Hurricane Irma, now a Category 4 storm with sustained winds of 155 miles per hour, beat down on the Turks and Caicos Islands early Friday after laying waste to a string of islands in the Caribbean, starting with Barbuda. At least 11 people have been reported killed on Barbuda, St. Martin, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Anguilla, and the death toll is expected to rise. Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti avoided direct hits and appear to have avoided the worst, but Cuba is evacuating low-lying areas and on Thursday night, the National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane and storm surge warning for all of South Florida and the Florida Keys, indicating "life-threatening inundation from rising water" within 36 hours.
Irma is expected to hit South Florida now sometime Saturday night as an "extremely dangerous" Category 4 hurricane. "It is wider than our entire state and could cause major and life-threatening impacts from coast to coast," Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) said Thursday. "Regardless of which coast you live on, be prepared to evacuate." Assuming it doesn't strengthen again to a Category 5 hurricane, Irma will have lower wind speeds than Hurricane Andrew, a Category 5 buzz saw that savaged Florida in 1992, but Irma is much bigger — about the size of Massachusetts — and it's expected to be worse and costlier.
Irma is big enough to see clearly from space.
You can see some of Irma's path of destruction and watch Florida's preparations in the Associated Press report below. Peter Weber