MEGAN THOMPSON: Hurricane Irma is now blamed for more than 20 deaths across the Caribbean. It made landfall overnight in Cuba as a Category 5 storm. 155-mile-an-hour winds battered the island's northern coast, and the storm surge reached 12 feet in some areas. In the small coastal town of Caibarien, Irma downed power lines, pounded buildings, and filled streets with debris.
Today, France deployed more than a thousand recovery workers to aid residents of the French Caribbean island of St. Barts and of St. Maarten, which is controlled by France and the Netherlands. Irma caused more than a billion dollars of property damage, and destroyed 70-percent of the homes on St. Maarten.
Following right behind Irma is the Category 4 Hurricane Jose. The National Hurricane Center warned Jose, with its 145 mile an hour winds, could make landfall on the St. Barts, St. Maarten, and other parts of the Caribbean in the next 24 hours.
Heeding the warning, all 16-hundred residents of the tiny, already-battered island of Barbuda evacuated today to nearby Antigua.
While Hurricane Irma was downgraded to a Category 3 storm, it's expected to gain strength before making landfall tomorrow morning in Florida.
Today, Florida Governor Rick Scott said Irma could be Florida's "most catastrophic storm" ever and told residents in mandatory evacuation zones to get out now.
FLORIDA GOV. RICK SCOTT: This is a major, deadly storm, and our state has never seen anything like it. Millions of Floridians will see major hurricane impacts with deadly, deadly, deadly storm surge and life-threatening winds.
MEGAN THOMPSON: As strong winds began pounding Miami and the Florida keys, the state had opened up more than 300 shelters for evacuees. Even the Miami zoo placed its pink flamingos inside a fortified concrete bunker.
Farther north, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal ordered evacuations along the Atlantic coast. Residents of Savannah lined up to catch buses out of town.
At Camp David, President Trump and his cabinet members received briefings on the planned response by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA.