(Miami, FL) — The National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Irma is expected to gain strength before heading over the Florida Keys by daybreak tomorrow. The NHC now has the storm tracking up the state’s Gulf Coast with Fort Myers, Naples and Tampa threatened by a direct hit. The Category Three storm lost a little intensity as it passed over Cuba today, but should grow stronger as it moves away from the island and heads for the Florida Keys, possibly as a Category Four storm. The NHC’s latest forecast has Irma working its way up the west Gulf Coast, where a life-threatening storm surge of up to 15 feet is anticipated.
Meanwhile, evacuees are standing in line at a shelter in Florida’s Lee County, where Irma is expected to make landfall tomorrow morning. Many residents have brought their belongings and their dogs to the shelter, some standing in line for hours to get inside an arena which can seat more than seven-thousand people. Farther north on the state’s east coast, beach evacuations are underway in Jacksonville as people board up and get out ahead of Hurricane Irma. City officials have issued mandatory evacuation orders for parts of the city. In North Carolina, Governor Roy Cooper today said residents can expect heavy rain and wind beginning Monday, with the greatest impacts in the mountains and South Carolina border. The governor said there could be flash flooding and possible landslides in the mountains with some power outages expected due to the wind.
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