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Irma's incursion: Florida bracing for a direct hit from monster storm

MIAMI – "I fear that people will say, 'oh it's only Category 4 now, we are safe,'" meteorologist Marshall Shepherd wrote early Friday. "This would be devastating and potentially deadly. It is a Category 4 storm with a track that will bring it directly into south Florida with the most populated cities of the region on the dangerous right side of the eye." The initial damage from the storm was observed on Wednesday in Barbuda, an island east of Puerto Rico. Gaston Browne, the prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, said Barbuda was "totally demolished," with 90% of its buildings destroyed. According to The Associated Press, officials in Antigua and Barbuda had told residents to seek shelter from Irma's "onslaught" in a statement that closed with: "May God protect us all."

The AP also reported that fierce winds there lifted the roof off a police station, prompting officers to take shelter in a nearby fire station. Communication with the island was cut off because of the destruction. Irma wreaked havoc in St. Martin — destroying 95% of buildings in parts of the island — and St. Barts as well, devastating popular tourist destinations, and slammed the Virgin Islands before passing just north of Puerto Rico. Winds were still strong enough to cut off power to half the island's residents, however, and reports suggest some may not regain electricity for months. Kevin Loria and Dave Mosher posting minutes ago on Business Insider website. Full story.

If this projected path from the NHC turns out to be correct, it puts Florida's heavily populated East Coast, including Miami, Ft. Lauderdale and Jacksonville, in the storm's deadliest NE quadrant.

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