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Hurricane Irma is on South Florida’s doorstep, with the Florida Keys potentially facing one of the worst storms in its history. Rains are pouring into Miami-Dade County, and tens of thousands do not have power. Gov. Rick Scott told those in evacuation zones to leave immediately Saturday morning. Cuba was pounded by a Category 5 storm, which later weakened to a Cat 3 en route to Florida, though it could strengthen somewhat again in the Florida Straits. Along with the Keys, Florida’s Gulf Coast appears to be most at risk. But Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties will be hit hard, too.
Stay with the Miami Herald for all the latest news on Saturday.
Irma is a Cat 4 again
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2 a.m.: Irma has restrengthened to a Category 4 hurricane, with maximum wind speeds of 130 mph. It remains bound for Key West and is expected to get a little stronger over the warm waters of the Florida Straits.
— PATRICIA MAZZEI
Reports of water rising along coastal Miami-Dade
1:40 a.m.: Local TV news crews outdoors in the storm are reporting flooding in downtown Miami and waves lapping over bayfront roads in Northeast Miami-Dade, including in Miami Shores. Power lines, trees and branches are down across South Florida; all 29,000 Keys Energy Services customers lost power at about 11 p.m.
— PATRICIA MAZZEI
Air Force rescuers from Alaska outrace Irma to Florida
1:34 a.m.: Hurricane Irma hadn’t even reached the southernmost tip of Florida when help arrived from the northernmost tip of the United States: A U.S. Air Force rescue squadron landed at the Coast Guard’s Miami air station from Anchorage, Alaska.
For combat situations, pararescuemen with the 212th Rescue Squadron, an Alaska Air National Guard Unit, are trained to pluck isolated personnel from enemy territory and carry out various recovery missions. In peacetime, for example in the aftermath of an assault by Hurricane Irma, they can also fly helicopters to evacuate survivors of natural disaster, move the sick and injured — and deliver relief supplies.
Saturday, the unit arrived in an Air Force HC-130 cargo plane at the Miami Coast Guard’s Opa-locka airfield with pallets of gear to await their Irma mission.
— CAROL ROSENBERG
Before Irma, no Cat 5 had landed in Cuba since 1932
12:42 a.m.: Irma is the first Category 5 hurricane since 1932 whose eye made landfall in Cuba, meteorologist José Rubiera said on Cuba television Saturday. Dictator Gerardo Machado was in power and Americans had just elected President Franklin D. Roosevelt to pull the nation out of the Great Depression.
Irma made landfall Friday in Cayo Romano in northern Camagüey province at 9 p.m. The 1932 hurricane struck Camagüey also, but from the south.
Cubadebate, the Cuban government media website, said that more than 1 million people had been evacuated from low-lying areas in the central Cuban provinces first placed under a state of alert. That number is expected to grow as western provinces were added to the alert list.
Instead of curving toward the north as soon as anticipated and staying off the Cuban coast, Irma continued a relentless march west across northern Cuba late into the evening Saturday.
— MIMI WHITEFIELD
Nearly one out of 10 Miami-Dade, Broward homes without power
12:01 a.m.: Nearly one out of 10 homes and businesses in Miami-Dade and Broward County were in the dark as of 11 p.m. Saturday.
In Miami-Dade, 109,320 out of a total 1.1 million customers had lost power — almost a 50 percent increase since 6 p.m., when 57,170 had no electricity.
In Broward, 49,210 out of 933,300 customers were without juice, up from 25,890 at 6 p.m
Palm Beach County is faring better with 9,880 out of 739,000 customers without power, although that number too is more than double from the 6 p.m. total of 3,260.
— RENE RODRIGUEZ
Latest advisory: Irma crawling away from Cuba
11 p.m.: Irma remains a Category 3 storm, with maximum winds at 120 mph, as it inches away from the northern coast of Cuba. Its Cuban landfall “appears to have affected the hurricane’s structure and intensity,” according to the National Hurricane Center.
Irma ticked further west. The forecast continues to call for some storm strengthening before it arrives in the Florida Keys on Sunday morning.
— PATRICIA MAZZEI
Where ultra-luxury vehicles parked in Sunny Isles
Where do you park a $15 million car during a hurricane?
Here’s one thing we have in common with the mega-wealthy: They, too, stress out over where to park their cars during a hurricane.
Prestige Imports, the dealer of ultra-luxury vehicles specializing in brands such as Lamborghini, Pagani, Lotus and Ferrari, reached out to developer Gil Dezer on Tuesday to ask if they could use the vacant penthouse at the Porsche Design Tower, the Sunny Isles Beach where owners can use elevators to park their cars inside their luxury condos.
The four-story penthouse — asking price $32.5 million — is large enough to fit 11 cars.
The 10 cars Prestige tucked away inside the 56th-floor pad are worth a combined total of $25 million: Two Pagani Huayras ($2.8 million each), a Pagani Zonda HP Barchetta ($15 million), a Ferrari LaFerrari ($3.8 million), a Mercedes Benz SLR 722S convertible ($1 million), a 1989 Lamborghini Countach ($700,000) and a 1967 Shelby GT500 Fastback ($300,000).
— RENE RODRIGUEZ
No more emergency services available in Key Biscayne
10:39 p.m.: Key Biscayne warned residents no emergency services are available on the island as of 9:45 p.m.
“The Remaining Public Safety Emergency Assets are Leaving Key Biscayne,” the village wrote in an earlier email alert.
— PATRICIA MAZZEI
Hurricane-force wind gust recorded in Keys
10:31 p.m.: The first hurricane-force wind gust from Irma has been recorded in the Florida Keys, according to the National Weather Service: 74 mph in Key West.
— ASSOCIATED PRESS
Gov. Scott on storm surge threat: ‘How do you survive that?’
10:22 p.m.: TALLAHASSEE — After a fifth frenetic day crisscrossing the state attempting to brace the public for the unimaginable, Gov. Rick Scott conceded Saturday his greatest fear is that people won't heed his warnings.
“The thing that has caused me the biggest concern is I don’t think anybody has realized the impact of this storm surge,“ the governor said at a press conference at the state's Emergency Operations Center on the eve of Hurricane Irma's scheduled landfall.
He had recited the forecast: the core will move across the Keys early Saturday morning and go across our state on Sunday; it will impact Northwest Florida on Monday; the Keys will see direct impact of the eye of the storm; 8 to 15 inches of rain will douse the entire state, with up to 25 inches in the Keys; the west coast will see storm surge of up to 15 feet beginning Sunday; Tampa will see a surge of 5 to 8 feet and the Big Bend area will see a surge of 3 to 6 feet.
“My hometown, Naples, 15 feet above ground level — how do you survive that?'' Scott asked.
Scott evacuated his wife, daughter, son-in-law, and four grandsons to the Governor’s Mansion in Tallahassee on Friday after forecasts had the most severe projections of the menacing floods moving into the heart of Naples, where he owns a beachfront mansion.
As the governor stood surrounded by members of the Florida National Guard, he warned that millions in Florida were already experiencing the tropical storm winds, tornadoes are possible in South Florida Saturday night and in Central Florida on Sunday, and 15 inches of rain will deluge most of the state.
— MARY ELLEN KLAS
Key West is ‘like the Titanic right now’
9:40 p.m.: KEY WEST — Hurricane Irma began to barrage Key West with powerful winds and driving rain on Saturday night, downing trees, knocking out electricity, sparking a brief tornado warning and grounding a sailboat against rocks.
The worst was still hours away.
But the storm nevertheless scattered the homeless men who vowed to ride out Irma in the storefronts of Duval Street. One of them wore only trunks, flippers and a snorkel mask most of the day. The only person who remained, drenched but oblivious to the rain, was a homeless woman who spent the entire day sweeping up branches — and she refused to go to the shelter of last resort at Key West High.
“I have a plan,” the woman said.
As of 8 p.m. Saturday, Irma was still about 175 miles southeast of Key West but felt dreadfully close.
At La Concha hotel, widely considered the safest and highest structure on Key West, Marty North puffed on a cigarette outside a side-street lobby and watched the winds whistling down Duval. He and his partner, Chris Bradley, live in an old but unsafe Conch home, and they got lucky to get a room at La Concha — rooms that opened up when TV reporters packed up and left ahead of the storm.
“Let’s see what happens,” North said, dragging on a cigarette. “All I know is that I’m alive right now, and I don’t know if I’ll be able to this in 24 hours.”
— DAVID OVALLE
Latest advisory shows Cuba slowed Irma, which is expected to hit Keys by dawn
9:09 p.m.: Slowed to a crawl by a violent encounter with the island of Cuba, Hurricane Irma nonetheless pressed on toward the Florida Keys Saturday night, with a landfall expected sometime Sunday morning.
Irma’s speed was cut in half and its intensity dramatically declined as it hammered Cuba, but the National Hurricane Center’s 8 p.m. advisory nonetheless warned that the decline is only temporary.
“Irma is forecast to restrengthen once it moves away from Cuba and remain a powerful hurricane as it approaches Florida,” the advisory said. As its 7 mph speed picks up, Irma could cover the 110 miles to Key West in a relatively short time.
From there, it will take a north-by-northwest track up Florida’s Gulf Coast, the hurricane center said. Miami and Fort Lauderdale have likely escaped the worst of its wrath, but the Tampa-St. Petersburg area — which hasn’t suffered a direct hit from a powerful hurricane in more than 90 years — may not be so lucky.
— JENNY STALETOVICH, CHARLES RABIN AND GLENN GARVIN
Tampa is incredibly vulnerable to Irma’s storm surge
9:02 p.m.: As the projected path of Hurricane Irma shifts to Southwest Florida, it threatens to hit the nation’s most vulnerable target for storm surge: Tampa.
Tampa is especially prone to flooding because it is low lying with a big bay and inlets that face the shallow, warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. And just about every Gulf Coast community in Irma’s track, from Everglades City to Sarasota, is also at high risk.
Tampa leaders are all too aware of this scary natural phenomenon.
“Storm surge is real. I think it’s ‘You run from the water and hide from the wind.’” Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman said, urging residents to take all precautions at an emergency briefing on Saturday.
“Well, you better run from this water because if that storm surge hits six to nine feet, I know I'm going to have six feet in my house.”
Tampa — Florida’s second largest metro area — has been rated as the nation's most vulnerable city to a major storm surge with estimated property losses of $175 billion in the event of a 100-year hurricane, according to a Boston company that specializes in assessing the risk of catastrophes.
In Tampa, the 100-year hurricane would be a Category 4 storm with winds as high as 150 miles per hour. Irma, whose peak winds were clocked at 125 miles per hour on Saturday, is a Category 3.
— JAY WEAVER AND CHLOE HERRING
Emergency power crews spend Irma at Florida hockey arena
8:55 p.m.: Steve Trouslot’s crew left Grand Rapids, Michigan, early Wednesday morning.
They didn’t know where they were going and only knew they were headed south to whatever locale Hurricane Irma led them.
On Saturday afternoon, Trouslot and dozens of trucks from Newkirk Electric joined a growing staging area in the massive parking lots at BB&T Center in Sunrise, home of the Florida Panthers.
“We’re going to hunker down for the storm, and when it clears, we will go where FP&L tells us,” said Trouslot, who said he has been going to areas hit by storms for 20 years.
“There’s always a million questions when you get called,” he said. “Where are we going, where are we going to eat, where do we sleep? Sometimes it’s the Marriott; sometimes it’s the Marri-not.”
Large trucks began filing into the hockey arena on the edge of the Everglades on Friday, followed by many more on Saturday.
Hundreds more are on the way.
The Panthers have 2,500 cots set up throughout their concourses and concession areas for the workers, with Florida Power & Light providing food.
— GEORGE RICHARDS
It wasn’t your imagination: Miami dumped more trash ahead of Irma
8:45 p.m.: If Hurricane Irma proved anything about South Florida, it’s this: We got garbage. Lots of it.
With the massive and potentially catastrophic hurricane moving slowly all week toward the peninsula, people produced thousands of tons of waste — from yard clippings (that’s a no-no, for the record) to water heaters — for trash collectors to haul away.
In the city of Miami alone, people dumped some 650 to 750 tons of garbage a day as Irma approached, according to Solid Waste Director Mario Nuñez. To handle it all — and ensure trash didn’t become projectiles when winds picked up — his 300 employees were forced to work long hours.
“Typically, we collect around 360 tons per day. Our numbers, being on the conservative side, have doubled or tripled on a daily basis,” he said. “That also includes the numbers from our mini dump facility. The lines were as long as the gas stations.”
— DAVID SMILEY
Miami asks cops to stay home if roads are dangerous
8:10 p.m.: The city of Miami has called off police officers from reporting to duty as planned if they can’t make it to work safely.
The police department intended for cops on so-called “Bravo” shifts to relieve colleagues on the “Alpha” shift who had been working all day. Police departments institute round-the-clock Alpha/Bravo schedules in emergencies like hurricanes.
But Deputy Chief Luis Cabrera said police brass were concerned about asking officers to drive in poor weather Saturday night.
— DAVID SMILEY
Tornado warning issue for parts of Miami-Dade and Broward
8:00 p.m.: A tornado warning has been extended until at least 8:15 p.m. for parts of Miami-Dade and Broward counties.
Hollywood, Pembroke Pines, Miramar and Richmond Heights were added to the warning list by the National Weather Service in Miami after a pair of tornadoes were registered in Oakland Park and Wilton Manors.
— RENE RODRIGUEZ
Irma no match for legendary Miami Beach runner
7:42 p.m.: Robert "Raven" Kraft, the local legend who has run eight miles on the Beach every single day since Jan. 1, 1975, wasn't going to let Irma keep him home.
He's run through Andrew. Katrina and Wilma.
Irma's bigger. But not for Raven.
Though he was minus most of the group that customarily surrounds him as he does the daily exercise he's managed for nearly 43 years, Raven made his famous run Saturday afternoon.
"Workout done at the pull up bars, filmed by Channel 5 in Chicago ... Now on to a bigger challenge, the run, probably a 2:30pm start," he announced on Facebook.
Sure enough, there's Raven, touching the fence at the South Pointe pier and turning north to complete his run. Raven doesn't even stop forward motion for a quick chat with Adam Kuperstein, the former NBC6 anchor who is now with NBC's New York affiliate and back in Miami to report on Irma.
Kuperstein, like thousands before him over the years, has to take a quick "Raven Run" to talk to Kraft.
Irma? "I've seen worse," Raven told him.
— HOWARD COHEN
Man killed in single-vehicle crash in Marathon
7:27 p.m.: A Middle Keys woman took to Facebook Saturday afternoon, distraught after finding a truck had crashed into a tree and a dead man was inside at 98th Street, oceanside, in Marathon.
She called 911. She said no one answered, which Monroe County officials warned would happen in the wake of a mandatory evacuation order it issued in anticipation of Hurricane Irma. People were warned repeatedly to leave ahead of the dangerous storm. If they didn’t, officials said, they were largely on their own.
The woman posted that the man was “definitely deceased,” along with a photo of the red truck he was driving, wrapped around a tree. She said the man looked to be in his mid-80s.
— FLORIDA KEYNOTER
Tornado touches down in Oakland Park
7:21 p.m.: One tornado touchdown in Oakland Park was confirmed at 6:36 p.m., according to the National Weather Service’s Twitter account. No injuries were reported.
Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, as well as Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry, Lee and mainland Monroe counties, have been under tornado watch. Broward was under tornado warning until 7 p.m.
— CAITLIN OSTROFF AND RENE RODRIGUEZ
Coral Gables sets curfew
7:05 p.m.: Coral Gables set an 8 p.m. curfew Saturday that will last until 7 a.m. Sunday.
Unlike curfews in some other Miami-Dade cities this one is specific to the evacuation areas contained in the city.
Portions of the city are in the county-defined Zones A, B and C. Residents in Zones A and B and parts of C were mandated to evacuate due to the threat of storm surge from Irma.
— LANCE DIXON
Burglaries attempted in North Miami Beach
6:45 p.m.: High winds and a hurricane hours from making landfall aren't enough to deter criminals in North Miami Beach.
There've been at least three reports of burglaries Saturday afternoon, according to Major Richard Rand, head of the North End Emergency Operations Center. Some would-be thieves attempted to break into boarded up homes they assumed were unoccupied, up until the people sheltering inside called police.
Rand said he's used to responding to scammers, sometimes posing as Florida Power & Light employees, robbing victims after the storm is over, but the brazenness of these burglars amazed him.
"The audacity of these people to take advantage while they think your guard is down is something else," said Rand. "These criminals put their lives in dangers and the lives of our officers in danger because we have to respond to them."
His message to criminals who think the storm stops police officers from doing their job: "We have a first class ticket to jail for them."
— ALEX HARRIS
U.S. Southern Command operations shift from Doral to Arizona
6:42 p.m. Saturday afternoon, in anticipation of Irma's arrival, the Pentagon's Miami outpost for operations in the Caribbean and Latin America shifted operations to an air force base in Arizona.
At Davis-Monthan air base, spokesman Air Force Maj. Joost Verduyn said the move was in consideration of “predictions about the scope and severity of damage the Miami area may sustain as a result of Hurricane Irma.” Southcom had sent a team ahead of the storm to handle operations there.
From there, the military was running an evacuation mission for the State Department of some 800 U.S. citizens from Irma ravaged St. Martin. The military said more Americans, some believed to be students, would be evacuated after Hurricane Jose passed Puerto Rico.
— CAROL ROSENBERG
Gitmo escapes heavy damage
6:40 p.m.: The commander of the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo said some trees and power lines were down but the remote outpost suffered no significant damage as Irma swept north of Cuba. The spokesman for the war-on-terror prison at the base in southeast Cuba added that all staff and 41 captives were "accounted for," with no casualties.
— CAROL ROSENBERG
North Miami institutes curfew
6:35 p.m.: Add North Miami to the lengthy list of Miami-Dade County cities instituting a curfew. The curfew goes into effect at 10 p.m. Saturday and ends 6 a.m. Sunday. “During the curfew pedestrian and vehicular traffic is prohibited in North Miami,” according to a news release from the city. “North Miami Police Officers will patrol the City to ensure compliance.”
— NICHOLAS NEHAMAS
At South Dade shelter, some consider going home
6:30 p.m.: As Hurricane Irma continued to track west Saturday evening, some evacuees at South Dade Middle School decided to leave the school-turned-shelter and return home.
By 5:30 p.m., at least 80 people had left the shelter, school officials said. They had already spent an uncomfortable night sleeping on the floors of packed school hallways and decided to take their chances elsewhere.
Those who remained — at least 2,400 evacuees — passed the time on their phones and tablets. Some wandered into the school's interior courtyard to get fresh air. Upstairs, a group of kids bounced an orange ball back and forth in a crowded hallway.
On an open walkway on the school's second floor, a group of five teenagers blasted Latin music and taught each other dance moves from their respective countries -- Peru, Mexico, Venezuela and Colombia.
The teens didn't know each other before arriving at the shelter, but had quickly bonded. They were laughing and teasing each other as Destiny Calderon, 13, and her sister Betsy Aponte, 16, tried to teach the others a Mexican dance step called zapateado.
"We literally just met her 45 minutes ago," said Geyssler Chacon-Stevens, 18, gesturing to his new friend Sarah Centena, also 18.
The others had met after volunteering to help pick up trash and clean bathrooms in the shelter.
They all said they weren't too worried about the storm.
"Right now, no," said Chacon-Stevens. "But once the power goes out we're all gonna be like, 'My phone!'"
— KYRA GURNEY
Miami-Dade canal plan shifts from catastrophe to just a crisis
5:50 p.m.: The agency charged with controlling inland flooding has resumed manipulating water flow along canals, saying improved storm-surge forecasts no longer require shutting down the entire system.
Armando Vilaboy, a spokesman for the South Florida Water Management District, said the agency had left the canal gates open in order to prevent the kind of overflow that could come from catastrophic flooding during Hurricane Irma. That was based on a storm-surge forecast topping 10 feet.
But with new forecasts predicting about two feet of extra water in the canals, Vilaboy said the levels should be low enough that there is no risk of the landside pumps becoming submerged and disabled.
“The most important thing is to make sure your pumps don’t go underwater,” Vilaboy said. “If they do, you can’t pump. You can’t drain Florida.”
The canal gates are closely watched. Closing them blocks high tides from creeping their way into inland areas, while opening them allows the natural flow of water from the Everglades to the ocean.
At the start of Saturday, the water district had the gates open. That position runs counter to flood-control strategy during high tides, but it keeps vital equipment higher above the ground. That was to combat the potentially catastrophic Irma storm surges and the damage it could cause equipment that could then be used once the storm passes and water recedes.
“It was a choice between two evils,” said Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz, who said he was alarmed to see the canal gates open Saturday.
With Irma tracking west, the new forecasts have the water district dealing with tidal levels that still can cause significant flooding. But Vilaboy said the levels from storm surge would be in line with what the Miami area sees during a bad king tide.
“Two feet is a lot,” he said. “But the storm surge we were expecting is not coming.”
— DOUGLAS HANKS
FPL shuts down nuclear reactor at Turkey Point
5:45 p.m.: Because of Hurricane Irma’s threat, FPL announced that it has shut down a reactor at its Turkey Point nuclear plant.
“Beginning early Saturday morning, we conservatively and safely shut down one of Turkey Point’s two nuclear reactors. As Irma’s path changed, the decision was made to leave the second reactor online, as hurricane force winds were no longer expected at the site. We will adjust this plan, if needed, subject to weather conditions,” an FPL statement said.
This move was anticipated and didn’t impact power to customers, contrary to false reports circulating on social media on Friday.
— NANCY DAHLBERG
Homestead is latest South Florida city to declare curfew
5:40 p.m.: Homestead officials have announced they will be issuing a curfew between 8 p.m. Saturday and 6 a.m. Sunday.
“Issuing this curfew allows the City of Homestead and Homestead Police Department to adequately protect the safety of residents and property,” said Zackery Good, a Homestead spokesman. “The city of Homestead continues to monitor the progress of Hurricane Irma and urges all residents to remain cautious even though forecasts are improving.
Good said those “outside after the curfew will be stopped and may be subject to arrest if they do not have a valid emergency purpose for being outside.”
— MONIQUE O. MADAN
More residents in Miami-Dade shelters than ever before
5:30 p.m.: As of 5 p.m Saturday, Miami-Dade County has more residents in hurricane shelters than at any time in its storm-ravaged history. Approximately 29,000 people had taken refuge in the county-run shelters, along with about 1,000 pets, communications director Michael Hernández said. There were 42 shelters open, and 16 were reported as full.
— DOUGLAS HANKS
Irma moves into the Florida Straits, expected to strengthen before hitting the Keys
5:14 p.m.: Hurricane Irma could regain the intensity it lost near Cuba as the storm moves across the Florida Straits Saturday night, headed toward the Lower Keys, National Hurricane Center forecasters said.
In their 5 p.m. advisory, forecasters said Irma had begun moving away from the Cuban coast, where it had lingered for most of the day. The storm was located 115 miles southeast of Key West, with sustained winds of 125 mph, making it a Cat 3 storm. Once it clears the island and crosses warm water, it could strengthen to 140 mph in 24 hours. Major hurricane winds should reach the Keys at daybreak Sunday, creating life-threatening and catastrophic conditions, they said.
“We expect it to re-intensify,” said hurricane specialist Mike Brennan. “If you’ve been asked to evacuate, please evacuate.”
— JENNY STALETOVICH
Irma finally moving off Cuba
5:10 p.m.: Hurricane Irma’s eye was finally moving off the northern edge of Cuba late Saturday afternoon, with the storm becoming more organized and its pressure dropping, National Hurricane Center specialist Mike Brennan said during a 5 p.m. update.
“We expect it to re-intensify,” he said. “If you’ve been asked to evacuate, please evacuate.”
Brennan said that conditions were beginning to deteriorate in South Florida and that the Florida Keys now had sustained tropical storm force winds. The low-lying islands of the Florida Keys, Brennan said, could expect a 10-foot storm surge.
He also said Fort Lauderdale International Airport reported a wind gust of 70 miles per hour.
The eye, on its current tract, is headed for Fort Myers, but could hit anywhere from Naples to Tampa.
— CHARLES RABIN
Cruise lines sending ships on rescue missions to the Caribbean
5:00 p.m.: Following devastation in the Caribbean due to Hurricane Irma earlier in the week, cruise lines are lending their massive ships to the relief effort, transporting provisions and picking up stranded tourists.
Speaking from Royal Caribbean International’s Enchantment of the Seas, where the Miami-based cruise line evacuated its employees on a course away from the storm, president and CEO Michael Bayley told the Miami Herald Saturday that four ships will be used for Irma relief efforts. Norwegian Cruise Line, based in Miami, also announced plans Friday to deploy one ship to pick up stranded tourists in the Caribbean.
Royal Caribbean’s ships, several of which are sailing empty due to storm-induced cancellations, are fully stocked and staffed, Bayley said. Those resources will instead be used to aid in relief efforts across ports in the Caribbean that were badly hit by Irma.
— CHABELI HERRERA
FEMA chief to Florida Keys: ‘You’re on your own’
4:50 p.m.: The nation’s emergency management chief acknowledged the harsh reality of Hurricane Irma for the Florida Keys in a Saturday afternoon interview with CNN.
“You’re on your own until we can actually get in there, and it’s safe for our teams to support local and state efforts,” Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Brock Long told those who did not leave the Keys. “The message has been clear — the Keys are going to be impacted, there is no safe area within the Keys, and you put your life in your own hands by not evacuating.”
Long continued: “What we have to do is set citizen expectations. We are not going to be there right after storm passes. We need to be sure that the roadways are clear, we need to get trucks in to get stuff there. And that’s why we ask people to be prepared for three days, and you know hopefully in these landmark events, citizens will start to take these preparedness measures seriously. All over the country, we’re asking you to be prepared. We cannot be there right after the storm.”
Television feeds at 4:30 p.m. showed storm waters beginning to surge onto U.S. 1, which links the Keys to each other and the mainland.
— NICHOLAS NEHAMAS
Stranded British tourist: ‘Even the person who speaks English can’t understand my accent.’
4:40 p.m.: This was supposed to be a party weekend for Peter Felton.
Three months ago, the 45-year-old booked a flight to Miami with plans of coming back to Wales with a few stories to tell.
He’ll have a story, but it wasn’t the one he expected.
Felton flew into Miami International Thursday ahead of Hurricane Irma, hoping it would stay away. It didn’t, and Felton arrived to a different scene than the one he expected.
“I was on South Beach yesterday. Totally deserted,” said Felton, wearing sweatpants, flip-flops and a black T-shirt outside Shenandoah Middle School. “I went to a bar. Had a few beers. Met a few locals. I got back last night [to my hotel] and they told me you got to pack up and come here.”
Felton, who was staying at the Miami River Park Hotel in downtown, ended up in an emergency shelter waiting for Irma to go away. He said he still has a jacket, flip-flops and some T-shirts at the hotel that got left behind.
“The guy basically said grab your things now, put me in a cab. And the cab dropped me here,” Felton said. “They just gave me a piece of paper highlighted with [shelters] he thought were open and said to the cab driver ‘Take him to one of those.’ ”
Felton said he’s trying to leave for Palm Beach on Tuesday and then hit Orlando on Wednesday before flying back to Wales.
For now, he’ll be sleeping in a middle school, trying to entertain himself.
“One person speaks English, apart from me. And even the person who speaks English can’t understand my accent,” he said. “So I’m pretty screwed.”
— DAVID SMILEY
Car dealer purloins public parking during storm
4:35 p.m.: The city of Hollywood thought it was doing residents a good deed by opening its public parking garages for free as a public service to help people in low-lying areas prone to flooding.
It did not go over well when drivers showed up Friday at the garage at Polk Street and 19th Avenue in the city’s downtown and found the garage filled with cars with price tags and no license plates.
Apparently a sneaky car dealer filled the garage with more than 40 of the cars from his lot.
— JULIE BROWN
Miami mayor calls press conference to announce curfew
4:30 p.m.: How bad is the weather in Miami?
Not so bad that the mayor couldn’t call a press conference Saturday afternoon to announce his city was instituting a 7 p.m. curfew. The curfew will last until 7 a.m. Sunday, unless conditions linger as Hurricane Irma heads north.
Mayor Tomás Regalado said getting the information out was crucial. But asked why he would call the media to Miami’s Emergency Operations Center rather than, say, simply sending a press release, Regalado had this to say:
“The only way that we have to reach in a massive way the residents of the city of Miami, or any residents for that matter, is through the mass media. We know people are glued to the media, be it social media or the TV, because there’s anxiety. ... I personally felt that just sending a press release would kind of confuse people. So, we ask for your support in disseminating this information. We can reach a lot of people and people can understand what is going on. This was an important news conference because it’s an important decision the city can take. We are not competing for air time. But this was needed.”
— DAVID SMILEY
Power outages happening around Florida
4:20 p.m.: Power outages are occurring in Palm Beach County and elsewhere in Florida as powerful Hurricane Irma moves closer to the state.
The storm is a Category 3, but is expected to strengthen, the National Hurricane Center said. Tropical storm-force winds may reach Palm Beach County by 8 a.m. Sunday.
“Some customers may experience more than one outage throughout the duration of the event, and prolonged outages may occur, especially if Irma’s impact requires rebuilding part of the electric system before power can be restored,” FPL officials said Saturday.
Given Irma’s new projected path, FPL anticipates that much of its electric system in Southwest Florida will need to be rebuilt, which could take weeks. In contrast, the company anticipates the damage on Florida’s East Coast to be less severe, allowing for a restoration effort that may be completed within days of the storm passing.
As of 2 p.m. Florida Power & Light reported that 540 of its 739,000 customers in Palm Beach County were experiencing an outage. An additional 510 customers had outages, but their power has been restored.
In Broward County, 6,790 customers out of 933,300 were without power as of 2 p.m., and 890 have been restored.
In Miami-Dade County, 26,270 customers out of more than 1.1 million had no power as of 2 p.m., and 45,140 have been restored.
To report an outage, go to FPL.com
To view the outage map, report an outage, or check the status of an outage, click here.
FPL crews are working to restore power. Crews can work as long as winds are less than 35 mph.
— SUSAN SALISBURY, PALM BEACH POST
Irma could be as deadly a storm as Florida Keys have seen
4:15 p.m.: The Florida Keys are no stranger to hurricanes, or to the death and destruction that have followed their worst storms. But Hurricane Irma, set to surge through the island chain overnight — potentially as a fierce Category 4 or 5 storm — may rival them yet.
Irma, which saw its sustained winds weaken to 125 mph winds after skirting Cuba on Saturday, was expected to restrengthen and lash the Keys early Sunday morning. It easily shapes up to be the most damaging hurricane to hit the Keys since Georges in 1998. And if it comes in at a projected 140 mph somewhere near Key West, it could prove much worse — driving the Atlantic Ocean across sections of the island chain.
— ELIZABETH KOH
Evacuation must hurry on Florida’s west coast
4:10 p.m.: The Florida Department of Transportation opened the use of the left shoulder of a section of I-4 eastbound from 50th Street in Tampa to the Western Beltway (SR 429) in Orlando. The approved stretch of road is from Mile Marker 3 to Mile Marker 60, and it’s for cars only — not trucks, buses or trailers.
FDOT said it implemented the plan to assist the large number of motorists evacuating from the west coast. Mandatory evacuation orders were in effect for sections of Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando counties — a metropolitan area of more than 3 million people.
Although there are heavy pockets of evacuation traffic in some areas, traffic is generally flowing on that section of I-4, FDOT said.
The state said travel on the right shoulders of highways is prohibited, and no other state roadways are currently approved for left shoulder travel.
— STEVE BOUSQUET, Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau
30-foot waves could crash over Havana seawall
4:00 p.m.: Hurricane Irma battered much of the keys on the northern coast of Cuba as well as central coastal towns, and threatened to hit the capital city of Havana with severe flooding as forecasters predicted that monster waves as high as 30 feet would likely crash over the Malecón seawall by Saturday night.
The coastal town of Caibarién was overcome with deafening winds and unremitting rain, pushing seawater inland and flooding homes, according to various reports, although authorities have not yet issued a formal assessment on damages. Meanwhile Ciego de Ávila, in central Cuba, was walloped with 160 mph winds.
Hurricane Irma swept the entire central north coast of Cuba and continued to flex its muscle as it moved toward Florida. More than one million people were evacuated across the island, most of them taking shelter in the homes of relatives and neighbors, the national press reported.
— NORA GAMEZ TORRES
Key Biscayne won’t let anyone on the island
3:50 p.m.: “Entry to the village of Key Biscayne is closed until further notice,” according to a Saturday afternoon announcement from a village spokeswoman. A curfew is in effect between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. until further notice. The wealthy island is connected to downtown Miami by the Rickenbacker Causeway.
— NICHOLAS NEHAMAS
‘Enjoy your life. Carajo!’
3:45 p.m.: Stay inside, authorities warned. This storm could kill you, they said. We are not out of the woods.
But as Hurricane Irma began to swing west of Miami — avoiding what seemed for days like a devastating direct hit — those who live outside of South Florida’s evacuation zones took one last chance to breathe Saturday morning.
Javier Narvaez, standing ankle-deep in choppy Miami Beach seas, turned his head to the sky. In his hands, he held a sign: “Enjoy your life. Carajo!” it proclaimed, using a Spanish word beloved in Miami that roughly translates to “damn it.”
— NICHOLAS NEHAMAS
Miami Lakes shelter will begin accepting pets along with owners, county says
3:10 p.m.: Racing to keep up with demand for refuge-seeking pet owners, Miami-Dade added more shelter space for people who wouldn’t leave home without their animals.
Shortly before 3 p.m. Saturday, Miami-Dade posted news that a Miami Lakes shelter that previously wasn’t accepting pets would begin accepting dogs, cats and caged critters. The Miami Lakes Educational Center and Technical College (5780 NW 158th St., Miami Lakes) is now open for both people and people with animals, according to the county’s list of its 41 storm shelters.
The news came late in the evacuation process for Hurricane Irma: County buses already halted their shelter pickups at 2 p.m. Earlier Saturday, Miami-Dade had briefly announced it no longer had room in shelters for pets. That then shifted into a novel offer: People seeking shelter could drop off their pets at Highland Oaks Middle School in a crate or cage with food, but the owners themselves would need to seek refuge elsewhere.
Nearly 30,000 people have sought refuge in the county’s shelters amid an unprecedented evacuation order targeting more than 650,000 people.
— DOUGLAS HANKS
All 21 Broward shelters are filled, mayor says
3:07 p.m.: All 21 shelters in Broward County have been filled to capacity and are housing about 15,000 people, Mayor Barbara Sharief said at the county’s 3 p.m. conference. For comparison, Miami-Dade’s shelters are about 30 percent full.
