Storm Surge from Hurricane Irma thought to bring devastation

Kevin Breuninger | @KevinWilliamB
Published 14 Hours Ago | Updated 1 Min Ago


Irma powers toward Florida, leaving behind path of death, destruction
Hurricane Irma drove toward Florida as it lashed the Caribbean with devastating winds and torrential rain, leaving behind 14 deaths and a swathe of catastrophic destruction.
The "extremely dangerous" hurricane was downgraded from a Category 5 to a Category 4 early on Friday, but it still packed winds as strong as 150 miles per hour.
The storm is now spreading westward over portions of Cuba and the central Bahamas, the NHC said.

Fuel becoming a massive issue in Florida Fuel becoming a massive issue in Florida
21 Hours Ago | 01:19
Hurricane Irma, one of the most powerful Atlantic storms in a century, drove toward Florida on Friday as it lashed the Caribbean with devastating winds and torrential rain, leaving behind 14 deaths and a swathe of catastrophic destruction.

Irma was about 405 miles southeast of Miami on Friday, after soaking the northern coasts of the Dominican Republic and Haiti and pummeling the Turks and Caicos Islands.

The "extremely dangerous" hurricane was downgraded from a category 5 to a category 4 early on Friday, but it still packed winds as strong as 150 miles per hour, the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said in an advisory.

The storm was last spreading westward over portions of Cuba, the NHC said.

It was heading for the Bahamas, where it was expected to bring 20-foot (six-meter) storm surges before moving to Cuba and then slamming into southern Florida on Sunday.

In Miami, hundreds lined up for bottled water and cars looped around city blocks to get gas on Thursday. Gasoline shortages in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area worsened on Thursday, with sales up to five times the norm.

In Palm Beach, the waterfront Mar-a-Lago estate owned by U.S. President Donald Trump was ordered evacuated, media said. Trump also owns property on the French side of Saint Martin, an island devastated by the storm.

Dozens of cities and counties in increasingly-northern regions of Florida are issuing mandatory and voluntary evacuations, many of which are already being executed. Some highways have ground to a halt from congestion as evacuees flee the most dangerous hurricane areas.

A mandatory evacuation on Georgia's Atlantic coast was due to begin on Saturday, Governor Nathan Deal said.

'This isn't the time to make a buck'

At a news conference in Tampa on Friday, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said her office has received thousands of complaints about price gouging during preparations for the hurricane.

The most crucial gouging complaints to report were "the life-saving ones," Bondi said — fuel, water and hotel lodging.

More than 6,500 complaints have been filed, and are now arriving at a rate of more than 11 per hour, Bondi said.

She also said convenience store chain 7-Eleven has been called out for price gouging on water in more than 100 complaints.

"7-Eleven, come on. This isn't the time to make a buck, this is the time to help your fellow citizens," Bondi said.

Gov. Rick Scott, R-FL, seconded Bondi's admonition. "It's disgusting if anybody price gouges," he said. "This is the time to help our neighbors. This is not the time to take advantage of our neighbors."

Among the biggest obstacles for evacuation efforts are overcrowded highways and fuel shortages, Scott said. To expedite the process, all tolls have been waived and the use of shoulders has been activated on certain highways.

Scott urged gas stations in evacuation zones to stay open as long as possible, and said that millions of gallons of fuel have been delivered by tanker trucks to areas with shortages.

Hospitality app-maker Airbnb activated a "disaster response program" for hosts to provide temporary housing to evacuees.

"Protecting life is our absolute top priority," the governor said.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman asked Floridians to comply with their area's evacuation orders on Friday.

"If this thing shoots right up the center of the state, everyone in the state of Florida is going to feel the impact of the storm, and so we really need to take this thing very seriously," Kriseman said on CNBC's "Squawk on the Street."

Irma is not expected to linger over the U.S. mainland as long as Hurricane Harvey, a phenomenon that led to record rainfall and storm surge in areas of Texas and Louisiana. But high flood potential still exists, and the NHC expects the storm to bring a deluge of up to 20 inches of isolated rainfall to parts of southeast Florida.

"You're gonna see the flooding, similar to what you saw with Harvey," George Foresman, former undersecretary of the Department of Homeland Security, told "Squawk on the Street" on Friday.

"But the potential for devastation will be much more widespread and much more destructive" given the high winds and the track of the storm, Foresman said.

Irma has ravaged a series of small islands in the northeast Caribbean, including Barbuda, Saint Martin and the British and U.S. Virgin Islands, ripping down trees and flattening homes and hospitals.

A Reuters witness described the roof and walls of a well-built house shaking hard as the storm rocked the island of Providenciales and caused a drop in pressure that could be felt in people's chests.

Throughout the islands in its wake, shocked locals tried to comprehend the extent of the devastation — and simultaneously prepared for another major hurricane.

Hurricane Jose, moving west-northwest and last located about 415 miles off the Northern Leeward Islands, was updated to an "extremely dangerous" Category 4 storm and is expected in the northeastern Caribbean on Saturday.

President Trump said "America stands united, and I mean totally united" against the hurricanes in his weekly address.

Deaths rise

Four people died in the U.S. Virgin islands, a government spokesman said, and a major hospital was badly damaged by the wind. A U.S. amphibious assault ship arrived in the U.S. Virgin Islands on Thursday and sent helicopters for medical evacuations from the destroyed hospital.

A man was reported missing after trying to cross a river in Cerca La Source in Haiti's Central Plateau region.

Barbuda, where one person died, was reduced "to rubble", Prime Minister Gaston Browne said. In the British overseas territory of Anguilla, another person was killed and the hospital, airport and power and phone services were damaged, emergency service officials said.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said four bodies were recovered on the French-Dutch island of Saint Martin, which was hit hard.

Three people were killed in Puerto Rico and around two-thirds of the population lost electricity, Governor Ricardo Rossello said after the storm rolled by the U.S. territory's northern coast. A surfer was also reported killed in Barbados.

The storm passed just to the north of the island of Hispaniola, shared by Dominican Republic and Haiti, causing some damage to roofs, flooding and power outages as it approached the impoverished Haitian side, which is particularly vulnerable to hurricanes and rain, although it did not make landfall.

Cuba started evacuating some of the 51,000 tourists visiting the island, particularly 36,000 people at resorts on the northern coast. In Caibarien, a coastal town in the hurricane's predicted path, residents were heading farther inland.

Irma was the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean and one of the five most forceful storms to hit the Atlantic basin in 82 years, according to the NHC.

The storm activity comes after Hurricane Harvey claimed about 60 lives and caused property damage estimated at as much as $180 billion in Texas and Louisiana.

-- CNBC's Kevin Breuninger contributed to this report.