Hurricane Irma continued to leave a trail of destruction behind it in the Caribbean early Friday, slamming into the Turks and Caicos Islands, where communication was cut off and widespread damage feared. The storm was later downgraded from a Category 5 storm to a Category 4 storm with maximum winds estimated at 155mph, but officials say it is still "extremely dangerous" and capable of inflicting a "truly devastating" impact on areas in its path, including Florida, the BBC reports. The latest:
- Irma, which churned north of the Dominican Republic and Haiti Thursday, was barreling toward the Bahamas and the northern coast of Cuba Friday morning, the AP reports. Tens of thousands of people, including tourists, have been evacuated from a Cuban coastline expected to experience 20-foot storm surges.
- The Red Cross says 1.2 million people have been affected by the storm but that could rise to as many as 26 million, with many at risk of losing power and drinking water, CNN reports. At least 14 deaths have been blamed on the storm, including four in the US Virgin Islands.
- Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte says the runway has been cleared on the Dutch part of the island of St. Martin and aid is arriving, the Guardian reports. Up to 6,000 Americans are believed to be stranded on the island, where there have been reports of widespread looting.
- Newsweek reports that the US military has decided against evacuating personnel and inmates at Guantanamo Bay.
- With the storm expected to make what could be a catastrophic hit on Florida over the weekend, the New York Times looks at what has made the southern and central parts of the state so vulnerable. Irma has already prompted the largest-ever evacuation of Miami-Dade County.
- AccuWeather reports that Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas are now under states of emergency and making final preparations for the storm. Early Friday, the National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane and storm surge warning for South Florida and the Florida Keys.
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