The county’s curfew, which goes into effect at 4 p.m., will extend through Monday with the exception of first responders, she added.
“We have not yet felt the brunt of this storm here in Broward County,” she said.
— CAITLIN OSTROFF
Guantánamo Navy base emerges from Irma ‘relatively unscathed’
2:44 p.m.: Guantánamo Bay Navy base got through Hurricane Irma “relatively unscathed,” the commander said Saturday, but for a few downed trees and power lines.
“So far no damage of any significance has been reported or discovered,” Navy Capt. Dave Culpepper told the roughly 5,500 residents through a midday broadcast on Radio Gitmo. He had earlier decided not to send base residents to hardened shelters after tracks showed the storm going north of the base, and no destructive winds were expected.
— CAROL ROSENBERG
North Miami Beach will institute 8 p.m. curfew
2:39 p.m.: North Miami Beach is instituting a curfew starting at 8 p.m. tonight until 8 a.m. Sunday, city manager Ana Garcia said, though she added the curfew may be extended to 11 a.m. or noon depending on storm conditions.
— ELIZABETH KOH
Hurricane Irma winds will reach Florida Keys at daybreak
2:01 p.m.: Conditions in the Florida Keys will become increasingly dangerous as Hurricane Irma closes in over the next day, National Hurricane Center forecasters said in their 2 p.m. update.
In their latest advisory, forecasters said Irma was located 145 miles southeast of Key West, with sustained winds of 125 mph, making it a Cat 3 storm. Irma’s fierce eye will keep moving over the north coast of Cuba today. Once it clears the island and moves over warm water in the Florida Straits, it could strengthen. Major hurricane winds should reach the Keys at daybreak Sunday, creating life-threatening and catastrophic conditions, they said.
— JENNY STALETOVICH
In Haiti, already struggling farmers assess devastating damage
1:58 p.m.: The morning after Hurricane Irma skirted Haiti’s northern coast, Artis Esperance walked his farm land and tried to salvage what the menacing Category 5 storm — and thieves — hadn’t already claimed.
For the second time in 11 months, Mother Nature had dealt a crippling blow to Haiti. Last year, it was the slow-moving and powerful Hurricane Matthew, which made landfall on Haiti’s southern tip. It wiped out farms and livestock in the southwest and Grand’Anse and here in the northwest with its 145 mph winds and heavy rains.
Now, a record-breaking Irma, en route to the Turks and Caicos and Bahamas before turning toward Florida, had blown away what little produce he and other farmers in the region had managed to grow.
“This storm didn’t even leave one tree with food on it for us to eat,” said an exasperated Esperance, 41, holding a rusty machete in one hand and an overripe breadfruit in the other, not far from one of his farms. “This has taken food out of the mouths of my children.”
— JACQUELINE CHARLES
Power goes out at senior living towers, but FPL crew working on repairs
1:54 p.m.: The power went out early Friday afternoon at Robert King High senior towers, a county-run facility on the Miami River and across from Marlins Park.
But the hundreds of seniors living there shouldn’t have to wait long without AC and electricity. A Florida Power and Light crew is out working on a nearby transformer box.
Miami Commissioner Francis Suarez, who visited the property along with his father, County Commissioner Xavier Suárez, was told by a crew working on the problem that power should be back in a few hours.
— DAVID SMILEY
Southwest Florida warned of wind and storm surge threat
1:37 p.m.: Mark DeMaria, the acting deputy director of the National Hurricane Center, said Southeast Florida can expect a long period of thunderstorms along the east coast.
“We expect conditions to worsen tonight and over tomorrow,” he said. “This is a major storm surge threat, a major wind threat for a large portion of Southwest Florida.”
— CHARLES RABIN
Irma continues to pummel Cuba’s northern coast
1:32 p.m.: Hurricane Irma was still punishing the north central Cuban coast at noon Saturday, although maximum sustained wind speeds fell slightly to 127 mph, a Category 3 level, according to Cuba’s weather service.
Gusts of up to 159 mph were recorded in Ciego de Ávila in the pre-dawn hours.
Even provinces not severely affected by high winds were drenched. The weather station at Palenque Yateras in Guantánamo province reported 16 inches of rain.
As Irma continues its meander west along Cuba’s north coast, the Institute of Meteorology said tropical storm force winds could extend as far as the western province of Artemisa, while provinces from Sancti Spíritus to Matanzas are feeling hurricane-force winds.
Waves of 13 feet to nearly 20 feet were forecast to begin crashing over Havana’s famed Malecón seawall this afternoon, causing coastal flooding. Later in the day and through Sunday night, the beating was expected to intensify with waves of 20 to 30 feet pounding the Malecón.
— MIMI WHITEFIELD
Miami-Dade is winding down buses to shelters
1:18 p.m.: Miami-Dade announced it will stop free bus trips to storm shelters at 2 p.m. Saturday.
The county’s transit agency said it planned to shut down the shelter trips a few hours before tropical-storm force winds arrived in Miami. The county has 42 shelters open and about a quarter of them were reported full shortly after 1 p.m.
— DOUGLAS HANKS
Coral Gables could see heavy rain
1:00 p.m.: Coral Gables sent a message to residents Saturday warning that the city could see anywhere from 10 to 20 inches of rain from Hurricane Irma.
City leaders noted that there would likely be flooding in low-lying areas but not “citywide catastrophic conditions.” They expect the highest storm surge in the coastal areas south of Sunset Drive and in the areas that were initial evacuation zones.
High tide is about 12:45 p.m. Sunday and city leaders suspect that’s when the most significant storm surge will happen.
— LANCE DIXON
South Florida air and seaports are shut down
12:55 p.m.: As of Saturday, the only way out of South Florida was on the road. Airport and seaports were closed to incoming and outgoing traffic.
The last flights out of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and Miami International Airport departed Friday night. Both airports have no scheduled flights through Sunday.
MIA has remained open to house about 47 stranded passengers who chose to stay at the airport rather than go to a nearby shelter, said airport spokesman Greg Chin.
The airport has provided mattresses, food and water to stranded travelers. Some concessions, such as Dunkin Donuts, are still open offering complimentary meals to the remaining passengers and employees. Airport Director Emilio Gonzalez pitched in Saturday afternoon, handing out cookies and snacks to the airport’s new overnight guests.
American Airlines has canceled operations across Florida at the following airports through Sunday: Daytona Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Key West, Melbourne, Miami, Palm Beach and Sarasota. Fort Myers.
American flights at Fort Myers’ Southwest Florida International Airport are canceled through Monday. American flights will be canceled Sunday in Gainesville and Orlando. Jacksonville and Tampa will see all American flights canceled Sundaythrough Monday.
Both Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale and PortMiami remained closed to cruise ships Saturday until further notice.
— CHABELI HERRERA
Southwest Florida told to expect the worst
12:45 p.m.: Jamie Rhome, the storm surge team leader at the National Hurricane Center warned everyone in Southwest Florida to get off the coast.
He said comparing it to Hurricane Charley in 2004 isn’t an apt comparison because the size difference is immense.
“This is a big hurricane,” said Rhome. “And big hurricanes push more water.”
As for chances of Irma dying out or wobbling off into the Gulf: “The best we can hope for is a weakening. It’s time to go.”
— CHARLES RABIN
Rick Scott: ‘Evacuation routes are moving’
12:25 p.m.: Traffic had diminished enough Saturday on Interstate 75 in Central Florida that around 10 a.m. the Florida Department of Transportation stopped letting drivers use the shoulder as a travel lane north of the Wildwood interchange, where the Florida Turnpike ends and merges with I-75. (FDOT and the Florida Highway Patrol had allowed shoulder usage Thursday evening and all day Friday to help expedite traffic flows to the Georgia line.)
The entrance to the interchange — a usual bottleneck — was getting jammed again Saturday, but “evacuation routes are moving,” Gov. Rick Scott said during a noon press conference from Winter Park. He noted that officials would continue monitoring flows on I-75 and would reopen the left shoulder to traffic, if necessary.
— KRISTEN M. CLARK
Curfew will be issued in Miami but not Miami-Dade
12:20 p.m.: Miami-Dade County opted not to impose a curfew Saturday to clear the roads for Hurricane Irma, even as Broward County set one for 4 p.m. and Miami signaled one would be coming at 7 p.m.
“I don’t think it’s necessary at this time in Miami-Dade County,” Carlos Gimenez, Miami-Dade’s mayor, told reporters Saturday morning.
“We have police officers on the road at this time. We may experience some hurricane-strength winds,” he said. “Curfews normally put [after] the storm, when you suffer a number of power outages, etc. I’m not going to second-guess what Broward County is doing. But that’s not something I’m thinking of doing right now.”
In Miami, Mayor Tomás Regalado told the Miami Herald he planned to announce that the city would impose a Saturday curfew starting at 7 p.m.
