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Irma Weakens to Category 1 Storm as It Strikes Tampa

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Water flows out of the Miami River to flood a walkway as Hurricane Irma passes through on September 10, 2017 in Miami, Florida.
Water flows out of the Miami River to flood a walkway as Hurricane Irma passes through on September 10, 2017 in Miami, Florida.Credit: JOE RAEDLE/AFP
Updates

Irma death count rises to 10 in Cuba

At least 10 people were killed in Cuba by Hurricane Irma, most of them crushed by collapsing buildings, authorities said on Monday, bringing the death toll from the ferocious storm to 38 in the Caribbean. 

Seven of the dead were in the province of Havana, while fatalities also were reported in Matanzas, home to the tourist resort of Varadero, and the regions of Ciego de Avila and Camaguey farther east, according to a statement from civil defense authorities. 

The death toll underscores the violence of the storm, which crashed into Cuba late on Friday as the first Category 5 hurricane to make landfall on the island since 1932, state media reported. 

Irma weakens to Category 1 storm as it strikes Tampa

Irma weakened to a Category 1 storm as the massive hurricane zeroed in on the Tampa Bay region early Monday after hammering much of Florida with roof-ripping winds, gushing floodwaters and widespread power outages.

The hurricane's maximum sustained winds weakened to 85 mph (135 kph) with additional weakening expected.

As of 2 A.M. EDT, the storm was centered about 25 miles (40 kilometers) northeast of Tampa and moving north-northwest near 15 mph (24 kph). (AP)

Irma set records; luckily, late weakening dampened its power

Before crashing into Florida, Hurricane Irma set all sorts of records for brute strength as it flattened Caribbean islands and swamped the Florida Keys. Irma's assault — so soon after Harvey's deluge of Houston — marked the first time the U.S. was hit by two Category 4 storms in the same year.

Irma hit the Sunshine State as a big wide beast, though not quite the monster it once was shaping up to be. Earlier, it was the most powerful recorded storm in the open Atlantic. But as the once-Category 5 storm neared the U.S. mainland, it lost some oomph after running into the northern coast of Cuba.

Winds dropped to a quite potent 115 mph (185 kph) by the time Irma made landfall on Marco Island, on the Florida peninsula, still a major and dangerous hurricane yet not near its 185 mph (297 kph) former self when it set a record Tuesday for the most powerful storm in the open Atlantic. And on top of that, Irma avoided what could have been its most destructive paths along the Florida peninsula — over Miami and the heavily developed Atlantic seaboard. Still, at about 400 miles (640 kilometers) wide, it raked much of the state with devastating storm surge, destructive winds and drenching rains.

Read full story here. (AP)

Trump: U.S. may have gotten a 'little bit lucky'

U.S. President Donald Trump says the U.S. may have gotten a "little bit lucky" after Hurricane Irma veered from its original course and headed west along Florida's coast.

He says Irma may not have been quite as destructive as a result, but that things will play out over the next several hours.

Trump addressed reporters Sunday after returning to the White House from Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland where he spent the weekend monitoring the storm.

Trump says Irma will cost "a lot of money" but he isn't thinking about that right now.

He says "right now, we're worried about lives, not cost."

Trump says he'll be having additional meetings about coordination for the storm response. (AP)

Trump approves major disaster declaration for Florida

U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday approved a major disaster declaration for Florida and ordered federal aid to help the state struck by Hurricane Irma. 

The declaration means residents and businesses can apply for grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs. The federal government will also reimburse counties for emergency protective measures including evacuation and sheltering costs as well as for much of the costs of debris removal. (Reuters)

Hurricane Irma has weakened to a Category 2 storm

Hurricane Irma has weakened to a Category 2 storm, technically losing its major hurricane status, after making landfall in southwestern Florida. It is hugging the coast as it moves north.

The National Hurricane Center said Irma's winds were at 110 mph (177 kph), just below major hurricane status, as the center of the still dangerous and wide storm moved farther inland late Sunday afternoon. It was smacking Naples after coming ashore in Marco Island at 3:35 p.m.

The hurricane center says "although weakening is forecast, Irma is expected to remain a hurricane at least through Monday morning."

The center says the eye of Irma should hug Florida's west coast through Monday morning and then push more inland over northern Florida and southwestern Georgia Monday afternoon. (AP)

Trump on Hurricane Irma: 'This is some big monster'

U.S. President Donald Trump called Hurricane Irma "some big monster" as it battered the Florida coast, saying he wants to go to the state very soon and praising emergency officials for their efforts to protect people. 

