8:15 p.m South Carolina’s governor has ordered the evacuation of seven barrier islands, including Hilton Head Island, because they could be inundated by Hurricane Irma.
Gov. Henry McMaster said Friday that 4 to 6 feet (1.2 to 1.8 meters) of storm surge is possible on the islands in the southern part of the state even though the center of Irma is forecast to move 200 miles to the west. With about 40,000 residents, Hilton Head Island is by far the largest island evacuated. It also has a number of resorts, golf courses and hotels.
South Carolina Adjutant General Robert Livingston estimates 20,000 people have already left Hilton Head Island. Edisto Beach is also being evacuated, along with Harbor, Hunting, Fripp, Daufuskie, Tullifini and Knowles islands. McMaster says a change in Irma’s track back east might require more evacuations.
8:05 p.m. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has issued a state of emergency ahead of Hurricane Irma. The remnants of the deadly hurricane are currently projected to sweep into Alabama and Georgia by Monday morning, bringing strong winds and rain.
The governor said even though it appears Alabama will escape the brunt of the storm, the state will certainly be affected by the tropical system. “We must be ready to respond, no matter what comes our way,” Ivey said.
Under the projected track released Friday, the tropical system is expected to sweep into Alabama Monday morning bringing sustained winds of up to 30 mph, with higher gusts in the eastern part of the state. Alabama Emergency Management Agency meteorologist Jim Stefkovich says the greater inland threat for severe weather is in Georgia, but emphasized that could shift.
8:05 p.m. A handwritten sign on the door of an Orlando Home Depot reads “sorry, out of plywood” – a nearly universal problem at stores across the city as residents scrambled to collect supplies, board up their houses and wait out the storm.
Victor Hernandez wandered through the lumber racks just before closing time Friday evening, trying to think up a makeshift solution to protect two big windows at the front of his house. Hernandez thinks people might be overreacting in the wake of Hurricane Harvey in Houston, which sat over that city for days, dumping rain and causing rushing floods. He doesn’t believe this storm, moving more quickly, will be so devastating. “I’m from Cuba, we’re used to hurricanes. I grew up ready for storms,” said Hernandez, who’s lived in Orlando seven years and works as a real estate agent and valet driver
. After his wood run, Hernandez had two more stops to make: Wal-Mart, for some board games, then the liquor store, for a bottle of rum.
7:10 p.m. Florida has asked 5.6 million people to evacuate ahead of Hurricane Irma, or more than one quarter of the state’s population, according to state emergency officials.
Andrew Sussman, the state’s hurricane program manager, said Friday the total includes people throughout the southern half of the state as well as those living in inland Florida in substandard housing who were also told leave due to the dangerous storm that will slam the state this weekend.
Florida is the nation’s third-largest state with nearly 21million people according to the U.S. Census.
For days Gov. Rick Scott has been urging residents to evacuate, especially those who live in coastal areas that could be flooded due to the walls of water expected from Irma’s arrival.
6:45 p.m. The National Hurricane Center is warning Floridians that even if the storm seems to moving away from the East Coast in the latest tracks, don’t get complacent.
“This is a storm that will kill you if you don’t get out of the way,” said National Hurricane Center meteorologist and spokesman Dennis Feltgen. Feltgen says the storm has a really wide eye, with hurricane-force winds that cover the entire Florida peninsula and potentially deadly storm surges on both coasts. “Everybody’s going to feel this one,” Feltgen said.
6:45 p.m. As Florida deals with a catastrophic, dangerous hurricane, it may have a financial storm to deal with.
The annual budget forecast released this week shows, despite an ongoing economic recovery, Florida is expected to bring in just enough money to meet its spending needs.
That forecast shows the state will have a surplus of just $52 million during the fiscal year that starts in July 2018. The new estimate does not take into account the potential effects that will come from Hurricane Irma.
In the past some have speculated hurricanes help the economy because of increased spending. But Amy Baker, the state economist whose office helps put together the forecast, says a look at previous hurricanes showed that the state wound up spending more as a result of the disaster.
6:15 p.m. Hurricane Irma’s predicted path continues to inch west as the massive storm, still armed with 155 mph winds, approaches Florida.
The National Hurricane Center’s latest track brings the Category 4 hurricane into southwest Florida, up the state a tad west of the center region, and further east than earlier forecasts. However, the margin of error is still large enough that the entire state may get Irma’s powerful core.
Taking into account Irma’s 100-mile-wide hurricane-force winds, University of Miami researcher Brian McNoldy says most of the state will feel Irma’s wrath.
McNoldy says the storm will be “less costly (and) less deadly” on the state’s west coast, in comparison to Florida’s east coast, where there are more people. Forecasters keep moving Irma’s projected track a bit west because its long-anticipated turn north keeps getting pushed back. McNoldy says forecasters had expected a high-pressure system to weaken further north, allowing Irma to make the turn, but it is not weakening as fast as originally forecast.