MIAMI – Hurricane Irma shook homes and flooded buildings in small Caribbean islands as it marched toward Cuba and perhaps the U.S.
The storm unleased record-setting winds of 185 mph (300 kph) as it began a path of destruction.
WHERE IS IRMA HEADED?
Hurricane Irma grew into a dangerous Category 5 storm Tuesday and showed no signs of losing strength. The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Irma was a "potentially catastrophic" storm with winds that extend 50 miles (80 kilometers) from the center.
The center of the storm is expected to cross near Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba and possibly Florida. It could arrive in South Florida this weekend as a Category 4 or 5 hurricane. The last major hurricane to hit Florida was in 2005.
Irma had the most powerful winds ever recorded for a storm in the Atlantic Ocean.
Four other storms have had winds that strong in the overall Atlantic region, but they were in the Caribbean Sea or the Gulf of Mexico, which are usually home to warmer waters that fuel cyclones. Irma was fueled by the unusually warm waters in the Atlantic.
WHY RISK IT?
With Irma's potentially catastrophic wind and rain set to crash through the low-lying Florida Keys this weekend, many storm-hardened residents don't seem willing to ride this one out.
From Key Largo to Key West , residents and officials said Irma is a storm to be reckoned with. A mandatory evacuation for Keys visitors was underway Wednesday, with residents being told to leave the next day.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who flew to the Keys on Wednesday morning, said a hospital in the island chain would have its patients evacuated by air.
ARE RESOURCES STRAINED AFTER HARVEY?
President Donald Trump's homeland security adviser said the government can handle Hurricane Irma relief because the life-saving phase for Hurricane Harvey is over.
Tom Bossert told The Associated Press that Harvey victims will not be forgotten. He said the government is working on longer-term assistance for those people, such as Small Business Administration loans, unemployment wages and reconstruction.
RUSH LIMBAUGH'S REMARK
Rush Limbaugh created a storm of his own by suggesting that the "panic" caused by Hurricane Irma benefits retailers, the media and politicians seeking action on climate change.
The conservative radio personality's swerve into meteorology had Al Roker, the "Today" show weatherman, saying Wednesday that Limbaugh was putting people's lives at risk.
Limbaugh's lengthy soliloquy on his radio show the day before was apparently set off by seeing a rush on supplies of bottled water in South Florida, where he lives.
WILL FOOTBALL BE PLAYED?
For the Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Week 1 will become Week 11.
The NFL has decided to have the teams play on Nov. 19 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida — moving the game from Sunday's original date out of concern for Hurricane Irma.
Other games were canceled, postponed or moved entirely. FIU's home opener against Alcorn State will be Friday night in Birmingham, Alabama. The game was to be played Saturday night in Miami.
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