"The bad news is that this is some big monster," Trump told reporters at the White House, saying damage from the storm would be very costly. 

"Right now, we are worried about lives, not cost," Trump said after returning from Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland where he monitored the storm and met with his Cabinet. 

The path of the storm, tracking the west coast of Florida, meant it might be less destructive than it would otherwise have been, Trump said, noting the next five or six hours would be critical. 

"I hope there aren't too many people in the path," he said. "You don't want to be in that path." 

Trump said the U.S. Coast Guard had been heroic and that the Federal Emergency Management Agency was doing a good job to help coordinate the response with states. He added, however: "I think the hard part is now beginning." 

Trump has offered the full resources of the federal government to Florida and the affected states, Vice President Mike Pence told reporters during a visit to FEMA's Washington headquarters on Sunday. 

"Wherever Hurricane Irma goes, we'll be there first," Pence said. "We'll be there with resources and support, both to save lives and to help to recover and rebuild these states and these communities." 

On Sunday, Trump also issued a disaster declaration for Puerto Rico, and expanded federal funds available to the U.S. Virgin Islands in the aftermath of Irma, the White House said.

Trump owns a resort in Palm Beach, Florida, where he has often traveled during his presidency, as well as three golf courses in the state. 

He told reporters he hoped to travel to the state soon. 

"We're going to Florida very soon," Trump said.

Irma makes landfall on Marco Island

Hurricane Irma has made landfall on Marco Island, Florida, as a Category 3 hurricane.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami said Irma's powerful eye roared ashore at Marco Island just south of Naples with 115-mph (185-kph) winds, for a second U.S. landfall at 3:35 p.m. Sunday.

Category 3 storms have winds from 111 to 129 mph, but 130-mph (21-kph) wind gust was recently reported by the Marco Island Police Department.

Irma's second U.S. landfall was tied for the 21st strongest landfall in the U.S. based on central pressure. Irma's first U.S. landfall in the Florida Keys was tied for 7th. (AP)

Downtown Miami under deluge as storm rips though Florida

A monster Hurricane Irma roared into Florida with 130 mph winds Sunday for what could be a sustained assault on nearly the entire Sunshine State, flooding streets, knocking out power to more than 1.5 million homes and businesses and snapping a construction crane over the Miami skyline.

The nearly 400-mile-wide storm blew ashore in the morning in the Florida Keys and is expected to make a slow, ruinous march up the state's west coast, hitting the heavily populated Tampa-St. Petersburg area by Monday morning.

Streets emptied across the bottom half of the Florida peninsula and some 127,000 people huddled in shelters.

"Pray, pray for everybody in Florida," Gov. Rick Scott said on "Fox News Sunday."

Many streets were underwater in downtown Miami and in other cities. Roof damage and floating appliances and furniture were reported in the low-lying Keys, but with the storm still hitting around midday, the full extent of Irma's wrath was not clear.

A Miami woman who went into labor was guided through delivery by phone when authorities couldn't reach her in high winds and street flooding. Firefighters later took her to the hospital. (AP)

Irma changes course, trudging north-northwest

As of approximately 11 A.M. EDT, Hurricane Irma changed course, heading north-northwest and is expected to make landfall on Florida's west coast, potentially causing devastating damage.

The National Hurricane Center says Irma should move inland over northern Florida and southwestern Georgia Monday afternoon.

The  hurricane was centered about 20 miles (30 kilometers) southeast of Key West, moving northwest at 8 mph (13 kph) earlier in the morning.

Three dead in Florida as Hurricane Irma bears down

Hurricane Irma is bearing down on the Florida Keys, bringing damaging winds and heavy rain that has left at least three people dead.

A man in Monroe County in Key West was killed after he lost control of a truck carrying a generator as winds whipped at tropical-storm strength, according to the Monroe County Sheriff's Office. Two other people died in a car crash in Hardee County the Florida Highway Patrol reported.

The death toll from the hurricane in the Caribbean stands at 22, bringing the total number of killed to at least 25.

Irma shifts westward, in what FEMA chief calls Florida's 'worst case scenario'

As Hurricane Irma makes landfall in lower Florida Keys with winds of 130 mph, reports show the storm has shifted course westward, foreboding news for coastal counties of Florida such as Naples and Tampa.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administrator says the storm's westward movement is the "worst case scenario" for some Florida counties.

