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Hurricane Irma St. Maarten

Barbuda's prime minister said Hurricane Irma left behind 'rubble'

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Updated September 06, 2017 08:39 PM EDT

Hurricane Irma left behind "widespread damage" on the Caribbean island of Barbuda Wednesday, a spokesperson for Antigua and Barbuda's National Office of Disaster Services told ABC News.

"Barbuda is literally rubble," Prime Minister Gaston Browne told ABS TV/Radio Antigua.

Browne said about 90 percent of all structures were destroyed when the eye of the Category 5 storm passed over the island.

"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."

Browne told the Associated Press that a 2-year-old was killed as a family tried to escaped their damaged home.

Meanwhile, about 600,000 Puerto Ricans are without power as the hurricane bears down on the U.S. territory Wednesday night. According to the U.S. National Weather Service, Puerto Rico hasn't seen a hurricane of this magnitude since Hurricane San Felipe in 1928. That storm killed 2,748 people in Guadeloupe, Puerto Rico and Florida.

Updated September 06, 2017 07:30 PM EDT

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has declared a State of Emergency, effective at 8 a.m. Thursday, and advised residents to prepare for the possible impacts of Hurricane Irma, according to our affiliate WLOS.

"There's still a lot that we don't know about this storm, and we don't know exactly where the storm will track, and we don't know yet which parts of North Carolina will be impacted," Cooper said Wednesday during a live briefing. "But what we do know, it is time for North Carolinians to get ready for Irma."

The governor advised residents to prepare for possible impacts from the storm, including learning evacuation routes and making emergency kits.

Hurricane Irma lashed the Caribbean Wednesday, causing at least three deaths, according to ABC News.

The National Hurricane Center said, "The threat of direct hurricane impacts in Florida over the weekend and early next week has increased."

Updated September 06, 2017 03:58 PM EDT

Officials in Puerto Rico said more than 20 percent of energy subscribers -- about 300,000 people -- have lost power, ABC News reported.

More than 1,000 people are in shelters Wednesday afternoon and some tourists and residents are stranded as Hurricane Irma brings winds and heavy rain to the island.

"There is no reason to be outside," said Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello.

Updated September 06, 2017 03:48 PM EDT

FEMA shared tips for those fleeing ahead of Hurricane Irma.

Updated September 06, 2017 03:41 PM EDT

The National Weather Service shared this view of Hurricane Irma as its eye sits northeast of Puerto Rico.

Updated September 06, 2017 03:35 PM EDT

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) released its latest estimates of the earliest, and most likely, arrival times for tropical storm-force winds.

Updated September 06, 2017 03:31 PM EDT

Gov. Rick Scott urged Floridians to take "life-threatening" Hurricane Irma very seriously during a press conference Wednesday.

"Do not sit and wait for the storm to come," Scott said. "Get out now."

Scott said the state is working to address gas shortages caused by residents fleeing ahead of the storm.

"We're doing everything to get fuel to you as quickly as possible," he said.

Scott has suspended tolls on all Florida roads in order to keep traffic flowing.

Updated September 06, 2017 03:21 PM EDT

Hurricane Irma hits the Caribbean.

Updated September 06, 2017 02:07 PM EDT

The "extremely dangerous" core of Hurricane Irma will continue its path over the Virgin Islands over the next couple hours and then pass near or just north of Puerto Rico this afternoon or tonight, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC).

The storm will pass near or just north of the Dominican Republic on Thursday and approach the Turks and Caicos Islands and the southeastern Bahamas later that day.

Hurricane Irma's center is located about 20 miles east-northeast of St. Thomas and about 90 miles east of San Juan, Puerto Rico. It is moving west-northwest at 16 mph.

Maximum sustained winds remain around 185 mph, with higher gusts.

Updated September 06, 2017 01:22 PM EDT

Antigua hasn't been in contact with Barbuda for nearly six hours, CNN reported.