Gimenez has faced criticism for the county’s slow pace in opening shelters, and for logistical problems in staffing and operating them. Miami-Dade had 41 shelters open on Saturday, and 11 were full. About 26,000 people were listed as being inside in response to an unprecedented evacuation order that impacted more than 600,000 Miami-Dade residents.
At his Saturday briefing, Gimenez announced that the county’s lone shelter for people with special medical needs — whose location is only revealed to people who register in advance — was full. “If you have an emergency,” he said, “call 911.”
Even as he declined to order residents off the roads as Irma is forecast to head for Florida’s west coast instead of Miami, Gimenez warned against taking the storm lightly. He noted his home, in the Coconut Grove area, has already lost power and suffered a downed tree.
“There have been some rumors about Miami-Dade being in the clear and being safe from a hit by Hurricane Irma because we’re no longer in the cone,” Gimenez said. “We must remain vigilant. A very serious storm is coming our way, and will be here through Sunday.”
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Miami, cautioned against deciding a different track from Irma will spare the region from dangerous winds.
“Don’t be the guy killed by a tree,” he said.
— DOUGLAS HANKS AND DAVID SMILEY
Florida hospitals are evacuating, too
12:15 p.m.: With Hurricane Irma forecast to make landfall in Florida early Sunday, more than 300 healthcare centers statewide, including 24 hospitals, 51 nursing homes and 213 assisted living facilities, evacuated ahead of the storm, the Department of Health said Saturday.
In Miami, Mercy Hospital, a 488-bed facility overlooking Biscayne Bay near Coconut Grove, evacuated patients to other medical centers in South Florida, said Shelly Weiss, a spokeswoman for HCA East Florida, which owns Mercy.
Jackson Community Mental Health Center, a 20-bed residential treatment facility in Miami, also evacuated. Miami Cerebral Palsy Residential Services, which has four facilities for developmentally disabled residents in Miami-Dade, also evacuated, the Health Department said.
Baptist Health South Florida, one of the largest healthcare systems in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties, closed its hospitals in the Florida Keys, Fishermen’s Community and Mariners. Baptist also closed its Miami Cancer Institute and all urgent care centers and physician offices throughout South Florida, said Dori Alvarez, a spokeswoman.
Many evacuees with special medical needs also have evacuated to hurricane shelters throughout the state, leading Florida Gov. Rick Scott to call for nurses to volunteer at shelters Saturday.
— DANIEL CHANG
Another 700,000 Floridians told to leave ahead of Irma
12:05 p.m.: Another 700,000 Florida residents have been ordered to evacuate their homes because of Hurricane Irma.
The state Department of Emergency Management said as many as 6.3 million Floridians were under evacuation orders, as of noon. That represents about 30 percent of the statewide population.
Some of those additional evacuees came from the Tampa Bay region, such as Pinellas County, where storm surges could be life threatening.
— KRISTEN M. CLARK AND STEVE BOUSQUET
A struggle to find shelter
12:00 p.m.: Ricardo Arlain finally found an open shelter Saturday morning and was settling in at Killian High School, but his quest for a safe place to ride out the storm began at 2 p.m. Friday, a quest that he said involved confusing and incorrect information that even temporarily sent him into a flood zone, rather than the higher ground he was seeking.
It took three false starts before a shelter was finally able to take Arlain in.
— NANCY DAHLBERG AND KYRA GURNEY
In Key West, conchs seek last fresh air before Irma
11:45 a.m.: Across Key West, residents who chose to stay used Saturday morning to get some final fresh air before Hurricane Irma’s wrath was slated to arrive. Light rain and gusts seemed only like a nuisance as Lisa Hinkley, 54, walked her dog, Faith, at the iconic Southernmost buoy.
Hinkley, who owns the Green Flash Brewing chain with her husband and lives in Key West, waffled about leaving to their original home in California. “I bought tickets to San Diego, but the airport closed,” Hinkley said.
She’ll ride out the storm in her old concrete home on the second floor with her husband, the dog and three rabbits. “I never thought I’d be one of those people out here talking about why I stayed,” Hinkley said.
Across the street, the owner of the historic Southernmost House Hotel was busy preparing for employees and their families to stay inside the home. Like many other conchs, as Key West residents are known, he waffled on leaving but couldn’t leave his hotel.
“I’m very devoted to this old lady. The Southernmost House is very important to the history of Key West and of the nation,” he said.
Though he’s lived through all the major Keys storms in recent years, this one felt different. “I’ve been here since ’75 and this is the scariest one,” Michael Halpern said.
Helene Gironet and Jeannette Smith, friends who live with their husbands in Key West, donned raincoats to walk the streets Saturday morning. Both were calm, but admitted they were a little “freaked out.”
“We never expected the storm to take a western track,” Gironet said.
— DAVID OVALLE
Sunny Isles Beach is almost completely evacuated
11:35 a.m.: Sunny Isles Beach Police Chief Fred Maas said 85 to 90 percent of the city’s 25,000 permanent residents have fled.
All of the tourists staying in hotels left, Maas said. He said the hotels worked with partner properties across the state to find other options for visitors.
The beachfront city’s biggest concern: Storm surge.
“Of course we are worried about the wind too, but the storm surge could be a big problem for us.”
Sunny Isles Beach boasts a heavy concentration of oceanfront luxury condo towers, including several Trump-branded properties, mainly used as vacation homes by wealthy foreigners. Its hefty Russian population has earned it the nickname “Little Moscow.”
Maas said his force is riding out the storm in the city and will be out as soon as it’s safe. By Saturday morning, he said the city had already seen a couple of strong bands move through, bringing heavy rain and wind gusts.
— CARLI TEPROFF
Irma’s coming, but Miami still needs pastelitos
11:30 a.m.: Snaking lines of hungry customers started forming as early as 5:30 a.m. at a Karla Bakery tucked inside a warehouse district on Southwest Fourth Street and 70th Avenue. Their mission: to score last-minute, fresh-baked Cuban bread and still-hot Cuban guava pastelitos before Hurricane Irma rolled into Miami.
Their sister baker on Flagler Street and 64th Avenue was packed when Leonardo Izquierdo, 56, stopped in but he remembered this lesser-known spot and was able to purchase a pair of loaves of Cuban bread and a box of meat pastelitos and cheese-filled tequeños.
“Unfortunately, when these natural disasters threaten and you’re locked indoors, all of a sudden you get an appetite,” said Izquierdo, whose house is sealed for the storm and stocked with provisions. But his family craved snacks to tamp down the pre-storm anxiety. “I don’t know what it is about the combination of water and flour, but it hits the spot.”
— CARLOS FRIAS
Miami-Dade asks residents to clear expressways
11:25 a.m.: From the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority: “Due to the potential damage of the impending category 4 Hurricane Irma, MDX is advising all drivers to avoid traveling on expressways until they can be confirmed clear and safe for travel. After the hurricane conditions have passed, MDX’s first priority is to clear all expressways, including SR 112/Airport Expressway, SR 836/Dolphin Expressway, SR 874/Don Shula Expressway, SR 878/Snapper Creek Expressway, and SR 924/Gratigny Parkway, of any debris to make way for first responders and the transport of recovery supplies and resources. Do not use the expressways until you can confirm with the Miami-Dade County Emergeny Operations Center or your local news reports that the expressways are open to regular travel. Drivers can also stay informed by checking in with local elected officials and monitoring agencies on social media. The Road Rangers, MDX’s free roadside service for distressed drivers, will be suspended when wind speeds reach 39 mph and will resume after the authority has determined it is safe for motorists to travel on the expressways.”
Some Kendall residents still taping windows, despite danger
11:20 a.m.: Bands of wind and rain from Irma started to roll into Miami’s massive Kendall suburb after midnight, with the accompanying but only occasional banging noises of transformers on Southwest 117th Avenue, adjacent to the Florida Turnpike.
Power outages in the immediate Snapper Village/Snapper Creek area as of 11 a.m. were only brief flickers.
And yes, unbelievable, but some people are still taping their windows, despite the danger.
— HOWARD COHEN
Florida traffic slowing down as evacuations progress
11:15 a.m.: Traffic in parts of Florida appeared to be slowing down mid-Saturday morning as more drivers got on the road, causing some areas of congestion.
Interstate 75 out of southwest Florida, in particular, could see heavier traffic as the day wears on, due to additional evacuation orders issued for Florida’s west coast where Irma is now headed.
Some trouble spots at this hour were:
-- the Wildwood interchange, where the Florida Turnpike ends and merges with I-75.
-- a stretch of I-75 near Spring Lake in Hernando County.
-- another stretch of I-75 near Wesley Chapel.
-- and several miles of west of Tallahassee on Interstate 10, which runs from Jacksonville west through the Panhandle.
— KRISTEN M. CLARK
Hurricane Irma is reaching the Florida Keys
11:10 a.m.: Hurricane Irma, one of the most powerful hurricanes on record, is heading for the Lower Keys with ferocious strength already kicking up high winds and rising water.
Early Saturday, tropical storm force winds had started lashing parts of the islands, pushing storm surge ashore. Water level was up more than three quarters of a foot in Key West after 10 a.m. and 1.1 feet near Vaca Key. The center of the storm is not expected to pass until Sunday morning, before heading to Florida’s Gulf Coast.
Where Irma ultimately makes landfall on the mainland remains uncertain because of the storm’s angle to the coast, National Hurricane Center forecasters said in their early Saturday update.
— JENNY STALETOVICH
More than 30,000 without power in Miami-Dade
11:00 a.m.: 30,010 Florida Power & Light customers are without power in Miami-Dade County Saturday morning, according to FPL’s power tracker map. In Broward, 4,207 people do not have power. Hurricane Irma’s rains and wind gusts have arrived in South Florida, but the storm is projected to grow much worse later in the day.
Broward will institute 4 p.m. curfew.
10:45 a.m.: Broward County will institute a curfew at 4 p.m. Saturday, just when South Florida is expected to start feeling the full force of Hurricane Irma. It will remain in effect “until further notice,” according to a tweet from the county’s emergency management division.
There will no curfew in Miami-Dade Saturday night, according to Mayor Carlos Gimenez.
Miami has first responders ready to go
10:40 a.m.: At the city of Miami’s Emergency Operations Center, located at the police college in downtown Miami on Northwest Second Avenue, dozens of police officers, dispatchers and firefighters took phone calls for service and drank cafecito while warily watching Irma.
Pete Gomez, the assistant fire chief who oversees the center, said the forecast looks better than a day ago but compared the situation to half-time at a football game.
“We got to prepare for the second half,” he said.
The city has crews on standby. An 80-member Urban Search and Rescue team, for which Gomez also runs point, is currently based out of West Coconut Grove. Gomez said responders will stop going out once winds reach 40 or 45 miles per hour, but are otherwise available for emergencies. They’ll head out to the rest of the state once they’re no longer needed in South Florida, he said.
The city has 183 firefighters on standby, a 1,300-police force on rotating 12-hour Alpha-Bravo shifts, and “cut teams” with trucks and high-water vehicles waiting to go out after the storm and clear roadways.
“We can’t let our guard down,” Gomez said.
— DAVID SMILEY
Those who fled South Florida for Atlanta may not escape Irma
10:30 a.m.: When Alex Maldonado and his family fled Kendall for Atlanta on Thursday before Hurricane Irma’s landfall, they packed like they might not see their home again — bringing clothing, jewelry, their toy Maltese Nieves, even a 3-by-5-foot framed Jose Fernandez signed jersey.
But even though Hurricane Irma is now projected to move up along Florida’s Gulf Coast with Atlanta in its sights, Maldonado, 22, said he, his parents and his two teenage brothers are still relieved to be farther north.
“Right now we’re just happy we got out of Kendall. Even if it does get to us, it’s probably not going to be as strong,” he said. “Even if it hits Atlanta as a Cat 4, we’re probably going to be all right.”
— ELIZABETH KOH
Florida turnpike service plazas are closing
10:20 a.m.: As Hurricane Irma churns toward southern Florida, the state Department of Transportation is starting to close service plazas on the Turnpike.
Just before 10 a.m., the Snapper Creek service plaza in Miami was being closed.
Plazas in Pompano Beach and West Palm Beach will close at noon, to allow staff to return home before the 3 p.m. local curfew, FDOT said.
“The remaining service plazas will be closed south to north as conditions worsen,” state DOT director Mike Dew said in a statement. “We will close each in time to secure equipment and evacuate our staff prior to the arrival of tropical storm force winds.”
— KRISTEN M. CLARK
Miami’s iconic Versailles restaurant has closed for Irma
10:15 a.m.: It’s too late to grab one last cafecito at famed Miami restaurant Versailles, the beloved hang-out of the Cuban exile community. The restaurant said it would stay open as long as weather allowed but its doors were closed mid-Saturday morning.
— CAROL ROSENBERG AND CARLOS FRIAS
Residents turned away from crowded South Dade shelter
10:10 a.m.: National Guard members and Miami-Dade police had to turn people away from a shelter at South Dade Middle School on Saturday morning. At least 2,500 people were already packed in. The school-turned-shelter went over capacity Friday night, but that didn’t stop residents from trying, in vain, to enter Saturday morning.
Families lined the school hallways, some resting on blankets and pillows, a lucky few stretched out on air mattresses. In one of the classrooms, a young man had set up a flat screen TV and was leaning back in what appeared to be a reclining portable chair.
The rest of the evacuees were packed in tightly, with little space between blankets. A few families marked off areas using rolling cafeteria benches. Coolers, stacks of paper plates and a few stray pairs of shoes dotted a sea of blankets and anxious faces. The hallways still bore their motivational school signs: “Accountability Avenue; Take Initiative Interstate; Synergy Street.”
Young children crowded around laptops, watching cartoons, or played games on their parents’ cellphones.
Around 8:30 a.m., a school official announced breakfast over the intercom. Kids would go first, then adults, the official said.
In the cafeteria, a line of people waited for food. Some families had spilled over from the hallways and set up their sleeping bags and blankets along the cafeteria walls.
Children balanced plates with packaged cereal and juice and carried them back to their families’ blankets. Evacuees in wheelchairs were served next.
Meanwhile, National Guard members guarded the entrances to the school. At the main entrance, a woman approached a guard member asking where she could get an extra blanket. Her mother didn’t have a blanket, she said, and was freezing cold. The guard member said he didn’t have one.
Lights started flickering off around 9 a.m. At 10 a.m. a school official came on the loud speaker to announce a tornado warning and asked everyone who was in the school’s interior courtyard to go inside.
— KYRA GURNEY
Monroe County evacuates main jail
10:05 a.m.: 460 inmates from Monroe County’s main jail on Stock Island were bused to the mainland late Friday night.
Though the jail was built to withstand Category 5 winds, Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay made the decision because he said it was too risky with the eye of the storm bearing down so near. They were transported by bus to Palm Beach County.
— CHARLES RABIN
Cuba devastated by Hurricane Irma
9:55 a.m.: Hurricane Irma devastated parts of northern Cuba and central coastal towns on Friday night and early Saturday. According to reports, the town of Caibarién is flooded due to the sea surge, although the authorities have not yet provided official reports on damages. “Hurricane Irma is hitting the northern coast of Cuba hard,” said the 8 a.m. update from the Miami-based National Hurricane Center. At that time, the center of Irma, which was weakened by its interaction with Cuban soil, was only 10 miles from Caibarién, with sustained winds of 130 miles per hour. But when Irma began to whip the center of the island, it was at Category 5 strength.
On Saturday morning, CNN correspondent Patrick Oppman reported from Caibarién that floods reached up to five feet high and homes were destroyed. The village’s waterfront, from which 12,000 people had been evacuated, was completely underwater. Cuban press reported extensive power outages and telephone lines.
“The winds are so strong that even the park’s banks have been blown away,” Cubadebate reported. Several foreign reporters who came to that town on Friday night spent the eveningin the nearby town of Remedios, where the strong winds knocked down the door of their hotel. An employee of the luxury hotel Iberostar Ensenachos in Cayo Santamaria, evacuated in Caibarién, reported very strong bursts of wind that bent trees and moved pipes and water tanks at dawn. The telephone tower in Cayo Coco doubled over, a photo published in Cubadebate showed.
In Yaguajay, in Sancti Spiritus, there were already strong wind gusts and houses without roofs. Gusts of hurricane winds also were felt in reached Santa Clara.
Even the Cuban capital city of Havana could feel sone of Irma’s strength. The hurricane is moving slowly at 12 miles per hour and its eye could also pass near Sagua la Grande, in Villa Clara, and Cárdenas, in Matanzas, in which 3,000 people had been evacuated that reside in low zones.
According to preliminary reports from the Granma newspaper, in the eastern zone no major damage is reported although the telecommunications company ETECSA reported damages to 174 Wi-Fi sites. Cuban television reported heavy damage to tourist facilities in Santa Lucia, Camagüey and floods in other towns on the north coast that have been cut off. In Nuevitas, several factories and warehouses lost their roofs and several units of the Thermoelectric Power Plant ceased operations.
— NORA GAMEZ TORRES
Tornado warning issued for parts of Miami-Dade and Monroe
9:50 a.m.: The National Weather service has issued a tornado warning for parts of West and Central Miami-Dade and mainland Monroe County.
The warning, issued at 9:23 a.m., lasts until 10:15 a.m. and covers northeastern mainland Monroe County and West central Miami-Dade County. Forecasters say a severe thunderstorm capable of sparking a tornado was located eight miles northwest of Homestead General Airport and was moving west at 50 mph.
