Gov. Scott to people defying evacuations: LEAVE!


SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) Developments on Thursday, Sept. 7, about Hurricane Irma (all times Atlantic Standard Time).

  • 3:20 p.m.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott had a stark warning for anyone who wanted to defy a mandatory evacuation order ahead of Hurricane Irma. “If you live in any evacuation zones and you’re still at home, LEAVE!” he said.

Scott said he “cannot stress this enough. Do not ignore evacuation orders. You rebuild your home — you cannot recreate your family.”

“Do not try to ride out this storm,” he said. The time to leave is now, because “we can’t save you once the storm hits,” he added.

  • 3:00 p.m.

The eye of Hurricane Irma had moved west-northwest off the Dominican Republic’s northern coast as an extremely dangerous Category 5 storm.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Irma had top sustained winds near 175 mph (280 kph) and was expected to continue moving between Hispaniola and the Turks and Caicos in the afternoon hours, on a course taking it to the southeastern Bahamas Thursday evening.

As of 2:00 p.m. EDT, Irma’s crisply defined eye was about 65 miles (105 kilometers) north-northeast of Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, moving at about 16 mph (25 kph) to the west-northwest.

In the Atlantic, Hurricane Jose had rapidly strengthened to a Category 2 hurricane with top sustained winds of 105 mph (165 kph). Jose was following Irma’s path, moving west-northwest at 18 mph (30 kph) over open ocean, about 660 miles (1,060 kilometers) east of the Lesser Antilles.

In the Gulf of Mexico, Hurricane Katia was virtually stationary, some 215 miles (345 kilometers) east of Tampico, Mexico. Forecasters said that Category 1 hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 80 mph (130 kph), should remain stationary, then approach the Mexican coast late Friday or early Saturday.

  • 2:40 p.m.

A second Dutch navy ship arrived at the shattered island of St. Maarten and was “ready to deliver aid to the population in need.”

The Dutch navy tweeted that the Pelikaan ship had moored at the island’s capital of Philipsburg to unload vital supplies. Another navy vessel, the Zeeland, was already in the area and had been using an onboard helicopter to assess damage inflicted by Hurricane Irma.

Two military aircraft were loaded in the Netherlands before flying to the island of Curacao, from where they would fly on to St. Maarten to deliver five days of food and water for the 40,000 population. The aircraft also would bring 100 more troops to deliver aid, repair infrastructure, and restore order.

  • 2:25 p.m.

Evacuation orders multiplied across Florida with local officials trying to get the most vulnerable populations to move to safety ahead of Hurricane Irma.

Miami Dade city leaders made evacuations mandatory for all of its coastal areas, barrier islands, and mobile homes. Monroe County’s mandatory order stood for the entire Florida Keys. Broward County’s order remained voluntary for mobile homes and low-lying areas. Collier County issued a voluntary evacuation order for Marco Island.

County authorities across South Florida made school buses available for people with special needs to get out.

  • 2:10 p.m.

U.S. National Hurricane Center officials said Hurricane Jose had grown into a Category 2 storm, and it threatened some of the same islands ravaged just days earlier by Hurricane Irma.

Jose was about 660 miles (1,060) kilometers east of the Lesser Antilles early Thursday afternoon, with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph (165 kph).

It was heading to the west-northwest at 18 mph (20 kph)

The Hurricane Center said a hurricane watch was in effect for Antigua and Barbuda, which was already trying to recover from Category 5 Irma.

Now Jose could approach those islands on Saturday.

  • 2:05 p.m.

The Dutch interior minister said one person was confirmed dead on the former colony of St. Maarten as a result of Irma.

Interior Minister Ronald Plasterk said there were also a number of injuries and Dutch authorities still only had an “incomplete picture” of the damage on St. Maarten, which is home to some 40,000 people and suffered severe damage as Irma barreled across on Wednesday.

Plasterk also said there had been some public order problems including instances of looting. He said the Netherlands was sending an extra 50 police from Curacao.

  • 1:55 p.m.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper issued a statewide emergency declaration and told people to be prepared statewide even though projections suggested Irma could be much weaker by the time it got there. Cooper said tropical storms can be very dangerous, and “this storm can impact any part of North Carolina — all over our state from the mountains to the coast.”

Nick Petro with the National Weather Service in Raleigh said heavy rain and inland wind damage could result in extended power outages and mountain mudslides as well as dangerous coastal surf.

More than 300 National Guard soldiers were being brought in to help, with more on standby. All highway work and lane closures were suspended to help evacuations from other states.

  • 1:50 p.m.

Billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson said he and his staff rode out Irma on his private Caribbean island without suffering injuries, but the area was heavily damaged.

The head of the Virgin Group owns small Necker island in the British Virgin Islands. He said in a blog entry that he and the staff who stayed with him in a concrete cellar on the island were safe and well.

