The U.S. National Hurricane Center repeated its warning Friday that Irma is likely to remain a category 5 storm until it makes landfall on the coast of South Florida this weekend with peak windspeeds of up to 185 miles per hour.
The update follows official hurricane warnings for both Dade and Broward counties, which sit across the Miami metropolis, and South Florida counties that extend north along the state's eastern seaboard. A hurricane warning, according to the NHC, indicates that "preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion" and that storm conditions are expected in the area "imminently".
Irma's path, according to the NHC, has taken it over the Great Inagua Island as of 02:00am Eastern time, around 535 miles to the south east of Miami. The storm is travelling at around 15mph, the NHC said, and could bring so-called 'surge waters' of 5 to 10 feet in elevation in and around the areas of Key West, on the state's southern tip.
Florida Governor Rick Scott issued orders late Thursday to close all school colleges and universities in the state until at least Tuesday next week, while all of the state's professional sports teams, as well as its major university athletic programs, have cancelled weekend competitions.
All schools statewide have been closed so people can safely evacuate where needed. Check out these evacuation tips https://t.co/VPMPOZfb4C— Florida SERT (@FLSERT) September 8, 2017
Scott urged residents in the evacuation areas of Miami-Dade county, the nation's 7th largest, to "leave now, don't wait. The roads are going to get worse the longer you wait."
Irma's windspeeds are also threatening power supplies in the state, with NextEra Energy Inc's (NEE) Florida Power & Light announcing the closure of two if its nuclear power plants and warning customers of the state's biggest provider to "prepare for damage to our infrastructure and potentially prolonged power outages."
The storm has taken the lives of 14 people on its deadly path across the Caribbean, according to various local officials, and caused the evacuation of tens of thousands of island residents.
In Georgia, local media are reporting that Irma could hit the city of Atlanta, the largest in the southeast United States, on Monday, although it it likely to have slowed to a Tropical Storm by the, with winds in the region of 40mph to 60mph.
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