Hurricane Irma batters Caribbean islands, threat to South Florida

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Hurricane Irma barreled toward the U.S. mainland Wednesday, prompting counties in Florida to begin evacuations while the “potentially catastrophic Category 5” storm menaced Puerto Rico and battered a wide swath of the Caribbean.

Irma posed an increasing threat to South Florida, a  densely populated mass of cities and suburbs hugging the coastline. As dire warnings mounted, schools and offices across the state began to shut down, grocery store shelves were wiped clean and authorities ordered evacuations with more to follow.

The most powerful hurricane to threaten the Atlantic coast in more than a decade, Irma has swelled into a monster force with maximum sustained winds near 185 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. The center said Wednesday afternoon that Irma’s “extremely dangerous core” was moving over the Virgin Islands.

Expectations that the storm would by this weekend make its way to Florida sent people in that state scrambling to stock up on food and water, and in many cases get out of the state. Monroe County, the southernmost county in Florida and home to the Keys, began mandatory evacuations of tourists and visitors. Mandatory evacuation orders were issued further north, in parts of populous Broward County. And in Miami-Dade, officials said they may order residents to leave coastal areas, including Miami Beach.

Source:  International Newspapers