Branson said the area surrounding his home was “completely and utterly devastated.” He said entire houses had disappeared and “I have never seen anything like this hurricane.”

Outside the cellar he said bathroom and bedroom doors and windows were blown out. He said he was communicating via a satellite phone, but all other communications were down.

  • 1:45 p.m.

Haiti’s interior minister ordered the evacuation of coastal areas in the north of the country.

That included people living in and around Port-de-Paix and the island known as Il de la Tortue.

Haiti was expected to be spared a direct hit from Irma but heavy rains and high surf could trigger dangerous floods in the impoverished country.

Interior Minister Max Rudolph Saint-Albin was urging people to move to higher ground. Shelters were set up the Civil Protection agency.

The evacuation was mandatory but Haiti does not have enough police or other officials to enforce evacuation orders and the number of people who left vulnerable areas was not known.

  • 1:35 p.m.

Cuba’s civil defense agency prepared people on the northern coast of Cuba’s eastern provinces for a sideswipe from Irma.

Santiago province opened 125 evacuation centers that can hold 38,000 people. Another 20,000 people can take refuge with neighbors and family in safer zones.

Civil Defense representative Odesa Fuentes said the centers would be open for the duration of the storm’s passage on Friday.

  • 1:30 p.m.

President Donald Trump said “we are with the people of Florida” as Irma drew near.

Speaking in the Oval Office, Trump said his administration was “very concerned” as the record hurricane approached the U.S. mainland, but he said “we think we’re as well prepared as you can possibly be.”

The president said he hoped the storm wouldn’t hit Florida directly.

“We are with the people of Florida,” he said.

  • 1:10 p.m.

As NASA personnel secured Kennedy Space Center for potentially catastrophic wind and rain, the private SpaceX company squeezed out a rocket launch.

Kennedy was closing its doors to all nonessential staff, effective Friday. Of 9,000 workers, a hurricane crew of 120 people would ride out Irma on site.

Most critical buildings can withstand gusts up to about 135 mph (217 kph), but Irma’s winds could well exceed that if the storm’s center reaches Cape Canaveral.

Space center workers rushed to stack sandbags at doorways and cover the Orion capsule scheduled to launch in two years on a brand new NASA rocket.

Meanwhile, SpaceX managed to launch an unmanned Falcon rocket carrying an Air Force minishuttle bound for a long experimental flight in orbit.

  • 1:00 p.m.

Georgia’s governor ordered a mandatory evacuation starting Saturday from the state’s Atlantic coast ahead of Irma. The order includes the city of Savannah.

Gov. Nathan Deal issued the evacuation for all areas east of Interstate 95, all of Chatham County, and some areas west of the interstate. He also expanded a state of emergency to 30 counties.

Deal’s order authorized about 5,000 Georgia National Guard members to be on active duty to help people respond and recover.

Georgia hasn’t been hit by a hurricane with winds Category 3 or higher since 1898.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, also declared a state of emergency. A major strike there would be the first in nearly 28 years.

  • 12:40 p.m.

There have been very few cyclones stronger than Hurricane Irma. And there have been some that lasted longer. But no other storm in recorded history has maintained top winds of 185 p.m. for 37 hours.

Colorado State University hurricane expert Phil Klotzbach said that breaks the previous record, held by Typhoon Haiyan, which had similar top winds for 24 hours before it hit the Philippines and killed 6,000 people in 2013.

Irma also has been the most intense Atlantic hurricane on record outside the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, measured by its barometric pressure of 914 millibars.

  • 12:30 p.m.

Governor Rick Scott urged all gas stations in Florida to stay open as long as possible to accommodate evacuees.

Scott announced that police escorts would get gas station employees out safely if necessary just ahead of the hurricane.

He said authorities were already escorting fuel tankers through traffic and to gas stations as quickly as possible.

Scott said all of the state’s ports were still operating, bringing in fuel and supplies.

He urged residents to take only as much gas as they needed to make sure there was enough for everyone who needs it.

  • 12:15 p.m.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said four people were confirmed dead and about 50 injured on the Caribbean island of St. Martin after Hurricane Irma.

The prime minister said one person had life-threatening injuries and two others were in serious condition.

Philippe said four bodies were found on St. Martin and were being identified. The island is part French, part Dutch, and Dutch authorities have not reported any casualties.

An official in Philippe’s office said the toll could rise when rescuers reached the scene. Philippe said large amounts of aid and equipment were en route to St. Martin and nearby St. Barts.

  • 11:55 a.m.

French President Emmanuel Macron said he would visit French territories damaged by Hurricane Irma, “as soon as the weather allows.”

Speaking in Athens, Macron said he decided not to call off his two-day visit to Greece because prevailing weather conditions would have prevented a flight to the French territories, and an emergency government meeting in Paris was concluded before he left.

