Watch Live: Tracking Hurricane Irma - NBC Chicago

Watch Live: Tracking Hurricane Irma

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A live satellite image of Hurricane Irma will appear in the player above. From time to time, the video source will change to a location in the path of the storm.

    A ferocious Hurricane Irma left multiple people dead and thousands homeless on islands across the northern Caribbean as it cut a devastating path that could lead to a catastrophic strike on Florida.

    Stay or Go?: Irma Evacuees Share Their DilemmaStay or Go?: Irma Evacuees Share Their Dilemma

    To flee or to stay? A lot of Chicagoans in Florida face that question as the storm inches toward them. Trina Orlando reports.

    (Published Friday, Sept. 8, 2017)

    Irma weakened only slightly Thursday morning from its peak, record-setting winds of 185 mph (300 kph) and remained a powerful Category 5 storm with winds of 180 mph (285 kph). By Friday morning, it weakened to Category 4 with maximum sustained winds near 155 mph (250 kph), but it remained a powerful hurricane.

    In Photos: Hurricane Irma Lashes Through the CaribbeanIn Photos: Hurricane Irma Lashes Through the Caribbean

    Where is Irma Headed?

    Irma appears increasingly likely to rip into heavily populated South Florida early Sunday. Gov. Rick Scott has declared an emergency and mandatory evacuation orders are in place for parts of the Miami metro area and the Florida Keys. Parts of South Florida were placed under a hurricane watch Thursday.

    Forecasters said Irma could rake the entire Atlantic coast of Florida and rage on into Georgia and South Carolina.

    What Has Irma Done So Far?

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

    Nearly every building on the island of Barbuda was damaged when the eye of the storm passed early Wednesday. That left about 60 percent of the island's roughly 1,400 people homeless, Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne told The Associated Press.

    Powerful Irma

    Irma had the most powerful winds ever recorded for a storm in the Atlantic Ocean.

    Four other storms have had winds that strong in the overall Atlantic region but they were in the Caribbean Sea or the Gulf of Mexico, which are usually home to warmer waters that fuel cyclones.

    Irma was fueled by the unusually warm waters in the Atlantic.

    Evacuation Orders

    People in parts of Miami's metro area are under mandatory orders to leave their homes Thursday as Hurricane Irma barrels toward the region with potentially catastrophic winds.

    Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday strongly urged people to evacuate if asked to do so by local officials. He waived tolls on all Florida highways and told people if they were thinking about leaving to "get out now." Scott warned that Irma is "bigger, faster and stronger" than Hurricane Andrew, the last Category 5 storm to hit the state.

    Why Risk It?

    With Irma's potentially catastrophic wind and rain set to crash through the low-lying Florida Keys this weekend, many storm-hardened residents don't seem willing to ride this one out.

    From Key Largo to Key West , residents and officials said Irma is a storm to be reckoned with. Keys officials expected to announce a mandatory evacuation Wednesday for visitors, with residents being told to leave the next day.

    Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who plans to fly to the Keys on Wednesday, said a hospital in the island chain would have its patients evacuated by air.

    One Flight Into the Storm

    A daring Delta Air Lines crew braved Hurricane Irma's wind and rain to fly in and out of Puerto Rico to pick up travelers.

    The flight-tracking website FlightRadar24 shared a radar image showing the plane heading into San Juan from New York just before noon Wednesday as the swirling storm was set to engulf the island.

    The plane took off less than an hour later with a new group of passengers for the return trip to New York. Radar images showed it navigating a narrow path between Irma's outer bands to escape the storm.

    Other Flights Being Canceled

    Airlines plan to cancel Florida flights that are in Hurricane Irma's path.

    American Airlines says it will begin shutting down operations in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Sarasota and West Palm Beach by Friday afternoon and cancel flights through the weekend. JetBlue Airways said Wednesday afternoon that it had canceled about 130 flights.

    American, JetBlue, United and Delta offered waivers letting customers change travel plans to Florida and the Caribbean without the usual charges for changing a ticket.

    Insurance Impact

    One of Florida's biggest home insurers could take a big hit if predictions about Hurricane Irma prove true.

    The state-run Citizens Property Insurance Corp. is strong enough to absorb the blow from the monster storm, industry experts say, but all the new claims could punch a hole in its finances, possibly leading to higher premiums in future years.

    Flood Insurance Has Dropped

    An Associated Press analysis shows a steep drop in flood insurance across Florida, including the areas most endangered by what could be a devastating storm surge as Hurricane Irma approaches.

    In just five years, the state's total number of federal flood insurance policies has fallen by 15 percent, according to Federal Emergency Management Agency data. Florida's property owners still buy far more federal flood insurance than any other state, but most residents in hazard zones are badly exposed.

    Are Resources Strained After Harvey?

    President Donald Trump's homeland security adviser said the government can handle Hurricane Irma relief because the life-saving phase for Hurricane Harvey is over.

    Tom Bossert told The Associated Press that Harvey victims will not be forgotten. He said the government is working on longer-term assistance for those people, such as Small Business Administration loans, unemployment wages and reconstruction.

    Rush Limbaugh's Remark

    Rush Limbaugh created a storm of his own by suggesting that the "panic" caused by Hurricane Irma benefits retailers, the media and politicians seeking action on climate change.

    The conservative radio personality's swerve into meteorology had Al Roker, the "Today" show weatherman, saying Wednesday that Limbaugh was putting people's lives at risk.

    Limbaugh's lengthy soliloquy on his radio show the day before was apparently set off by seeing a rush on supplies of bottled water in South Florida, where he lives.

    Will Football Be Played?

    For the Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Week 1 will become Week 11.

    The NFL has decided to have the teams play on Nov. 19 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida -- moving the game from Sunday's original date out of concern for Hurricane Irma.

    Other games were canceled, postponed or moved entirely. FIU's home opener against Alcorn State will be Friday night in Birmingham, Alabama. The game was to be played Saturday night in Miami.

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