Minister Ronald Plasterk said Saturday that Jose is forecast to track northwest of St. Maarten and will likely dump a lot of rain on buildings, many of which had roofs torn off by Irma.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the situation remains "grim" on the island where widespread looting has broken out.

Rutte says there are some 230 Dutch troops and police patrolling St. Maarten and a further 200 will arrive in coming days. Rutte issued a warning to looters that the troops and police will clamp down hard to end the lawlessness.

12:30 p.m.

Florida's governor is issuing urgent warnings to a third of his state's residents to evacuate ahead of a massive hurricane on track to be the state's most catastrophic ever.

Gov. Rick Scott says the entire west coast of Florida will likely see dangerous affects from storm surge as Hurricane Irma comes ashore Sunday. About 6.3 million of the state's approximately 21 million residents have been asked to evacuate.

During a Saturday news conference, he told those in evacuation zones: "You need to leave - not tonight, not in an hour, right now"

Scott said that the storm surge is expected to be up to 15 feet (4.5 meters) in some areas along the west coast of Florida. In the Tampa Bay area, Scott said the storm surge could be between 5 feet (1.5 meters) and 8 feet (2 meters).

Scott said: "This is the most catastrophic storm the state has ever seen."

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11:50 a.m.

Florida emergency management officials have asked another 700,000 to evacuate ahead of Hurricane Irma. That brings the total number asked to evacuate multiple states to nearly 7 million.

Florida's Division of Emergency Management said Saturday that officials have issued a mix of mandatory and voluntary evacuation orders to 6.3 million residents. The number rose overnight as the predicted path of Hurricane Irma has shifted west. It's likely to come ashore Sunday.

The size and trajectory of the storm has prompted officials to order evacuations along both coasts of Florida, including some of the state's population centers. Florida is the nation's third largest state with nearly 21 million residents.

Another 540,000 have been asked to evacuate in the eastern part of Georgia.

In South Carolina, a mandatory evacuation order was issued for eight barrier islands. That includes Hilton Head Island, the most populous of the islands with about 40,000 residents.

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8:45 a.m.

The National Hurricane Center says the eye of powerful Hurricane Irma is expected to hit southwest Florida and Tampa sometime Sunday, but the entire state will feel the storm's effects.

Hurricane Center spokesman and meteorologist Dennis Feltgen said Saturday that while Miami won't get the core of Irma it will still get life-threatening hurricane conditions.

The Category 4 storm pounded Cuba early Saturday with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph (215 kph). It was expected to strengthen before hitting Florida.

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8 a.m.

Hurricane Irma's winds have slowed slightly while it rakes Cuba, but the massive storm is expected to strengthen again as it approaches Florida.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Saturday morning that Irma remained a Category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph (215 kph). Forecasters expect the storm to pick strength back up as it moves away from Cuba.

The storm's center was about 10 miles (15 kilometers) northwest of Caibarien, Cuba. That's also about 225 miles (365 kilometers) south of Miami.

Meteorologists say damaging winds from Irma's outer bands were already arriving in South Florida. The storm was expected to reach the Florida Keys on Sunday morning before moving up the state's Gulf Coast.

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7:45 a.m.

Meteorologists say damaging winds are blowing into South Florida as Hurricane Irma approaches.

The National Weather Service said Saturday morning that damaging winds were moving into areas including Key Biscayne, Coral Gables and South Miami. Gusts of up to 56 mph (90 kph) were reported on Virginia Key off Miami as the storm's outer bands arrived.

The center of the storm was about 245 miles (395 kilometers) southeast of Miami early Saturday as it raked the northern coast of Cuba.

The latest forecast track predicts the center of the storm will move along Florida's Gulf Coast through Monday.



 
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