Florida braces for Irma’s wrath
A screen grab from a broadcast shows Hurricane Irma's power.
Hurricane Irma is blasting through the Caribbean pulverizing and obliterating everything in its path.
The Category 5 storm — believed to be the largest ever in the Atlantic — is now bearing down on Puerto Rico and the Florida Keys.
Andrea Pujols, 26, painted a picture of mayhem in the suburbs of San Juan, Puerto Rico.
“It’s been chaos all day long,” Pujols told the Washington Post. “There’s nothing left at the supermarket. They’re saying the airport will be closed for days. They’re saying there’s not going to be any light for three to four months.”
Elsewhere in the eye of the storm:
It’s feared parts of Puerto Rico could be without electricity for between four and six months.
Irma’s nearly 300 km/h sustained winds are the strongest recorded for a landfalling hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean.
Phone lines are down and communication spotty on islands in the path of the storm.
French government officials confirmed blackouts, flooding and demolished buildings on St. Barts and St. Martin.
Meanwhile, near panic has exploded in southern Florida where a mass exodus is underway in the Keys — critically vulnerable to storms and massive waves.
Residents picked store shelves clean and long lines formed at gas pumps Wednesday as Irma charged toward the Sunshine State.
Miami, with 6 million residents, could take a full-frontal pounding, triggering fears the Gold Coast could turn into a watery killing field.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center forecast that Irma would slam into Miami sometime Sunday. Then, the storm would likely tear up the U.S. eastern seaboard.
But despite the panic, meteorologists acknowledge that Irma could miss southern Florida entirely.
Most people weren’t taking any chances.
“It’s just scary, you know? We want to get to higher ground. Never had a Cat 5, never experienced it,” said Michelle Reynolds, who was leaving the Keys as people filled gas cans and workers covered fuel pumps with “out of service” sleeves.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s posh Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach — the unofficial Southern White House — also sits in the path of the storm.
Trump tweeted earlier: “Watching Hurricane closely. My team, which has done, and is doing, such a good job in Texas, is already in Florida. No rest for the weary!”
And Florida is trying to keep things as normal as possible. In Polk County, officials will ask everyone attempting to enter an emergency shelter for their ID.
People with outstanding warrants will be arrested and sex offenders turned away.