2017 Florida hurricane season

WUSF Public Media

Access to the Pinellas County barrier islands had already been restricted since Friday morning to residents, business owners and employees in advance of Hurricane Irma. 

Starting Sunday at 6 a.m., no one will be allowed in - even if they live there. 

Florida Public Radio Emergency Network

Hurricane Irma's leading edges whipped palm trees and kicked up the surf as the storm spun toward Florida with 120 mph winds Saturday on a projected new track that could put Tampa — not Miami — in the crosshairs.

Tampa has not taken a direct hit from a major hurricane in nearly a century.

Updated at 2:23 a.m. ET on Sunday

After battering Cuba on Saturday morning, the eye of Hurricane Irma has its sights set on Florida as a Category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center early Sunday. The NHC's latest forecast shows the storm's center shifting west from Miami, and even Tampa, to target St. Petersburg.

Florida braces for direct hit

Florida Public Radio Emergency Network

The biggest danger to life and property from Hurricane Irma could come from storm surge that forces seawater inland, which could topple houses, isolate residents who don't evacuate and make drowning an imminent threat, the National Hurricane Center is warning.

Florida Public Radio Emergency Network

The National Hurricane Center says it's looking more likely that the eye of powerful Hurricane Irma will strike the Keys, southwestern Florida and the Tampa Bay region starting Sunday. But that doesn't mean Miami area is in the clear. It's not.

Updated at 6 a.m. ET Saturday

Hurricane Irma is again a Category 4 storm as it slowly moves along the Cuban coast. The storm made landfall on the Camaguey archipelago of Cuba late Friday, according to the National Hurricane Center. As of 5 a.m. Saturday, the hurricane's center was just off the northern coast near central Cuba. The report puts Irma's traveling speed at 12 mph, about 245 miles south-southeast of Miami.

About 5.6 million people in Florida have been ordered to evacuate; forecasters expect the hurricane to hit Florida early Sunday morning.

Lake Okeechobee is currently at 13.7 feet, which is a slight increase over the course of the week, despite days of water releases into the estuaries surrounding the lake.

While the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers does not at this point believe the aging Hoover Dike is at risk of breach, there are three places where they expect significant amount of water to splash over and potentially stream over the top of those sites.

The Florida Department Of Corrections has started evacuating some of their smaller facilities in South Florida.

Hundreds of people are housed in a large room with computer monitors and giant TV screens lining the walls overhead. Lots of people are on computers, and even more are walking around wearing navy emergency response team shirts. It’s a calm but busy Friday afternoon at the State Emergency Operations Center.

The center in Tallahassee is at its highest activation: Level 1

Irma? There's an app for that.

Officials are encouraging South Florida residents to download smartphone apps for last-minute storm prep and to keep updated during the hurricane and its aftermath.

Among the suggested apps:

Florida Power and Light app: To monitor power outages

Florida 511: For real-time traffic updates

Gas Buddy: Shows gas stations and prices based on location

Hillsborough County

As Hurricane Irma approaches, authorities are encouraging residents to know whether they live in an evacuation zone, so they know when it’s time to leave.

Florida Public Radio Emergency Network

The National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Irma has strengthened back into a Category 5 storm, as officials warned more than 5 million people that time was running out Friday and ordered them to evacuate ahead of the deadly hurricane as it followed a path that could take it from one end of the state to the other.

Forecasters also extended hurricane and storm surge warnings and watches farther north to the Anclote River, including Tampa Bay.

Daylina Miller/WUSF News

Pasco County is the first in the Tampa Bay region to open a space at a hurricane shelter for registered sex offenders.

Sheriff Chris Nocco said they'll be given space at Wiregrass Ranch High School in Wesley Chapel.

Florida Public Radio Emergency Network

For an entire generation in South Florida, Hurricane Andrew was the monster storm that reshaped a region. Irma is likely to blow that out of the water.

Daylina Miller/WUSF News

Hurricane Irma's full impact on the Tampa Bay is still not clear, but a Pasco County group wants to make sure the homeless stay safe, too.

Raine Johns runs the Coalition for the Homeless in Pasco County. She and a group of volunteers canvassed the county this week to let homeless individuals and families know what their hurricane shelter options are.

Florida Public Radio Emergency Network

Hurricane Irma's projected path is still not clear, but state leaders are urging Floridians to prepare for the worst.

Florida Public Radio Emergency Network

Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco Counties begin evacuations today as the first hurricane warnings were issued for parts of southern Florida with the state braced for what could be a catastrophic hit from Hurricane Irma over the weekend.

Robert Neff via Wikimedia Commons

While Florida prepares for Hurricane Irma, Tampa Bay hotels are experiencing a cycle of room reservations.

As east coast residents are coming to Tampa, some tourists are leaving the area ahead of the storm.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

Hurricane Irma evacuations now involve more than South Florida residents taking to the roads.

The 6th Air Mobility Wing at Tampa’s MacDill Air Force Base is temporarily evacuating its KC-135 refueling planes to McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas.

Florida Public Radio Emergency Network

Hurricane Irma lashed Puerto Rico with heavy rain and powerful winds Wednesday night, leaving nearly 900,000 people without power as authorities struggled to get aid to small Caribbean islands already devastated by the historic storm.

Florida rushed to prepare for a possible direct hit on the Miami area by the Category 5 storm with potentially catastrophic 185 mph winds.

Pages