CBS News Logo Hurricane Irma strengthens to Category 5 storm as it targets Caribbean, U.S.

Last Updated Sep 6, 2017 12:15 AM EDT SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Hurricane Irma, armed with the most powerful winds ever recorded for a storm in the Atlantic Ocean, bore down Tuesday on the Leeward Islands of the northeast Caribbean on a path that could take it toward Florida over the weekend.Florida Gov. Rick Scott urged during a Tuesday evening press conference that all Floridians need to get prepared now ahead of the "incredibly dangerous storm" as officials are watching for storm surge and extreme winds.In Your Words: Tell CBS News how you're preparing for Irma"We are preparing for Irma to directly impact our state," Gov. Scott said. "And while it's too early to tell how early where exactly the storm will hit ... do not sit and wait to prepare -- get prepared now."Visit the website for more details."Get prepared. Learn your evacuation zone. Listen to your locals ... You have to take this storm seriously," Gov. Scott said. "Remember: your house can be rebuilt ... you can get new possessions, but you can't rebuild your life."President Trump approved emergency declarations for the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Florida, ordering federal assistance to supplement the local response to Hurricane Irma. The declaration authorizes FEMA to coordinate all disaster relief efforts.  Scott said earlier that he had requested Mr. Trump declare a "pre-landfall emergency for the entire state of Florida." Category 6 hurricane? Don't fall for these fake news storiesHow do I prepare for a hurricane? Use this checklistScott mentioned that at 5 p.m. Tuesday he waived all tolls in the state which would help evacuation efforts.The governor said he has been in touch with multiple agencies ahead of Irma. He said he spoke to all 67 counties in Florida to make sure all requests and preparedness are met and resources are distributed.Scott said the American Red Cross is sending 1,000 volunteers to Florida ahead of Irma.Reports that bottled water has run Continue Reading

Dave Barry’s Year in Review: Russia Mania, covfefe and the Category 5 weirdness of 2017

(Illustration by Ben Kirchner) Looking back on 2017 is like waking up after a party where you made some poor decisions, such as drinking tequila squeezed from the underpants of a person you do not really know. (At least you hope it was tequila.) The next day finds you lying naked in a dumpster in a different state, smeared from head to toe with a mixture of Sriracha sauce and glitter. At first you remember nothing. But then, as your throbbing brain slowly reboots, memories of the night before, disturbing memories, begin creeping into your consciousness. As the full, hideous picture comes into focus, you curl into a ball, whimpering, asking yourself over and over: Did that really happen? That’s how we here at the Year in Review feel about 2017. It was a year so surreal, so densely populated with strange and alarming events, that you have to seriously consider the possibility that somebody — and when we say “somebody,” we mean “Russia” — was putting LSD in our water supply. A bizarre event would occur, and it would be all over the news, but before we could wrap our minds around it, another bizarre event would occur, then another and another, coming at us faster and faster, battering the nation with a Category 5 weirdness hurricane that left us hunkering down, clinging to our sanity, no longer certain what was real. Take “covfefe.” Remember? For a little while, it was huge. Everybody was talking about it! Covfefe! But then, just like that, it was gone. What the hell WAS it? Did it even really happen? Another example: We have this vague memory that, for the briefest flicker of a moment, the White House communications director was a pathologically bronze man named Anthony Scaramucci, who — remember, this was the White House communications director — called up a reporter for the New Yorker and informed him, on the record, that he, Anthony Scaramucci, differed from White House chief strategist Steve Bannon Continue Reading