— ALEX HARRIS
Spreading the word in Coconut Grove
9:30 a.m.: Miami Commissioner Ken Russell spent Saturday morning knocking on doors in the West Grove, where he said there is “a lot of shoddy construction with the shotgun houses.”
“We’re just checking to make sure they’ve got what they need and if they’re still comfortable staying,” Russell said.
If they’re not, Russell said, the ride sharing company Lyft has donated $10,000 worth of free rides to shelters before the storm and transport of needed supplies after the storm.
Around 9 a.m., Russell had about two dozen names remaining on his list, which was compiled by the nonprofit Collaborative Development Corporation.
— DAVID J. NEAL
Rains lash Miami as Irma’s outer bands arrive
9:20 a.m.: The outer bands of Hurricane Irma swept into Miami-Dade County Saturday morning, lashing downtown Miami with rain. The National Weather Service in Miami warned of “damaging winds and heavy rain” in a tweet.
No more room at shelters for Miami-Dade pets
9:05 a.m.: Miami-Dade County briefly ran out of room for pets at its storm shelters Saturday morning as Hurricane Irma approached South Florida.
With time winding down to clear out before strong winds arrive in Miami, two of the county’s three pet-friendly shelters were listed as completely full and a third listed as being at capacity for pets.
Michael Hernández, communications director for the county, said there were no new pet-friendly shelters to announce, but that could change throughout the morning.
“Pet shelters are at capacity,” he said. “But the county can always make adjustments.”
Miami-Dade had more than 40 shelters operating Friday night, up from just eight that morning. The county struggled to get the shelters open in time, citing a lack of staffing, coordination and other glitches. Once a Category 5 storm, Irma prompted Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez to order an unprecedented evacuation targeting more than 600,000 residents.
— DOUGLAS HANKS
Don’t lose your sense of humor
9:00 a.m.: Via Emilia restaurant, at 1120 15th St. in Miami Beach, sees no reason that boarding up and a pleasing aesthetic sensibility should be mutually exclusive.
— DAVID J. NEAL
Coast Guard closes Tampa, St. Petersburg, Manatee ports
8:55 a.m.: From the U.S. Coast Guard: “Effective 8 a.m. Saturday, the Coast Guard closed Tampa, St. Petersburg and Manatee ports, and set Hurricane Condition ZULU (sustained Gale Force winds from a hurricane force storm are predicted within 12 hours). The ports are closed to all inbound and outbound traffic. No vessel may enter, depart or transit within this safety zone without the permission of the Captain of the Port (COTP). All cargo and bunker handling operations must cease at this time.”
Not all homeless are seeking shelter in downtown Miami
8: 45 a.m.: Police are involuntarily committing those of downtown Miami’s estimated 1,100 homeless residents who refuse to take shelter during Irma. But there were still numerous homeless people wandering the streets of downtown Miami on Saturday morning.
— NANCY SAN MARTIN
Staying in an evacuation zone is risky
8:27 a.m.: In a Sunset Harbour high-rise, an elevator stopped just before the lobby around 6:50 a.m., trapping a resident. Had it happened a few hours later — and not been on a service elevator with a weak back door, allowing the resident to muscle the inner door to get a signal to call 911, he might have been stuck there throughout Irma.
— DAVID J. NEAL
Thousands without power in Miami-Dade and Broward
8:20 a.m.: Tropical storm winds have not even kicked up yet in South Florida, but FPL is already reporting outages.
In Miami-Dade County, 26,011 homes and businesses were without power before 8 a.m. Saturday. That’s about 2 percent of its 1.24 million customers.
In Broward County, 960 are without power, and in Palm Beach County, 250 people.
Read the full story here.
— NANCY DAHLBERG
Irma rain bands hitting South Florida
8:17 a.m.: Hurricane Irma’s first outer bands through South Florida showed it doesn’t take much rain to create a debris field.
Already the left lane of the entrance to the Florida Turnpike south from Eighth Street was impassable because of fallen palm fronds and branches.
Palm fronds were also making it tough to drive along interior roads just off Eighth Street.
— CHUCK RABIN
Rick Scott repeats urgent call for nurses
8:15 a.m.: About 1,000 more nurses are needed as volunteers in Florida’s emergency storm shelters before Hurricane Irma hits, Florida Gov. Rick Scott said again Saturday morning.
The state was especially seeking help in its “special needs” shelters.
“Anybody that can come and help us do that, we appreciate it,” Scott said during an appearance on a national morning show. “We need 1,000 nurses, and hopefully we’ll get them.”
Those able to volunteer were asked to email the state at BPRCHDpreparedness@FLHealth.gov.
— KRISTEN M. CLARK
Irma made landfall Friday night in Cuba as a Category 5 storm
8:10 a.m.: Hurricane Irma lashed Cuba with Category 5 winds and heavy rain on Friday night, according to the BBC.
“Irma hit the Camaguey Archipelago late on Friday, threatening nearby coastal towns and villages,” the BBC reported. “It was the first Category 5 hurricane to hit Cuba in decades, although it had weakened to category four by Saturday morning.”
Cuban officials reported “significant damage” in Central Cuba, without providing more details, according to AFP. The news agency said more than a million people on the Caribbean’s largest island.
Cat 4 Irma rolls towards Keys, Florida Gulf coast
8:00 a.m.: The Lower Keys will likely take a direct hit from Hurricane Irma, one of the most powerful hurricanes on record, Sunday morning before the ferocious storm roars up Florida’s west coast.
Where Irma ultimately makes landfall on the mainland remains uncertain because of the storm’s angle to the coast, National Hurricane Center forecasters said in their early Saturday update. But Irma’s fierce center could near Tampa Bay, which has not been struck by a major hurricane since October 1921, when the population was about 10,000, said hurricane center spokesman Dennis Feltgen. About 4 million people now live in the low-lying area.
“Big difference,” he said. “They’re incredibly vulnerable.”
In the meantime, the Keys should brace for a “very life-threatening event,” hurricane specialist Mike Brennan said. Southeast Florida can also still expect dangerous storm surge as strong winds push water inland and feeder bands drop heavy rain.
— JENNY STALETOVICH
Generators running on Miami Beach pumps
7:55 a.m.: Orange generators are attached to pumps in Miami Beach’s flood-prone Sunset Harbor neighborhood. Beach pumps failed in August when Tropical Storm Emily dumped several inches of rain. The pumps had no backup generators in case of a power outage. City leaders promised to fix the situation.
— DAVID J. NEAL
Purdy Lounge: ‘We will survive’
7:38 a.m.: Purdy Lounge has a message for Miami Beach: We will survive. Since opening in summer 2000, the liquor-and-music club has outlasted every other retail or restaurant business in South Beach’s Sunset Harbour area, as well as all but a few clubs in South Florida.
— DAVID J. NEAL
“You cannot survive this,” Gov. Scott warns of expected storm surge
7:30 a.m.: Gov. Rick Scott began Saturday morning in Tallahassee with an increasingly dire message for Florida residents in the path of Hurricane Irma.
“This is an unbelievably massive, destructive storm. It’s a killer,” he said during one of a string of morning show appearances as dawn broke at the state Emergency Operations Center.
With the western peninsula now forecast to take the brunt of the storm, Scott urged residents who have been ordered to evacuate to leave immediately.
“Look, it’s getting late,” he told viewers of the “Today Show” on NBC. “If you’re not on the road on the west coast by noon, you need to get to a shelter, get to a friend’s house if you’re in an evacuation zone. Get off the road.”
“The storm surge is what really scares me,” he said on a different morning show. “Potential 12 feet of storm surge.Think about that. ... You cannot survive this.”
He added: “You have got to understand: This is different than something like [Hurricane] Andrew. We didn’t get the storm surge in Andrew. This is going to impact both of our coasts. It’s a big, big storm.”
Scott began Saturday with a weather briefing at the state EOC, and then a string of back-to-back interviews with “Good Morning America,” the “Today Show,” “CBS This Morning,” and The Weather Channel.
He departed Tallahassee around 7:30 a.m. to head to Sarasota for a press conference at 9:15 a.m. His schedule for the rest of the day has not yet been released.
- KRISTEN M. CLARK
Some in “horror movie” Key West refusing to leave
7:25 a.m.: Key West’s last stand felt like a horror movie, one where the small town emptied by some looming apocalypse leaves a small band of stragglers questioning their own logic and sanity.
A local man burst into the aptly named Conch Farm bar, where Martin Liz and a few longtime Key West residents gobbled down burgers. The Friday evening hurricane forecast, blaring on TV, projected Irma barreling straight for the island, a stomach-knotting shift from one day earlier.
“You have to get out of town,” the man cried, announcing he was relenting and fleeing. “They’re evacuating all the police and firefighters. They said it’s going to be 30-foot storm surge — with waves on top of that.”
At the bar, an old man with a pirate’s crusty beard, grunted with absurd timing. “Isn’t that a tsunami?”
— DAVID OVALLE