Irma has affected French, British and Dutch Caribbean territories.

  • 11:45 a.m.

Florida Governor Rick Scott said his state was doing all it could to relieve fuel shortages and traffic jams to keep people evacuating ahead of the hurricane.

Scott acknowledged that empty gas pumps, long lines, and crowded highways were “frustrating” for Floridians. But he said his administration was working with federal authorities and other states to move as much gas into Florida as they could.

This included having the Florida Highway Patrol escort fuel trucks through any traffic.

Florida Highway Safety spokeswoman Beth Frady said troopers escorted trucks from two Florida ports to stations in Marion and Martin counties overnight, and also were escorting trucks from Georgia to stations in Perry, in north central Florida near where Interstate 75 crosses Interstate 10.

  • 11:35 a.m.

Britain was sending hundreds of troops and the Royal Navy flagship HMS Ocean to its overseas islands battered by Hurricane Irma.

Britain had already sent one ship, RFA Mount Bay, to Anguilla, which took the full force of the storm.

Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said he ordered HMS Ocean to head to the Caribbean from the Mediterranean. Fallon also said the U.K. was sending “a task group of several hundred troops, marines, engineers, and additional helicopters.”

British authorities were being criticized for being slow to send aid to territories in the storm’s path, but Fallon said “we are going to make sure the islands get the help they need.”

Irma has hit the British territories Anguilla, Montserrat, the British Virgin Islands, and Turks and Caicos.

  • 11:30 a.m.

Dutch airline KLM cancelled two flights to the hurricane-shattered island of St. Maarten while authorities struggled to assess the extent of the devastation to many buildings, including the airport.

KLM said in a statement the cancelled flights had been scheduled to leave the Netherlands on Friday and Sunday for St. Maarten in the aftermath of Irma’s direct hit on the island on Wednesday.

The carrier said it is “keeping a close eye on the situation and, based on the circumstances, will decide whether operations can be resumed.”

The airline said it was in contact with the Dutch government and local authorities to seek a solution for passengers stranded amid the devastation.

  • 11:20 a.m.

Irma flooded parts of the Dominican Republic as it roared by just off the northern coast of the island it shares with Haiti.

Officials said about 500 tourists in the Bavaro-Punta Cana area were moved to more secure shelters just ahead of the Category 5 storm.

Civil Defense Director Rafael Carrasco said a landslide in the Samana Peninsula affected eight houses and more than 2,500 people were evacuated.

Punta Cana airport reopened after being closed for several hours.

Haiti’s northern coast was up next, but Irma’s stronger winds had yet to reach that side of the island of Hispaniola.

  • 11:00 a.m.

A hurricane watch was posted for the Florida Keys and parts of South Florida.

The U.S. Hurricane Center in Miami stated the watch was issued for the Florida Keys, and on the South Florida mainland from Jupiter Inlet southward and around the peninsula to Bonita Beach.

The center noted that Irma was still an “extremely dangerous” Category 5 hurricane, although its winds had decreased slightly from 180 mph to 175 mph.

The hurricane was headed for the Turks and Caicos Islands.

The Hurricane Center predicted Irma would remain at Category 4 or 5 for the next day or two as it passed the Turks and Caicos, parts of the Bahamas by Thursday night, and then skirt Cuba on Friday night into Saturday.

It will then likely head north toward Florida, where people were rushing to board up homes, fill cars with gasoline, and find a route to safety.

  • 10:45 a.m.

As thousands of Florida residents begin evacuating and others hunkered down to ride out the approaching monster hurricane, SpaceX stuck with its long-planned launch of a super-secret Air Force space shuttle.

An unmanned Falcon rocket blasted off from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center. It’s the fifth flight for one of these crewless mini shuttles, known as the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle.

The two Air Force space planes have already logged a combined 5 1/2 years in orbit. But officials wouldn’t say what the spacecraft were doing up there. The last mission lasted almost two years and ended with a May touchdown at the runway formerly used by NASA’s space shuttles.

As usual, SpaceX aims to land its leftover booster back at Cape Canaveral for eventual reuse.

This was the first time SpaceX has provided a lift for the experimental mini-shuttle.

  • 10:00 a.m.

More than 1 million people in Puerto Rico were without power — nearly 70 percent of customers of Puerto Rico’s Electric Power Authority. Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rossello said crews were investigating and until they knew the extent of the damage, “it will be difficult to estimate how long the power outage will last.”

Rossello added that ports on the island were still closed, and it was unclear when commercial flights would resume.

Schools and government offices were scheduled to reopen on Monday.

  • 9:00 a.m.

Airports in the Bahamas were shutting down with Hurricane Irma approaching.

The government said the international airport in Nassau would close late Thursday and it urged people who planned to leave the island chain east of Florida to check with airlines for space.