Barbuda -- a tiny, 100-square-mile island -- felt Hurricane Irma's wrath early Wednesday.

"They’re trying to get over there right now," said Sherrod James, deputy director of the National Office of Disaster Services. "We haven’t established contact with them. We’re trying to get a team over there to see what the status is."

Updated September 06, 2017 12:05 PM EDT

The National Hurricane Center released its latest track forecast for Hurricane Irma.

The NHC also released its forecast of the earliest arrival times for tropical storm-force winds.

Updated September 06, 2017 11:17 AM EDT

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) warned Wednesday morning of "a life-threatening storm surge" and "large and destructive waves" from Hurricane Irma.

Waves as high as 15 to 20 feet are possible in the Turks and Caicos Islands and the southeastern Bahamas, the NHC said.

The eye of "potentially catastrophic" Category 5 Hurricane Irma is closing in on the Virgin Islands. It is centered about 65 miles east-southeast of St. Thomas and about 140 miles east of San Juan, Puerto Rico. The storm is moving west-northwest at 16 mph, and this "general motion" is expected to continue over the next couple of days, the NHC said.

Irma's sustained winds are near 185 mph, with higher gusts. Hurricane-force winds extend up to 50 miles from the center and tropical storm-force winds extend up to 185 miles from the center.

"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 NHC said.

The NHC warned that the storm surge and tide "will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline." Water could rise 7 to 11 feet above ground in the British and U.S. Virgin Islands "if the peak surge occurs at the time of high tide," the NHC said.

Significant rainfall in the Leeward Islands, Puerto Rico, the British and U.S. Virgin Islands, Saint Croix, Turks and Caicos, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Cuba "may cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides," the NHC said. Some areas in the northern Leeward Islands could see 20 inches of rain.

"On the forecast track, the extremely dangerous core of Irma will move over portions of the Virgin Islands very soon, pass near or just north of Puerto Rico this afternoon or tonight, pass near or just north of the coast of the Dominican Republic Thursday, and be near the Turks and Caicos and southeastern Bahamas late Thursday," the NHC said.

Updated September 06, 2017 09:46 AM EDT

Florida Gov. Rick Scott holds a press conference on preparations for Hurricane Irma.

Updated September 06, 2017 07:28 AM EDT

Hurricane Irma is hitting the Caribbean on Wednesday morning.

Hurricane Irma made its first landfall early Wednesday, battering several islands in the northeast Caribbean Sea.

The U.S. National Weather Service said that Irma’s eye passed over Barbuda around 1:47 a.m. local time.

Irma, which is now the most powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricane in recorded history, also blasted the neighboring island of Antigua shortly thereafter.

The Category 5 storm is now raging along a path aimed at Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba and potentially Florida.

Officials in Antigua on Wednesday warned people there to seek protection from Irma’s “onslaught” in a statement closing with “May God protect us all.”

Irma also tore the roof off Barbuda’s police station that morning, forcing officers there to seek safety in either a nearby fire station or a community center serving as a government shelter.

Many homes in Antigua and Barbuda are not constructed on concrete foundations or badly constructed wooden roofs, leaving them particularly vulnerable to storms like Irma.

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) said that Irma presently boasts maximum sustained winds of 185 mph.

The organization added that although Irma’s winds will fluctuate in the coming days, the storm will remain at Category 4 or 5 intensity for the next day or two.

Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said that his government is evacuating six islands in the south as authorities would be incapable of helping those caught by Irma.

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“The price you pay for not evacuating is your life or serious physical harm,” he said, adding that the storm evacuation is the largest in his nation’s history.

President Trump has declared emergencies in Florida and the American territories of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands as it becomes increasingly possible Irma may strike them.

The president on Wednesday tweeted that his administration is monitoring Irma’s progress before praising the storm’s strength.

“The dangerousness of this event is like nothing we’ve ever seen,” Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello said. “A lot of infrastructure won’t be able to withstand this kind of force.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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