After hitting the north coast of Cuba on Friday, Hurricane Irma
headed directly for south Florida on Saturday afternoon, forcing millions to evacuate.
At 11 a.m. Eastern time, the National Hurricane Center warned
of "an imminent danger of life-threatening storm surge flooding" and predicted "10 to 15 feet of inundation above ground level" along the southwest coast of the state. There have been at least 25 reported deaths in the Caribbean islands hit by Irma earlier this week.
An incredible 6.3 million people have been ordered to evacuate the southern half of Florida — perhaps the largest evacuation in U.S. history — clogging interstates and other roads
throughout the area. Florida Governor Rick Scot
t previously told residents
of southwest Florida to stay put if they hadn't already evacuated by noon today.
Arkansas Times contributor David Ramsey and his family were among those forced to flee. They're sheltering in Gainesville — well away from the coasts and the deadly storm surge, though the city could still receive hurricane-force winds. Gainesville is packed with evacuees, Dave reports, though most people are headed farther north; police are being stationed at gas stations, which are rapidly running out of fuel.
Meanwhile, Hurricane Jose strengthened to a Category 4
in the Atlantic, though the most recent forecasts predict the core of the storm may miss the Caribbean islands just devastated by Irma.
Irma will likely make landfall in the Florida Keys Sunday morning, where winds from the massive hurricane's outer edge are already causing damage. Retweeted by the National Weather Service in Key West: