Irma’s track shifts slightly west; NC still in its path

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Thursday 11 p.m. update

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN/AP) – The National Hurricane Center’s 8 p.m. update to its Hurricane Irma forecast didn’t differ too much from the 5 p.m. advisory.

Irma is still forecast to make landfall near Miami before moving up Florida. Irma is packing winds of 175 mph, which is slightly down from 185 mph Tuesday and Wednesday.

The new track would be a disaster for Florida where residents are cramming highways to evacuate.

At least 31,000 people have fled the Florida Keys, which could begin seeing wind and rain from Irma as early as Friday night, Gov. Rick Scott said. He noted the size of the powerful Category 5 storm, and told residents not to become complacent.

“It is wider than our entire state and could cause major and life-threatening impacts from coast to coast. Regardless of which coast you live on, be prepared to evacuate,” Scott said.MOBILE USERS: Click here for Irma maps and images

And North Carolina still remains very much in the storm’s potential track. Rain and wind could hit central North Carolina next Monday and Tuesday.

The Red Cross is staging supplies such as food, water, wheelchairs and medication at sites around the state, including in Fuquay-Varina, Goldsboro and Fayetteville, Wilmington and New Bern. Another Red Cross office is setting up similar sites in the western part of the state.

The organization is also working to get shelters ready for the storm.

Red Cross workers are readying across the state because it isn’t yet clear where in North Carolina the storm’s effects will be felt most strongly. As the “cone of uncertainty” in the forecast narrows as the hurricane draws nearer, the Red Cross will shift volunteers to the hardest-hit areas.

North Carolina Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry said just after noon on Thursday that members of the North Carolina National Guard are being activated to help prep for Irma.

“We’re bringing in about 310 soldiers right now, and we can flex and surge more if we need to,” Sprayberry said.

The National Guard members will offer skills including search and rescue, hasty road repair and debris removal, he said.

More than 1 million people in Puerto Rico are without power – nearly 70 percent of customers of Puerto Rico’s Electric Power Authority. Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rossello said Thursday that crews are investigating and until they know the extent of the damage, “it will be difficult to estimate how long the power outage will last.”CLICK HERE TO LEARN HOW TO PREPARE FOR A HURRICANE

President Donald Trump is urging people to “be careful, be safe” during Hurricane Irma.

In a tweet Thursday morning, Trump remarked that Irma “is raging but we have great teams of talented and brave people already in place and ready to help.”

Trump asked people to “be careful, be safe!”

“Some fluctuations in intensity are likely during the next day or two, but Irma is forecast to remain a powerful category 4 or 5 hurricane during the next couple of days.” the National Hurricane Center wrote.

Irma is the most powerful storm ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean, National Hurricane Center said.

This is only the second time on Earth, since satellites began tracking them about 40 years ago, that a storm has maintained 185 mph winds for more than 24 hours, though by 5 a.m. Thursday they had dropped to 180 mph and by 11 a.m. to 175 mph.CLICK HERE FOR THE READYNC WEBSITE

The other one, according to Colorado State University meteorology professor Phil Klotzbach, hit the Phillippines in 2013. It was the massive typhoon Haiyan, which killed more than 6,000 people.

Klotzbach says “this thing is a buzzsaw,” and he’s “glad Floridians are taking it very seriously.

Experts say Irma’s strength is a result of unusually warm water for that part of the Atlantic.

Authorities said the storm had killed at least 10 as it passed through the Caribbean.

Nearly every building on the island of Barbuda was damaged when the eye of the storm passed almost directly overhead early Wednesday and about 60 percent of the island’s roughly 1,400 people were left homeless, Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne told The Associated Press.

“Either they were totally demolished or they would have lost their roof,” Browne said after returning to Antigua from a plane trip to the neighboring island. “It is just really a horrendous situation.”

He said roads and telecommunications systems were destroyed and recovery will take months, if not years. A 2-year-old child was killed as a family tried to escape a damaged home during the storm, Browne told the AP.

The Dutch prime minister says Category 5 Hurricane Irma was a storm of “epic proportions” when it slammed into the former Dutch colony of Saint Maarten in the Caribbean and is appealing to Dutch citizens to donate to a relief fund set up by the Red Cross.

Speaking Thursday after a meeting of the government’s crisis committee, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said there are no reports yet of casualties on the Dutch side of the island. Rutte says the damage is huge, particularly on Saint Maarten, with “widescale destruction of infrastructure, houses and businesses.”

He says, “there is no power, no gasoline, no running water. Houses are under water, cars are floating through the streets, inhabitants are sitting in the dark, in ruined houses and are cut off from the outside world.”

The Dutch military is readying two aircraft to fly to the region to distribute vital aid to the shattered territory, which is home to some 40,000 people. However the airport on the Dutch side of the island is badly damaged.

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