Florida governor Scott says "I am very concerned about the West Coast" of Florida in wake of Huricane Irma.

Category 4 Hurricane Irma begins assault on Florida Keys

Hurricane Irma began its assault on Florida early Sunday with the storm's northern eyewall reaching the lower Florida Keys as a powerful Category 4 storm.

Irma lashed the area with maximum sustained winds near 130 mph (215 kph) and the U.S. National Hurricane Center said it was expected to remain a powerful storm as it moved through the Florida Keys and near the state's west coast.

As of 8 a.m. EDT Sunday, the hurricane was centered about 20 miles (30 kilometers) east-southeast of Key West, Florida, and was moving north-northwest at 8 mph (13 kph). Florida Power and Light reported a total of 592,081 outages across multiple counties across mainland Florida.

Hurricane Irma's eyewall reaches Florida Keys

Hurricane Irma's eyewall has reached the Florida Keys.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami says the storm's northern eyewall reached the lower Florida Keys Sunday morning. The eyewall is a band of clouds surrounding the center of the storm that has intense winds and strong rain.

The hurricane center says Key West International Airport has measured sustained winds of 50 mph (80 kph). (AP)

People riding out Hurricane Irma 'scared to death'

Hurricane Irma regained strength as it closed in on the Florida Keys early Sunday as forecasters monitored a crucial shift in its trajectory — just a few more miles to the west — that could keep its ferocious eye off the southwest Florida coast and over warm gulf water.

This satellite image obtained from NASA's Earth Obervatory on Septermber 8, 2017 shows Hurricane Irma (C), Hurricane Jose (R), and Hurricane Katia. Credit: HANDOUT/AFP

Tens of thousands of people huddling in shelters watched for updates as the storm swung to the west, now potentially sparing Tampa as well Miami the catastrophic head-on blow forecasters had been warning about for days.

But those few miles meant St. Petersburg could get a direct hit, rather than its more populous twin across Tampa Bay. 

"Tonight, I'm sweating. Tonight I'm scared to death," said 60-year-old Carol Walterson Stroud, who sought refuge in a senior center in Florida's southernmost city with her husband, granddaughter and dog. The streets emptied and shops were boarded up before the wind started to howl. (AP) Full story

Irma regains Category 4 strength as it approaches Florida

Hurricane Irma has regained Category 4 strength as it moves toward Florida, where it's feared to make a devastating hit.

Irma's maximum sustained winds increased early Sunday to near 210 kph (130 mph) and it's expected to gain a little more strength as it moves through the Straits of Florida and remain a powerful hurricane as it approaches Florida.

Irma is centered about 115 kilometers (70 miles) south-southeast of Key West, Florida, and is moving northwest near 9 kph (6 mph). (AP)

Mikveh saves lives during Hurricane Irma on St. Martin

It was 5 a.m. Wednesday and Hurricane Irma was pounding the tiny Caribbean island of Saint Martin. Rabbi Moishe Chanowitz and his wife, Chana, the Chabad movements emissaries there, gathered their five children and hunkered down in an unlikely place: a mikveh.

According to the Chanowitzes, as told on Chabad.org, the ritual bath helped save their lives.

The storm killed at least eight people on St. Martin and a councilman told Reuters that 95 percent of the 34-square-mile island was destroyed. Irmas winds reached around 180 miles per hour and decimated trees and homes, flinging cars around in its wake.

Even though the Chanowitzes Chabad center building was sturdy and built into the side of a mountain, the storm had them rightly terrified. By 4 a.m. Wednesday, the front door of the building had flown off.

Read the full story here. (JTA)

Trump: get out of Hurricane Irma's way

President Donald Trump is cautioning people in Irma's path to "get out of its way" and not worry about possessions.

Trump says property is replaceable but lives are not, and that safety must come first.

He says the nation is grieving for those who've been killed by the powerful storm, which spent the week churning its way across the Caribbean, leaving death and destruction in its wake. Hurricane Irma is forecast to hit Florida's southern coast at daybreak Sunday.

Read the full story here.

U.S. President Trump is briefed on Hurricane Irma in Washington D.C., September 7, 2017.Credit: HANDOUT/REUTERS

Total asked to evacuate Hurricane Irma nears 7m

Florida emergency management officials have asked another 700,000 to evacuate ahead of Hurricane Irma. That brings the total number asked to evacuate multiple states to nearly 7 million.