Hurricane Maria barrels through Dominica with Category 5 strength

For the second time this month, a monster hurricane plowed through the Caribbean, laying waste to the island of Dominica and setting its sights on Puerto Rico. Hurricane Maria’s fluid strength bounced between Categories 4 and 5 after pounding the former British colony with 160 mph winds, bringing floods, uprooting trees and eviscerating buildings. Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit warned of the “widespread devastation” he expects for the island’s roughly 72,000 people at daybreak, after riding out Maria’s landfall at his home. “So far we have lost all what money can buy and replace,” Skerrit said in a heartbreaking Facebook post. “The winds have swept away the roofs of almost every person I have spoken to or otherwise made contact with,” he added. The prime minister’s official residence fell victim to Maria’s merciless winds as Skerrit sheltered inside. “I am at the complete mercy of the hurricane. House is flooding,” Skerrit wrote while waiting to be rescued. The storm weakened slightly after its Dominica landfall but continued to regain strength as a Category 5 storm, crawling at a 9 mph pace as a U.S. Air Force Hurricane Hunter aircraft probed the storm Tuesday morning. Forecasters expect Maria to remain “extremely dangerous” as it barrels toward Guadeloupe and the Virgin Islands with sustained 155 mph winds. It’s slated to strike Puerto Rico by Wednesday. The hurricane center warned of Maria’s catastrophic potential as its eye shrank to a compact 10 miles across, which forecasters described as the “dreaded pinhole eye.” Puerto Ricans are still reeling from the rage of Hurricane Irma, which had dropped to Category 4 strength when it slammed into the northern part of the island this month. Even as evacuation orders were issued for parts of the island in Continue Reading

FDNY and NYPD teams work to aid Puerto Rican village in wake of Hurricane Maria

A team of New York City’s Bravest and Finest have been tirelessly working to assist a mountain village in Puerto Rico that was ravaged by Hurricane Maria, city officials said. The FDNY-NYPD team, known as New York Task Force 1, has spent the past two days in Utuado, helping to evacuate 12 people who were trapped due to a washed-out bridge, according to the city’s Office of Emergency Management. “They are, of course, happy and grateful to see us. Many of them have been without water for days now and some without food,” NYPD Lt. Michael McGuinness told the Daily News. “I think initially they thought they could ride it out, but given the lack of resources, they realized, ‘Hey, we’re cut off and we want out.’ ” McGuinness is among the 27 firefighters and cops who are on the ground in Puerto Rico, which is struggling to recover from Maria. The category 5 hurricane left Puerto Rico entirely without power, while homes and hospitals have been starved for resources. The Pentagon said 44% of the population has no drinking water and only 11 of the island’s 69 hospitals have fuel or power. McGuinness said that on Tuesday his rescue team hiked 30 minutes through difficult terrain to evacuate four people to safety. He said since the bridge had been washed out, the task force and the National Guard were distributing relief supplies through a boat traveling across the river by a pulley system. The New York Task Force 1 also repaired a hospital generator in Utuado, which has a population of about 33,000, an Emergency Management spokeswoman said. “They were conducting operations around Utuado yesterday and returned there today. Communication is really spotty, and we haven’t been able to get in touch with them easily,” the spokeswoman, Nancy Silvestri, told The News. McGuinness said he was not sure how long his team will be in Utuado. There are Continue Reading

San Juan mayor slams President Trump’s self-assessed score on Puerto Rico hurricane response: ‘It is still a failing grade’

One of President Trump’s most vocal critics is contesting his self-assessed score on recovery efforts in Puerto Rico. The mayor of San Juan, the island’s capital, called out Trump on Friday for saying his administration deserves a “10” for its response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria nearly a month ago. “Well, if it is a 10 out of a scale of 100, of course,” mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz told CNN. “It is still a failing grade.” Most of the U.S. territory’s 3.4 million residents remain without power and one-third do not have access to clean drinking water. Thousands remain in shelters set up after the storm. “I think the President lives in an alternative reality world that only he believes the things that he’s saying.” The Trump administration has faced sharp criticism for what many saw as slow relief and aid efforts — with Cruz becoming mired in a stormy feud with the President. Trump made matters worse in the weeks following the Category 5 hurricane as he warned that Uncle Sam “cannot keep” federal relief efforts — such as FEMA and the military — in Puerto Rico “forever.” Cruz has continuously challenged Trump in the wake of Maria’s devastation, leading the President to deem her “nasty.” Trump also issued several tweets that appeared to blame Puerto Ricans for not doing more to help themselves. The high praise of the federal response came during an Oval Office meeting with Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló. “It was probably the most difficult — when you talk about relief, when you talk about search, when you talk about all of the different levels, and even when you talk about lives saved,” Trump said. “If you look at the number, I mean this was, I think, it was worse than Katrina. It was in many ways Continue Reading

