Category 4 Nears Irma-Devastated Caribbean

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This will facilitate the northward turn and allow Irma to return over very warm waters in the Florida Straits and Florida Keys. It's winds are now at 130 miles per hour (215 km/h), weakened some over land, but the NHC expect it to strengthen once again when it distances itself from Cuba in route to Florida.

A combination of many factors, experts said on Friday, set the stage for Irma's formation and helped the storm achieve its full thermodynamic potential, creating the monster tropical cyclone that wreaked havoc on the eastern Caribbean and may inflict widespread damage on Florida.

Even that, however, could bring risky flash flooding and storm surges in many populated areas, BBC's Havana correspondent said. "You will not survive", he told a news conference.

Irma - one of the fiercest Atlantic storms in a century - walloped Cuba's northern coast early Saturday morning, thrashing Camaguey Archipelago with 160mph winds. But in Florida, Thorpe says, "We don't shovel snow".

"With a 97-year-old, there was no way I was going to have her sleep on a cot or a blow-up mattress" in a shelter, she said.

But it was nothing like the force delivered by deadly Hurricane Irma, which battered many islands, including Barbuda, just days ago.

It had whipped the Florida Keys island chain early Sunday as a Category Four storm, packing maximum sustained winds of 210km/h. However, the government has moved hundreds of thousands of residents, as well as tourists away from areas by the coast.

"This is a lovely town but now it is a disaster", a local resident of the coastal town of Villa Clara told Reuters. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that the territory lacks power, gas and running water. "We are getting lifesaving aid now to those who need it".

"If you've been ordered to evacuate and are still home, please go", Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Friday.

Assuming that the hurricane hits Florida as projected, this will be the fourth category 5 storm to ever barrel into US mainland. Irma is expected to strengthen as it crosses just over 100 miles from the north coastline of Cuba. Stay tuned for more updates on Hurricane Jose.

McMaster said officials will continue monitoring the storm and may opt for another course of action if conditions change and circumstances warrant.

But the island nation caught a lucky break as Jose turned and missed both islands, Sir Ronald Sanders, ambassador to the United States from Antigua and Barbuda, said Saturday.

Amid the exodus, almost one-third of all gas stations in Florida's metropolitan areas were out of gasoline, with scattered outages in Georgia, North Carolina and SC, according to Gasbuddy.com, a retail fuel price tracking service. Evacuation flights were suspended Saturday due to the weather.

The governor of the British Virgin Islands, Gus Jaspert, issued a recorded message to residents, saying he had declared a state of emergency.

Civil Defence Col. Luis Angel Macareno warned that the flooding in Havana would persist for more than 36 hours.

Alerts for Barbuda, Sint Maarten, St. Martin and St. Barthelemy, also known as St. Barts, have been downgraded from a hurricane storm warning to a tropical storm warning.

Tampa has not been struck by a major hurricane since 1921, when its population was about 10,000, National Hurricane Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen said.

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