Florida's Division of Emergency Management said Saturday that officials have issued a mix of mandatory and voluntary evacuation orders to 6.3 million residents. The number rose overnight as the predicted path of Hurricane Irma has shifted west. It's likely to come ashore Sunday.

The size and trajectory of the storm has prompted officials to order evacuations along both coasts of Florida, including some of the state's population centers. Florida is the nation's third largest state with nearly 21 million residents.

Another 540,000 have been asked to evacuate in the eastern part of Georgia. In South Carolina, a mandatory evacuation order was issued for eight barrier islands. That includes Hilton Head Island, the most populous of the islands with about 40,000 residents. (AP)

Hurricane Irma shifts course and takes aim at Tampa

With the window closing fast for anyone wanting to escape, Irma hurtled toward Florida with 125 mph winds Saturday on a shifting course that took it away from Miami and instead threatened the first direct hit on the Tampa area from a major hurricane in nearly a century.

That represented a significant turn in the forecast, which for days had made it look as if the Miami metropolitan area of 6 million people was going to get slammed head-on by the Big One.

"You need to leave — not tonight, not in an hour, right now," Gov. Rick Scott warned residents in the evacuation zones ahead of the storm's predicted arrival on Sunday morning.

Forecasters predicted Irma's center would blow ashore Sunday in the perilously low-lying Florida Keys, then hit southwestern Florida, move up the state's Gulf Coast and plow into the Tampa Bay area. (AP)

Irma downgraded as its rips into Cuba

Hurricane Irma weakened slightly on Saturday as it battered Cuba's northern coast. Downgraded as a Category 4 storm, Irma moved along the Camaguey Archipelago with 155 mph (250 kph) winds early on Saturday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.

Irma has shifted between the Category 4 and Category 5 classification, which is used for the most powerful storms.  

The scenes of destruction along Cuba's north central coast were similar to those seen in other Caribbean islands over the last week as Irma barreled in for a direct hit at Ciego de Avila province around midnight. 

Shabbat storm: U.S. Jews brace for Irma

CHARLESTON – What is set to be anything but a peaceful Sabbath began across the southeastern United States as Jews, with their neighbors, nervously waiting for Hurricane Irma to hit the continent after ripping a path of death and destruction across the Caribbean.

After Friday night services concluded in Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim, the second oldest synagogue in the U.S., located in in Charleston, South Carolina, Rabbi Stephanie Alexander invited members of her congregation to help her wrap the their precious Torah scrolls in plastic and seal them with duct tape to protect them from an impending storm.

While the Charleston Jews breathe a cautious sigh of relief for themselves and their community, many were still deeply worried about Florida relatives. For the Jewish Floridians who remained, it honestly doesn't feel like Shabbat at all, said Debbie Laznik. Read full story  (Allison Kaplan Sommer)

Congregants at Charleston's Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim wrap their Torah scrolls in protective plastic ahead of Hurricane Irma. Credit: Allison Kaplan Sommer

Hurricane Irma returns to Category 5

Hurricane Irma has returned to its category 5 strength, the US National Hurricane Center says.

The storm is making landfall on Cuba's Camaguey Archipelago with maximum sustained winds of 260 kilometres per hour (kph).

Storm surge and hurricane warnings have been extended further north on both the east and west coasts of the U.S. state of Florida. (AP)

Alabama Gov. issues state of emergency ahead of Irma

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.

Local meteorologist Jim Stefkovich says the greater inland threat for severe weather is in Georgia, but emphasized that could shift.

Hurricane Irma anticipated to 'devastate' parts of Florida

Hurricane Irma lashed Cuba and the Bahamas as it drove toward Florida on Friday after hitting the eastern Caribbean with its devastatingly high winds, killing 21 people and leaving catastrophic destruction in its wake.

South Florida is bracing for a major surge and powerful winds. "Obviously Hurricane Irma continues to be a threat that is going to devastate the United States," said the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator (FEMA) Brock Long at a press conference Friday morning. "We're going to have a couple rough days."

U.S. President Donald Trump said in a videotaped statement that Irma was "a storm of absolutely historic destructive potential," and called on people to heed recommendations from government officials and law enforcement.

Read the whole story here.

Jews may travel on Shabbat to escape Hurricane Irma, Israeli rabbi says

An influential Ashkenazi rabbi in Israel said Jews may travel on Shabbat to escape Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 storm that is expected to hit Florida over the weekend. But some Jews in flood-prone areas are determined to ride out the storm, another rabbi said.

Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, who receives thousands of followers annually at his home in Bnei Brak from ultra-Orthodox communities around the world, issued the call in an interview with a follower. One of his aides filmed and posted his response online Wednesday.

Kanievskys ruling came as people in parts of three Florida counties faced mandatory evacuation orders Thursday and officials in two other counties issued voluntary orders to leave in advance of Irma.

Read the whole story here.

Fleeing Irma, Floridians take refuge in Atlanta's synagogues

An influential Ashkenazi rabbi in Israel said Jews may travel on Shabbat to escape Hurricane Irma, a Category 4 storm that is expected to hit Florida over the weekend. But some Jews in flood-prone areas are determined to ride out the storm, another rabbi said.

Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, who receives thousands of followers annually at his home in Bnei Brak from ultra-Orthodox communities around the world, issued the call in an interview with a follower. One of his aides filmed and posted his response online Wednesday.

Kanievskys ruling came as people in parts of three Florida counties faced mandatory evacuation orders Thursday and officials in two other counties issued voluntary orders to leave in advance of Irma.

The storm could create one of the largest mass exoduses in U.S. history as additional evacuations are announced. Orthodox Jewish law permits the violation of Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest, only in life-threatening or otherwise severe emergencies.

Read the whole story here.

Irma is going to devastate the U.S., FEMA chief warns

Brock Long, the head of of the Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator (FEMA), says that Irma's effects are going to be devastating.

"Obviously Hurricane Irma continues to be a threat that is going to devastate the United States," he said. We're going to have a couple rough days."  

Irma was about 225 miles (360 km) east of Caibarien on Cuba's central-north coast, and 380 miles (610 km) southeast of Miami, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said in an advisory at 2 P.M. EDT on Friday.

Hurricane conditions were spreading westward over parts of Cuba and the central Bahamas as the storm skirted near Cuba's northern coast. The storm earlier pummeled the Turks and Caicos Islands after saturating the northern edges of the Dominican Republic and Haiti. (Reuters and Haaretz)

Aerial view of devastation following Hurricane Irma in Anegada, British Virgin Islands September 8, 2017, is seen in this still image taken from social media video.Credit: SOCIAL MEDIA/REUTERS

State of emergency declared in Virginia

Gov. Terry McAuliffe has declared a state of emergency in Virginia so officials can better prepare for Hurricane Irma and help other affected states.

The governor's office said in a statement that the order issued Friday allows the state to mobilize resources including the Virginia National Guard. It also allows people and equipment to be staged to assist in storm response and recovery efforts.

The statement says that while the track of Hurricane Irma is still uncertain, it appears increasingly likely that Virginia will see "significant" impacts. It says the whole state should prepare for possible flooding, high winds and storm surge.

The governor is also urging coastal residents to know what hurricane evacuation zone they live in under the state's new plan unveiled earlier this year. A tool to look up that information is available online. (AP)

Florida governor warns residents to evacuate: 'You won't survive this'

Florida Gov. Rick Scott is urging residents along the state's Gulf Coast to get out of evacuation zones as Hurricane Irma's path has moved slightly west.

During a news conference on Friday afternoon in Lee County in southwest Florida, Scott warned of storm surge which could be between 6 and 12 feet.

"You are not going to survive this if it happens," Scott told residents. "Now is the time to evacuate."

Scott says the state hasn't closed southbound lanes on interstates because of the need to continue getting supplies into South Florida. But he says they've opened the shoulder of Interstate 75's northbound lanes from Wildwood in central Florida to the Georgia line, north of Lake City. (AP)

Hurricane Irma's death toll rises to 21

The death toll from Hurricane Irma has risen to 21 as the storm continues its destructive path through the Caribbean.

The dead include 11 on St. Martin and St. Barts, four in the U.S. Virgin Islands and four in the British Virgin Islands. There was also one each in Barbuda, Anguilla, and Barbados.

The toll is expected to rise as rescuers reach some of the hardest-hit areas.

Irma weakened from a Category 5 to a still-fearsome Category 4 on Friday morning with winds of 155 mph (250 kph) as it churns along Cuba's northern coast. (AP and Reuters)

Hurricane Irma: Florida Jews Brace for Very Stormy - and Possibly Dangerous - Shabbat

With South Florida in Hurricane Irmas crosshairs, many in Miamis Jewish community are staying put for what is shaping up to be a very stormy — and possibly dangerous — Shabbat.