Florida Keys re-open after punishing Hurricane Irma

MARATHON, Fla. — Authorities opened Marathon to residents Saturday, but urged them to come prepared with supplies, medications and anything else they can collect before they return home to the badly damaged low-lying island chain a week after Hurricane Irma battered the Florida Keys.“We’ve gone through some difficult times here. We will go through some more difficult times,” Monroe County Commissioner George Neugent said. “The Keys are not what you left several days ago.”Monroe County Commissioner Heather Carruthers said officials decided to re-open the Lower Keys to allow people to return and assess the damage to their property. Yet the fewer people come back the less they overwhelm existing resources. Plumbers, air conditioning repair workers and other people with skills to help the area recover are needed.Carruthers said it will be a while before the Florida Keys return to normalcy and the district’s announcement that schools will re-open on Sept. 25 will help that happen.“People need to be prepared for primitive conditions,” Carruthers said.Frustrated residents camped out at a checkpoint during the week demanding re-entry into the lower parts of the chain of islands. Yet some understand the need to stay away and allow recovery crews to clean-up and re-establish power, water and cell phone service.“I understand why they keep you away and you would want to be away,” said Tim O’Hara, a reporter at the Key West Citizen newspaper who evacuated to Savannah, Ga. “You wouldn’t want to be down there sweating all night long.”O’Hara, his wife and son went to Tampa last Friday but after they saw Hurricane Irma was headed that way they moved to Savannah. He said evacuating has been stressful for his 5-year-old because they switched to four different locations between a friend’s house, an Airbnb and hotels.“I can tell it’s been tough on him because Continue Reading

Hurricane Irma as it relates to Southwest Florida: What we know now

As Southwest Florida residents prepare for a category 5 hurricane bringing high winds and rain, officials urge you to act on your plans now."In Florida, we know that the best way to protect our families in severe weather is to have a plan," said Gov. Rick Scott. "I urge all Floridians to remain vigilant and stay alert to local weather and news and visit today as we all prepare for Hurricane Irma."Lee Mayfield, Lee County Emergency Management acting director, said while it is likely Southwest Florida will see impacts from Hurricane Irma, it is too early to predict local impacts. "Residents should review their hurricane/evacuation plans, update their hurricane supply kit and be ready to act when evacuation orders are issued for certain populations and areas of the county," he said. Residents may stay informed via local media and the immediate hours, Hendry County Emergency Management recommends that people ensure that all yard debris is picked up, loose items outside are secured and emergency kits updated.Lee County Emergency Management, FEMA and other emergency management groups recommend the following: Assess your riskTo search for general information about risks, visit and search for  Florida.  High winds, heavy rainfall, tornadoes, and flooding can be felt  inland, too. Check NOAA’s historical hurricane tracks tool to check the severity and frequency of past hurricanes. Food and waterIs there enough food for three days that does not need to be cooked? If you have food that must be cooked, do you have a gas or char­coal grill that you can use outside your home? Here is what Lee County recommends: 1 gallon of drinking water per person per day and non-perishable food that meets your dietary requirements for three to seven days; manual can opener or pop- top cans/containers and eating utensils;  juice/soft drinks/instant Continue Reading

A major hurricane could bring major devastation to a saturated Southwest Florida

For complete coverage on Hurricane Irma visit   Buildings smashed. Homes without roofs. Downed power poles and trees blocking local roads. Weeks, if not months without electricity, and an area considered uninhabitable. Those are descriptions from the National Hurricane Service on what to expect when a Category 5 hurricane makes landfall. Hurricane Irma is one of the strongest storms the Atlantic has produced, ever, could be a Category 3 or 4 if it hits Florida.  More: Hurricane Irma as it relates to Southwest Florida: What we know now More: Hurricane Irma update: Winds increase to 185 mph A high pressure system in the Atlantic Ocean has pushed the storm west, toward the Bahamas and Florida. "The main driver is the high pressure that is building to our west, and that’s what is driving the system west at the moment," said Dustin Norman, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Ruskin. "Really what the main question then comes to is we had a trough (jet stream) that looked like it was going to fill in further south and that will help drive the system north."Where and if Irma makes landfall in the United States is still unknown, but various weather forecasting outlets are calling for the storm to either hit or come close to South Florida. Because Irma is likely to bring heavy rains, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has begun pushing water out of Lake Okeechobee to draw down the water level.Water managers had already started preparing the region for heavy rains by lowering various canal networks.  More: Sand for Fort Myers residents available to combat Irma; Cape Coral not providing sandbags More: is free, unlimited for Hurricane Irma "What we’re doing now is continuing to hold down the primary canal network to make space for the local drainage system to move water out of their system and get it Continue Reading

