Hurricane and Storm Surge Warnings as Irma Hurtles Towards Florida, Killing 14 in the Caribbean

The United States National Hurricane Center has issued hurricane and storm surge warnings for South Florida and the Florida Keys, as the possibility of Irma making a “major impact” on Florida has increased. Mandatory evacuations have been ordered.

The Category 5 storm (the highest level a storm can have) is hurtling towards the US mainland, leaving destruction in its path – 14 have been killed so far in the Caribbean and buildings and airports have been destroyed (95% of Barbuda’s buildings were damaged); 1 million in Puerto Rico were left without power, 50,000 without water… as homes and hospitals have been flattened, cars flipped and trees ripped out of the ground.

According to reports, the Trump administration has done “everything possible” to co-ordinate on a federal, state and local level to prepare the region for what could be America’s worst natural disaster. The National Guard has been activated and states of emergency have been declared in Florida, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

President Donald Trump tweeted: “I encourage EVERYONE in the path of #HurricaneIrma to heed the advice and orders of local & state officials!”

Earlier he said: “Hurricane Irma is raging but we have great teams of talented and brave people already in place and ready to help. Be careful, be safe! #FEMA”

The storm – with winds as high as 290km/hour – is expected to become a Category 4 Hurricane when it makes landfall in Florida on Saturday morning.

At 09h45 SA time, Irma was barreling towards the Bahamas.

The image below shows just how massive #HurricaneIrma is, with a comparison to 1992’s Hurricane Andrew. According to Al Jazeera it is the size of France!

Watch witnesses survey the destruction:

Meanwhile a photo of the South African expat in Canada who appeared to ignore an oncoming tornado is being used in hurricane memes on Twitter:

For all the South Africans in Florida (and everyone else too!) – please be safe. Our thoughts are with you.