Irma slams Cuba, wobbles west and takes aim at Florida

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Hurricane Irma, which has been downgraded to a Category 3 storm as it closes in on Florida, is now expected to swing west, regain power and rake the state's west coast on its way north, the National Hurricane Center said on Saturday.

While veering away from a direct hit on the Miami area, the southern Florida city will still suffer from harsh conditions.

Hurricane Irma is forecast to come ashore in south Florida as a Category 4 early Sunday morning.

Water levels are already rising on the coast of the USA state where a huge storm surge is expected.

Speaking at a press conference last night, he said: "If you are planning to leave and do not leave tonight, you will have to ride out this extremely risky storm at your own risk". Instead the western Gulf coast is now in greatest danger. Hurricane and storm surge advisories have been widened in Florida and up the US east coast. "Wind damage is totally going to throw a wrench into the insurance industry", Watson said.

Damages could easily top $135 billion in Florida, with other economic losses pushing the price tag as high as $200 billion, Watson said.

"Wind damage is totally going to throw a wrench into the insurance industry", Watson said. "You've got to get out now, get to a safe place".

With Hurricane Irma aiming squarely at Florida, up to a million people are being told to evacuate the coastal areas in the Sunshine State and neighbouring Georgia on Thursday, amid worries that fuel shortages and traffic bottlenecks could thwart the exodus.

More than 50,000 of those moved into schools, community centres and churches to weather the storm in shelters.

About 9 million of Florida's 20.6 million people may lose power, according to the state's largest utility Florida Power & Light Co.

Here's what to expect from Hurricane Irma - slight shifts in the track won't matter. The destruction caused by Hurricane Harvey two weeks ago in Texas and Louisiana served as a reminder of what lay ahead if measures were not taken to prepare for Irma.

Throughout this week, Irma's projected course has changed multiple times.

Hurricane Jose was barreling toward St. Martin, St. Maarten and St. Barts on Saturday, just a few days after Hurricane Irma had slammed the two Caribbean islands.

This image made from video shows damage from Hurricane Irma in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017.

With sustained winds down to 125 miles per hour, Irma continued to batter Cuba. Irma is also the first storm ever to sustain winds of 185 miles per hour for longer than 24 hours in the open Atlantic Ocean.

The storm is expected to gain strength again as it crosses over the water between Cuba and Florida.

The Category 4 storm had weakened but remained powerful as it swirled toward the islands.

Because Irma is so big, impacts are expected to be widespread, with unsafe and potentially catastrophic storm surge rolling up and down the Florida coast.

Most journalists know the feeling of heading somewhere other people are racing from and today ABC cameraman Bradley Fulton and I had our turn getting into Miami. "This will cover your house".

"This is a storm of enormous destructive power, and I ask everyone in the storm's path to heed ALL instructions from government officials", he wrote on Twitter.

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