Even as Florida Gov. Rick Scott warned than Irma, a Category 5 storm, may be bigger, faster and stronger than Hurricane Andrew, the 1992 storm that led to nearly 100 deaths in Florida, many in Miami who decided to ride out the storm expressed a wait-and-see mentality.

The storm, now just off the coast of Puerto Rico, is expected to reach Miami by Saturday night.

Right now were still on somewhat of a hold. Were still in watch mode, said Rabbi Chaim Lipskar of the Rok Family Shul, a Chabad synagogue in downtown Miami. Though the synagogue has canceled the next two days of school, it has not made a decision about whether it will hold Shabbat services.

Read the whole story here.

Families prepare for Hurricane Irma in Sarasota, Florida on September 6, 2017.Credit: Mike Lang/AP

Hurricane Irma blacks out Puerto Rico, heads for Hispaniola

Hurricane Irma has killed at least eight people and injured 23 in French Caribbean island territories as the dangerous Category 5 storm roared over the Caribbean, France's interior minister said Thursday.

Speaking on French radio France Info, French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said the death toll in Saint-Martin and Saint-Barthelemy could be higher because rescue teams have yet to finish their inspection of the islands.

"The reconnaissance will really start at daybreak," Collomb said.

Irma blacked out much of Puerto Rico, raking the U.S. territory with heavy wind and rain while staying just out to sea, and it headed early Thursday toward the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

To the east, authorities struggled to get aid to small Caribbean islands devastated by the storm's record 185 mph (298 kph) winds earlier Wednesday, while people in Florida rushed to get ready for a possible direct hit on the Miami area.

Communications were difficult with areas hit by Irma, and information on damage trickled out.

Nearly every building on Barbuda was damaged when the hurricane's core crossed almost directly over the island early Wednesday and about 60 percent of its roughly 1,400 residents were left homeless, Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne told The Associated Press.

Florida AG fighting price-gouging as Irma looms

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi says the state has gotten more than 1,500 calls on a price-gouging hotline in the last two days.

Bondi said Wednesday that many of the calls dealt with complaints about the prices being charged on water, food and gas, although she said people have also called to complain that stores are running out of supplies.

The attorney general also said she had been talking directly to retailers such as Amazon. Bondi says the state has received complaints about excessive delivery fees for items such as water. She says the company has told her it suspended 12 third-party vendors because of gouging complaints.

Bondi, who noted she has no authority over airlines, said she talked to two airlines about ticket prices and that both told her they were putting caps on some tickets.

Hurricane Katia churns off Mexican coast before expected drift to land

Hurricane Katia churned almost 200 miles (322 km) off the Gulf coast of Mexico on Wednesday evening before an expected turn towards land that could dump heavy rain on eastern states in the coming days, the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.

Katia, a Category 1 hurricane, was 195 miles (314 km) east of the port of Tampico, blowing maximum sustained winds of 75 miles per hour (121 km per hour), the Miami-based NHC said.

Category 1 is the weakest hurricane designation by the NHC. Category 5 is the strongest.

There are now three hurricanes in the Atlantic. Hurricane Irma, one of the most powerful Atlantic storms in a century and a Category 5, howled past Puerto Rico on Wednesday and is on a collision course with Florida.

Hurricane Jose in the open Atlantic, some 1,000 miles (1,610 km) east of the Caribbean's Lesser Antilles islands, could become a Category 3 and eventually threaten the U.S. mainland. 

Florida residents heed Irma warnings after Harvey's destruction

Hurricane Harvey's destruction in Texas may not have altered Florida's well-tested storm plans, but it appears to have infused residents with a new sense of urgency as they prepare for approaching Hurricane Irma.

Officials said Harvey's devastating flooding, coupled with the sheer power of Irma, ranked as the strongest Atlantic storm on record, had sharpened the focus of Floridians who were somewhat indifferent about preparing for past hurricanes.

A lot of times they end up having hurricane parties here instead of evacuating, Monroe County spokeswoman Cammy Clark said by phone. "Thats been the opposite this time around."

Monroe County includes the Florida Keys, which ordered evacuations for all residents and tourists. Clark said she saw a steady stream of traffic leaving the travel destination as she drove to work early on Wednesday.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center forecasts that Irma may strike southern Florida on Saturday, when it could still be a major hurricane.

Irma takes aim at Trump's $28 million mansion in St. Martin

While Donald Trump continues to tweet warnings about Irma, "the largest ever recorded" hurricane, the president has more than just the United States to be concerned about - some of his own property is in its destructive path.

According to the Miami Herald, "Trump (in St. Martin) owns the 11-bedroom gated mansion through a trust set up to avoid conflict of interests during his presidency. The trust has been trying to offload the beachfront property for months. In August, its listing price was slashed from $28 million to $16.9 million, according to the Washington Post."

Bubbe lives in the path of Hurricane Irma. Now what?

Beatrice Marks one-story home might flood this week. But she laughs off the threat.

It doesnt faze me one bit. Not anymore, said Marks, 86, whose community of seniors lies in the path of Hurricane Irma, which is set to make landfall in Florida at the end of the week. As far as the actual fear of the hurricane, we all are afraid. But its a thing we know that can come and go.

Marks, who has lived in Florida for more than 70 years, is an outlier among octogenarians — living alone and driving with barely any assistance in everyday activities. But as a Jewish senior in Florida, she is far from alone.

Read the full story here.

Shoppers stock up in preparation for Hurricane Irma on September 5, 2017 in Miami, Florida.Credit: MICHELE EVE SANDBERG/AFP

Puerto Rico braces for Irma as 155 MPH winds recorded off Barbuda

Along the beachfront of Puerto Rico's capital, San Juan, work crews scrambled to cover windows with plywood and corrugated metal shutters along Avenida Ashford, a stretch of restaurants, hotels and six-story apartments.

Cyber School Supply Christopher Rodriguez is supported as he installs wood panels over a storefront window in preparation for Hurricane Irma, in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico, Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017Credit: AP Photo/Carlos Giusti

"I am worried because this is the biggest storm we have seen here," said Jonathan Negron, 41, as he supervised workers boarding up his souvenir shop.

The NHC said Irma ranked as one of the five most powerful Atlantic hurricanes during the past 80 years and the strongest Atlantic basin storm ever outside the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico.

Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello urged the 3.4 million residents of the U.S. territory to seek refuge in one of 460 hurricane shelters in advance of the storm and later ordered police and National Guard troops to begin evacuations of flood-prone areas in the north and east of the island.

"This is something without precedent," Rossello told a news conference.

U.S. President Donald Trump approved emergency declarations for Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, mobilizing federal disaster relief efforts, the White House said.

Authorities in the Florida Keys called for a mandatory evacuation of visitors to start at sunrise on Wednesday, and public schools throughout South Florida were ordered closed, some as early as Wednesday.

Residents of low-lying areas in densely populated Miami-Dade County were urged to move to higher ground by Wednesday as a precaution against coastal storm surges, three days before Irma was expected to make landfall in Florida.

Hurricane Irma upgraded to category 5, Florida and Puerto Rico declare state of emergency

Irma on Tuesday intensified into an extremely dangerous Category 5 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson wind scale, the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said in its latest advisory.

A picture taken on September 5, 2017 shows a view of the Baie Nettle beach in Marigot, with the wind blowing ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Irma.Credit: LIONEL CHAMOISEAU/AFP

Hurricane Irma is about 270 miles (440 km) east of Antigua and packing maximum sustained winds of 175 mph (280 km/h), the Miami-based weather forecaster said.

Hurricane Irma, a record Category 5 storm, is seen in this NOAA National Weather Service National Hurricane Center image from GOES-16 satellite taken on September 5, 2017. Credit: NOAA/REUTERS

Irma, which is forecast to remain a powerful category 4 or 5 hurricane during the next couple of days, will move near or over portions of the northern Leeward Islands Tuesday night and early Wednesday, the NHC said. Irma's approach is reminiscent of the intense 2005 hurricane season which saw three of the largest storms ever recorded in the Atlantic make landfall on U.S. coastlines, from Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana to Hurricanes Wilma and Rita which hit Florida.

Read full story here

Israel pledges $1 million aid to Houston's flood-devastated Jewish community

Israel said on Monday it will donate $1 million in emergency aid to Houston's Jewish community to aid in post-Harvey recovery efforts.

Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett said in a statement that the funds will be earmarked to help the 60,000-strong community repair and rebuild schools, synagogues and a community center damaged in the storm and floods.

Bennett says that "for years the Jewish communities stood by Israel when it needed their help; now it is our turn to stand by Houston's Jewish community."

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