Grand Bahama’s airport and the less-populated island throughout the chain would close by noon Friday.

  • 9:00 a.m.

President Donald Trump urged people to “be careful, be safe” during Hurricane Irma.

Trump tweeted that Irma “is raging but we have great teams of talented and brave people already in place and ready to help.”

Hurricane Irma has cut a path of devastation across the northern Caribbean, leaving at least 10 dead and thousands homeless. The storm could also make a catastrophic strike on Florida.

Trump said on Wednesday the storm “looks like it could be something that could be not good, believe me, not good.”

  • 8:15 a.m.

French President Emmanuel Macron said France was “grief-stricken” by the devastation caused by Irma, and he called for concerted efforts to tackle global warming and climate change to prevent similar future natural disasters.

Speaking during a visit to Greece, Macron said the planet’s situation must be stabilized and that leaders must make take steps to combat global warming “so we can avoid such natural disasters in the future.”

  • 7:50 a.m.

The Florida Highway Patrol said troopers were monitoring the high volume of traffic heading north on Florida’s Turnpike as people evacuated South Florida.

In a news release, the highway patrol said extra troopers, road rangers, and wreckers would be on the roadways to help drivers whose vehicles became disabled.

The agency said disabled vehicles left on the shoulders of the highways would be towed to make it easier for emergency workers who were trying to reach crash victims.

Turnpike officials were also using cameras along the road to monitor conditions.

  • 7:15 a.m.

Dutch Ministry of Defense officials said two military aircraft would fly to the Caribbean island of Curacao on Thursday afternoon loaded with relief supplies and troops to help authorities on former Dutch colony St. Maarten recover from the devastation of Hurricane Irma.

Ministry officials said the troops being sent to the region “can also be used to restore public order.”

Interior Minister Ronald Plasterk said he could not confirm news reports of looting in Saint Maarten, where a curfew was in force in the aftermath of Wednesday’s storm.

The ministry said a KDC-10 and a C-130 Hercules were to fly to Curacao from a military air base in the southern Dutch city of Eindhoven. The Hercules would then be used to ferry supplies to St. Maarten because it should be able to land at the badly damaged Princess Juliana Airport

The planes would carry enough food and water to supply the 40,000-strong population for five days.

  • 6:50 a.m.

The U.K. government stated Irma inflicted “severe and in places critical” damage to the British overseas territory of Anguilla.

Foreign Office Minister Alan Duncan said the Caribbean island took the full force of the category 5 hurricane.

He told lawmakers the British Virgin islands also suffered “severe damage.” On another British territory, Monsterrat, the damage was “not as severe as first thought.”

Duncan said the hurricane was expected to hit another British overseas territory, Turks and Caicos.

Britain dispatched a Royal Navy ship carrying marines and army engineers to the affected islands.

  • 6:45 a.m.

The Dutch prime minister said Category 5 Hurricane Irma was a storm of “epic proportions” when it slammed into the former Dutch colony of Saint Maarten in the Caribbean and he appealed to Dutch citizens to donate to a relief fund set up by the Red Cross.

Speaking Thursday after a meeting of the government’s crisis committee, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said there were no reports yet of casualties on the Dutch side of the island. Rutte said the damage was huge, particularly on Saint Maarten, with “widescale destruction of infrastructure, houses and businesses.”

“There is no power, no gasoline, no running water. Houses are under water, cars are floating through the streets, inhabitants are sitting in the dark, in ruined houses and are cut off from the outside world,” Rutte said.

The Dutch military was readying two aircraft to fly to the region to distribute vital aid to the shattered territory, which is home to some 40,000 people. However, the airport on the Dutch side of the island was badly damaged.

  • 5:15 a.m.

The eye of Hurricane Irma was moving west-northwest off the Dominican Republic’s northern coast as the Category 5 storm continued its destructive path over the Caribbean.

French authorities announced at least eight people died on Saint-Martin.

As of 5:00 a.m. EDT, the hurricane was centered about 95 miles north of Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, and was moving at about 17 mph with maximum sustained winds near 180 mph.

Meanwhile, in the Gulf of Mexico, Hurricane Katia prompted a hurricane warning in Mexico in the state of Veracruz. That hurricane was centered about 195 miles northeast of Veracruz, Mexico. A U.S. National Hurricane Center official said the storm was stationary with little overall motion expected though late Thursday.

  • 12:30 a.m.

Hurricane Irma blacked out much of Puerto Rico when the dangerous Category 5 storm raked the U.S. territory with heavy wind and rain while staying just out to sea.

Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne said nearly every building on Barbuda was damaged when the hurricane’s core crossed almost directly over the island early Wednesday and about 60 percent of the island’s roughly 1,400 people were rendered homeless.

He said a 2-year-old child was killed as a family tried to escape a damaged home during the storm.