Hurricane Irma: What you need to know

See the latest advisory updates from NOAA at the bottom of the story.Gov. Rick Scott urged Florida residents to "prepare for the worst" as Hurricane Irma continues gaining strength in the Atlantic. In a press conference in North Naples on Tuesday, the governor said President Donald Trump has committed whatever federal resources the state may need to prepare for and recover from the Category 5 hurricane. "We don't know what is in store, but we all have to be prepared," Scott said. He urged residents to stock up on water and food and to learn the locations of local emergency shelters.  How strong is Hurricane Irma? Hurricane Irma strengthened to a Category 5 storm with sustained winds reaching 185 mph. 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.Irma is the strongest hurricane in the Atlantic since 2007. Hurricane Ivan's highest sustained wind speeds were 165 and Hurricane Katrina reached 175 mph.  More: Hurricane Irma Category 5 hurricane with 180 mph winds; Florida in its path Where is the storm?Hurricane Irma is 90 miles east of San Juan, Puerto Rico, heading west-northwest at 16 mph.  Where is Hurricane Irma expected to hit?  The latest computer models have shifted Irma closer to the east coast of Florida on Sunday but all of Southwest Florida remains in the 5-day forecast cone. A great deal of uncertainty still exists about Irma's ultimate path.Forecasters are expecting Irma to turn north Saturday. The timing of that turn will be of huge consequence to Floridians.   Will the Panhandle be impacted?It's too soon to tell, but with Category 5 Irma churning in the Atlantic on a path toward Florida, experts say now is the time for Panhandle residents to make storm preparations. "This one is fast and powerful. It has Continue Reading

Death toll from Hurricane Felix hits 98

PUERTO CABEZAS, Nicaragua — The death toll from Hurricane Felix neared 100 Thursday night as U.S., Honduran and Nicaraguan soldiers searched remote jungle beaches and the open sea for survivors and the dead. Villagers in canoes helped, paddling through waters thick with fallen trees. Two days after the storm hit, dozens more bodies were recovered along the Miskito coastline that stretches across the Nicaragua-Honduras border, many found floating in the sea, emergency officials said. Abelino Cox, a spokesman for the Regional Emergency Committee, said the death toll from Felix had risen to at least 98. The previous toll was at least 65 dead. The storm also destroyed the ethnic Zumo and Mayagna Indian community of Awastingni, located 55 miles northwest of Puerto Cabezas, Cox said. Fourteen people from there were missing. "This is horrifying," said committee official Brooklin Rivera, who lives in the area. Felix damaged or destroyed 8,000 houses in and around Puerto Cabezas and 18,000 Nicaraguans are living in shelters, civil defense officials said. Many of the victims were Miskito Indians who had tried to flee the Category 5 hurricane. Officials believed more dead would be found by teams combing the coast stretching across the Nicaragua-Honduras border. At least 32 people were still missing after their village was destroyed and the boats they fled in capsized. Many of the 52 survivors who washed ashore or were found clinging to debris were being treated for dehydration in the seaside Honduran village of Villeda Morales. Rescue and aid was arriving slowly in the impoverished region, where descendants of Indians, European settlers and African slaves live in stilt homes on island reefs and in small hamlets, surviving by fishing and diving for lobster. Interviewed by phone from the area, Honduran Col. Saul Orlando Coca told The Associated Press that U.S. and Honduran military personnel were patrolling the sea and inlets with helicopters and boats Continue Reading