Irma closes in with Tampa in the crosshairs

Irma Weakens to Category 1, Still Dangerous

Irma Weakens to Category 1, Still Dangerous

Dark clouds are seen as hurricane Irma approaches in Miami, Florida.

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey ravaging the Gulf Coast, Tropical Storm Irma caused severe destruction in the Caribbean Friday and Saturday.

Irma is expected to strike the Florida Keys late Saturday and Sunday before moving inland to Georgia and SC, according to the US National Hurricane Center.

Traffic was heavy on roads leading out of Florida and emergency shelters started filling up after officials warned of "major life-threatening impacts from coast to coast" across the peninsula, which is home to 20 million people.

Extreme weather conditions are expected to begin in Florida on Saturday, and the storm's risky eye will move from the Florida Keys up its western coast, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Lowry said her group ventured out briefly with a vehicle on Friday after the storm passed to assess the damage.

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

The hurricane is about 140 miles southeast of Key West, Florida, with maximum sustained winds of 125 miles per hour, according to forecasters.

Global Affairs Canada said it is closely monitoring the progress of Irma, as well as Hurricane Jose, which was gearing up to hit the same region in the coming days.

Some 18 to 25 inches (46-64cm) of rain could hit some parts of the state and the entire west coast is at risk of storm surges of between 10 and 15ft (3-4.6m).

At least five people have died in British overseas territories, according to media reports on Saturday, including one on the island of Anguilla and another four on the British Virgin Islands. The islands are heavily dependent on tourism to sustain their economies.

"We are now preparing shelters to receive not only South Carolinians, but also our friends from Florida and Georgia, as they should be needed", McMaster said at a press conference Saturday. "The message has been clear: The Keys are going to be impacted".

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Tens of thousands of people huddling in shelters watched for updates as the storm swung to the west, now potentially sparing Tampa as well Miami the catastrophic head-on blow forecasters had been warning about for days.

Browne estimated the damage will cost $100 million to fix on the island of 1,800 residents.

By late morning Saturday, however, few businesses in St. Petersburg and its barrier islands had put plywood or hurricane shutters on their windows, and some locals grumbled about the change in the forecast.

"I don't think it takes a rocket scientist to know that further damage is imminent", said Inspector Frankie Thomas of the Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda.

This is the prospect facing the battered islands of the northern Caribbean as Hurricane Jose strengthened late on Friday to "almost a Category 5 hurricane" headed for the islands picking up the pieces following the passage of Hurricane Irma.

Medical supplies and other aid are being flown from the United Kingdom to the areas worst affected by Irma following a £32m pledge from the British Government.

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