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Hurricane Irma’s storm path: What you should know

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At least 23 people have died as Hurricane Irma ravaged the Caribbean this week, destroying buildings and uprooting trees on its potentially catastrophic path toward Florida. Around 5.6 million people have been asked to evacuate their homes ahead of landfall, officials say.

That’s more than one quarter of the state’s population.

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.

Florida is the nation’s third-largest state with nearly 21 million people according to the U.S. Census.

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The Category 4 storm – the most potent Atlantic Ocean hurricane ever – battered the Turks and Caicos Islands early Friday, where waves as high as 20 feet were expected. Communication went down as the storm slammed into the islands. Tourists were evacuated from beachside resorts as the storm barrels toward central Cuba and the Bahamas with Florida in its path.

Irma has already caused “severe and in places critical” damage to the island of Anguilla, according to the United Kingdom. It also ripped through the islands of Saint Martin and Saint Barthelemy and blacked out much of Puerto Rico Thursday.

With the hurricane less than 380 miles southeast of Miami, Fla., the first hurricane warnings were issued for parts of southern Florida as the state braced for what could be a catastrophic hit over the weekend.

The National Hurricane Center has warned that the hurricane is increasingly likely to slam into Florida this weekend – as Texas and Louisiana cope with the devastating aftermath caused by Hurricane Harvey.

“Everyone in hurricane-prone areas should ensure that they have their hurricane plan in place,” officials said.

Here’s what you should know about Hurricane Irma and its trajectory.

Where is Hurricane Irma today?

According to a 5 p.m. ET advisory from the National Hurricane Center, Irma is about 195 miles east of Caibarien, Cuba and around 345 miles southeast of Miami. It has maximum sustained winds of 155 mph. It’s presently moving west at 12 mph.

When is it expected to make landfall?

Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Thursday that the Florida Keys may feel Irma’s effects as early as Friday night. Forecasters have said that the storm could travel up through Georgia and South Carolina as well.

President Donald Trump declared emergencies in Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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Ten people were confirmed dead and dozens injured on the islands of St. Martin and St. Barthelemy, but the count could rise as rescue teams get a more complete look at the damage.

Three people were killed in Puerto Rico, four in the U.S. Virgin Islands and two in the Caribbean islands of Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda.

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What else should I know about the storm?

Hurricane Irma is classified as a Category 4 storm and is extremely dangerous. It brings with it life-threatening winds, storm surges and rainfall, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The agency had predicted Irma would stay at Category 4 or 5 as it skirted Cuba on Friday night into Saturday.

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“This hurricane has the potential to be a major event for the East Coast. It also has the potential to significantly strain FEMA and other governmental resources occurring so quickly on the heels of (Hurricane) Harvey,” Evan Myers, chief operating officer of AccuWeather, said in a statement.

And while its impact on the continental U.S. is still uncertain, Florida Gov. Rick Scott already declared a state of emergency Monday in all 67 counties in order to ensure “local governments have ample time, resources and flexibility to get prepared for this dangerous storm.”

“In Florida, we always prepare for the worst and hope for the best and while the exact path of Irma is not absolutely known at this time, we cannot afford to not be prepared,” Scott said.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster also declared a state of emergency ahead of the storm.

On Thursday, Georgia’s governor Nathan Deal ordered a mandatory evacuation starting on Saturday from the state’s Atlantic coast. That includes the city of Savannah.

Deal’s order authorizes about 5,000 Georgia National Guard members to be on active duty to help people respond and recover.

On Friday, President Trump declared a federal state of emergency in Georgia, a move that unlocks special federal resources to be sent to the state including extra money, debris removal and protective measures aimed at supplementing the state’s efforts.

Georgia hasn’t been hit by a hurricane with winds Category 3 or higher since 1898.

Also Thursday, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper issued a statewide emergency declaration and told people to be prepared statewide, although projections suggest the storm could be much weaker by next week.

Cooper said that tropical storms can be very dangerous, and “this storm can impact any part of North Carolina – all over our state from the mountains to the coast.”

The last Category 5 storm to hit the United States was Hurricane Andrew in 1992. An estimated 250,000 were left homeless and the storm caused more than $20 billion in damage in the Bahamas, Florida and Louisiana. Fifty-five people were killed.

Fox News’ Kaitlyn Schallhorn, Zoe Szathmary, Jake Ingrassia and The Associated Press also contributed to this report.

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Hurricane Irma’s storm path: What you should know

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