HURRICANE IRMA | Eye to hit San Juan at 7; 600K already without power, 50K without water


SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP)

The director of Puerto Rico’s emergency management agency says the eye of Hurricane Irma is expected to be 35 miles (56 kilometers) from San Juan at 7 p.m. EST.

Abner Gomez says wind gusts of up to 100 mph (160 kph) could reach Puerto Rico’s capital.

More than 600,000 people are without power and nearly 50,000 without water on Puerto Rico. Fourteen hospitals are using generators after losing power, and trees and lights posts are strewn across some roads.

The tiny island of Culebra currently reporting sustained winds of 88 mph and wind gusts of 110 mph.

The State Department is ordering some U.S. government personnel in the Bahamas to leave the Caribbean island chain ahead of the arrival of powerful Hurricane Irma.

As the storm pounded islands in the northeastern Caribbean on Wednesday, the department also moved to draw down its presence in several other area nations and warned Americans to reconsider any planned travel there.

The State Department ordered non-essential staff and the family members of American employees at the U.S. Embassy in Nassau to depart as Irma bore down with heavy rain and historic winds that could lead to life-threatening floods, mud slides and storm surges that could disrupt travel and government services.

Earlier, the department said it would allow U.S. personnel and their families to leave Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Haiti at government expense.

The government has confirmed one death on Barbuda caused by Hurricane Irma.

Midcie Francis, spokesperson for National Office of Disaster Services for Antigua and Barbuda, says there has been massive destruction on the island of about 1,700 people.

“A significant number of the houses have been totally destroyed,” said Lionel Hurst, the prime minister’s chief of staff.

The strongest Atlantic Ocean hurricane ever measured destroyed homes and flooded streets across a chain of small islands in the northern Caribbean, passing directly over Barbuda which was left largely incommunicado.

Meanwhile, Hurricane Katia has formed in the Gulf off the coast of Mexico with sustained winds of 75 mph (120 kph). The government of Mexico has issued a hurricane watch for the coast of the state of Veracruz from Tuxpan to Laguna Verde.

Katia is anticipated to drift toward the coast on Thursday.

The announcement of Hurricane Katia came minutes after the U.S. National Hurricane Center said Hurricane Jose had formed in the open Atlantic, far from land and well east of Hurricane Irma.

Jose has winds of 75 mph (120 kph) and is quickly strengthening, but poses no immediate threat to land, but meteorologists warn the storm’s path could change.

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