SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Fearsome Hurricane Irma cut a path of devastation across the northern Caribbean, leaving at least 10 dead and thousands homeless after destroying buildings and uprooting trees on a track Thursday that could lead to a catastrophic strike on Florida.
The most potent Atlantic Ocean hurricane ever, Irma weakened only slightly Thursday morning and remained a powerful Category 5 storm with winds of 180 mph (285 kph), according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center.
The storm was increasingly likely to rip into heavily populated South Florida early Sunday, prompting the governor to declare an emergency and officials to impose mandatory evacuation orders for parts of the Miami metro area and the Florida Keys. Forecasters said it could punish the entire Atlantic coast of Florida and rage on into Georgia and South Carolina.
“This could easily be the most costly storm in U.S. history, which is saying a lot considering what just happened two weeks ago,” said Brian McNoldy, a hurricane researcher at the University of Miami, alluding to the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey.