MIAMI (AP) -- The Latest news related to Hurricane Irma in Florida (all times local):
University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy says Irma "could easily be the most costly storm in U.S. history, which is saying a lot considering what just happened two weeks ago" in Texas.
And former hurricane hunter Jeff Masters says both high winds and large storm surges will damage expensive properties from Miami all the way up the Florida peninsula and beyond. That includes President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate. Masters says that if Irma "goes right up the Gold Coast like the current models are saying, then the Gold Coast is going to become the Mud Coast."
The National Hurricane Center's latest long-term forecast moved Irma's northward track slightly eastward from the center of the peninsula, but that doesn't mean much. Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen says people should "stop paying attention to the skinny black line," because the margin-of-error for the storm four days out is wider than the entire state of Florida, so things can change.
Bottom line, Feltgen says, is that nobody in Florida is off the hook.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission says it is preparing to shut down two Florida nuclear plants that could be in the path of Hurricane Irma. Additional inspectors are on-site at the Turkey Point plant south of Miami, and the St. Lucie plant along the state's eastern coast.
NRC spokesman Roger Hannah says both nuclear plants are preparing for the storm, checking to ensure any outside equipment is tied down or moved and emergency generators are working and secure.
Hannah said both plants were operating as usual Wednesday, with plans to shut down if necessary ahead of the hurricane's expected landfall in Florida late Saturday or early Sunday.
Current projections place Turkey Point, above the Florida Keys near Homestead, Florida, directly in the hurricane's path.
If Hurricane Irma churns northward over the Florida peninsula, the water in Lake Okeechobee could impact flooding downstream.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is taking precautions by drawing down water levels ahead of the storm, and they'll be watching closely once it passes. Engineers are inspecting the Herbert Hoover Dike, and will inspect again once the water levels approach 17 feet. The lake level is currently less than 14 feet.
The South Florida Water Management District also has begun lowering water levels in canals, trying to move as much water as possible through flood control structures in preparation for the storm.
Florida's senators are calling on Congress to include relief money for Hurricane Irma in the disaster aid package the House passed earlier Wednesday for Hurricane Harvey. That package includes $7.85 billion to help Texas and Louisiana recover.
Senators Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson say with Irma could cause catastrophic destruction throughout the state, and they're concerned that the Federal Emergency Management Agency won't have the resources it needs to respond if Congress doesn't act soon.
Their joint, bipartisan letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell notes that FEMA is currently scheduled to run out of money by Friday.
Here's the latest on evacuation orders from Gov. Rick Scott's office:
Visitors must leave the Florida Keys now under a mandatory evacuation order. Residents must evacuate starting Wednesday evening under Monroe County's mandatory order.
Broward County has issued voluntary evacuations of mobile homes and low-lying areas. Collier County has issued voluntary evacuations of Marco Island. In Miami-Dade County, individuals with special needs began evacuating Wednesday morning.
Additional evacuations are expected throughout the state. All Floridians should pay close attention to local alerts and follow the directions of local officials. To find available shelters by county, visit floridadisaster.org/shelters.
People with active warrants in one Florida county might want to think twice about heading to a shelter for Hurricane Irma.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd posted on his official Twitter account Wednesday that deputies will be checking identification at the county's shelters, and anyone with a warrant will be arrested and taken to "the safe and secure shelter called the Polk County Jail."
Judd also posted that sex offenders and sex predators would not be admitted to the shelters.
Sheriff's spokeswoman Carrie Horstman says they're trying to educate the public before the storm hits this weekend. She says they're hoping people with warrants will turn themselves and use the next few days to deal with their legal issues.
Gov. Rick Scott says his administration "is looking at all possible avenues to get as many people out as possible" ahead of Hurricane Irma.
He estimates that 25,000 people have already evacuated from the Florida Keys. He says that if local officials tell people to evacuate, that means it is not safe to stay.
He says "I cannot stress this enough. Do not ignore evacuation orders. Remember: You can rebuild your home. You cannot rebuild your life."
He says Irma is extremely dangerous and deadly, and everyone should pay close attention to the hurricane's progress.
People evacuating the Miami area now, days ahead of Hurricane Irma, may be driven by memories of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Andrew 25 years ago.
Researcher Jennifer Collins at the University of South Florida's School of Geosciences says it's not an exaggeration to say that people who remember Andrew are picturing total devastation that could come from Irma.
Meanwhile in Tampa, which wasn't affected by Andrew, she says "people are preparing like crazy, and all the stores are out of everything."
Collins says her research shows that people with strong support networks can be the least likely to evacuate, even to stay with friends and family far inland, because they felt more comfortable hunkering down with their neighbors. Her surveys found that people without neighbors to depend on were more likely to flee. And she says those who did stay ended up regretting it because the damage was worse than they expected.
Florida law prohibits extreme price hikes for commodities such as food, water, hotels and lumber in the event of a potentially catastrophic storm like Hurricane Irma. But Florida law doesn't cover airlines tickets -- that's up to federal regulators. And some people are shocked at what they call sky-high price-gouging.
Steve MacQueen was shocked to learn he had to pay $1,725 to fly his 87-year-old mother from Fort Myers to Charlotte, North Carolina on Thursday. He says he understands "the price is always ghastly" when you buy at the last minute, but not this bad.
He paid anyway to make sure his mother could stay with his sister in North Carolina. He now lives in Vermont, but as a former Floridian, he says the looming storm terrifies him.
A Georgia speedway is opening its vast campgrounds to people evacuating from Hurricane Irma.
Atlanta Motor Speedway officials said in a statement Wednesday that its tent and RV campgrounds will host evacuees free of charge beginning on Thursday.
The speedway is about 25 miles (40 kilometers) south of Atlanta, and typically handles thousands of race fans who camp on the grounds during its annual NASCAR race weekend.
There are long lines and crowds at gas stations in Key Largo, but traffic is moving northbound as people evacuate the Florida Keys.
Bill Duclo says Hurricane Irma "is going to be pretty bad," so he wants "to get going while the going is good." He's taking his whole family to Georgia.
Michelle Reynolds says she's got half a tank of gas, and will keep looking since the station she stopped at ran empty.
She says she's never experienced a Category 5 storm and just wants to get to higher ground.
Ian Craig says that gasoline seems to be running out everywhere in the Keys, but he's not going to stay with his 7-year-old boy, even if he has to take a long expensive ride on Uber.
People in Florida are getting mixed messages on whether and when to evacuate ahead of Hurricane Irma.
Broward County has just ordered coastal evacuations, mandatory but with no enforcement, as is typical in Florida.
Miami Beach has advised evacuating, but not made it mandatory.
Miami-Dade County says it may start ordering evacuations today, but has not done so yet.
And Florida Gov. Rick Scott says anyone who intends to evacuate should "get out now."
However, with a storm track forecast up the middle of the state, it is unclear to many people where they should go.
Help is already on its way to wherever Hurricane Irma does the most damage in Florida.
About 80 members of an elite search and rescue team from Virginia have been deployed to jump into the aftermath. Fairfax County's Urban Search and Rescue Team, also known as Virginia Task Force 1, left Wednesday for Mobile, Alabama, where they will stage until they know where they're needed. The team was activated by the Federal Emergency Management Administration and includes swift-water rescue specialists, canine units and other search-and-rescue resources.
Also preparing to respond are more than 100 Florida Forest Service personnel, using aircraft, off-road vehicles and mobile command posts to assist in any search and rescue missions, debris clearing, distribution of supplies and other aid. State Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam says help is ready but meanwhile, all Floridians should "complete their preparations and finalize their plans before it's too late."
Florida Gov. Rick Scott says the state is working to get gasoline to areas experiencing shortages in advance of Hurricane Irma.
Scott announced in Miami that he's asked the governors of Alabama and Georgia to waive trucking regulations so tankers can get fuel into
He told residents of the Florida Keys that "we're doing everything to get fuel to you as quickly as possible." Tourists are under a mandatory evacuation order, which began Wednesday morning.
Residents will then be ordered to evacuate, but many gas stations across southern Florida are experiencing shortages.
Scott said, "we will get you out." But he's urging people to move quickly if they plan on evacuating, calling Irma a "life-threatening storm."
"Do not sit and wait for this storm to come," Scott said. "Get out now."
Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Brock Long says housing built after 2001 in Florida should by law have been built to withstand the winds of a Category 3 Hurricane. Irma is currently Category 5, much stronger than that, but Long says those building codes may at least help mitigate structural damage.
Long told "CBS This Morning" that is main concern right now is that people may have too much faith in the five-day forecast. He says he never puts a lot of confidence in these longer-term forecasts, because a hurricane can turn. He says "everybody needs to be monitoring this in the Gulf and up the East Coast and watching this very carefully."
The National Weather Service director says his staff is "very worried about the impact of winds and surge on the Keys" as Hurricane Irma approaches.
Director Louis Uccellini says all the hazards will be dangerous with Irma -- that means the storm surge, high winds and heavy rain.
He says "very strong winds can do a lot of damage" in an urban environment like South Florida.
The key for Florida and the U.S. east coast is when and where Irma makes a "right turn" and heads north. He says where that happens "depends on a low pressure system over the Great Lakes region."
To figure all this out, the weather service is using its newest satellite and launching 49 new balloons to gather information for computer models.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott is activating an additional 900 members of the Florida National Guard to prepare for Hurricane Irma.
Scott called up the additional guard members on Wednesday, a day after he had activated an initial 100 members. During a stop in the Florida Keys, Scott said that he still plans to another 6,000 National Guard members report to duty on Friday.
The governor warned that Irma is "bigger, faster and stronger" than Hurricane Andrew. Andrew pummeled south Florida 25 years ago and wiped out entire neighborhoods due to its ferocious winds.
During his remarks Scott acknowledged that state officials were aware of fuel shortages and were trying to help get gas into the region. The Florida Highway Patrol accompanied gasoline trucks into the Florida Keys on Tuesday night.
Lawyers for a Florida man scheduled to be executed in October want a delay in last-minute court proceedings due to the threat of Hurricane Irma.
Attorney Martin McClain said in a motion filed Wednesday that he and other lawyers representing Michael Ray Lambrix live in the expected path of the Category 5 storm. He said the attorneys need time to help their families get ready. McClain in his motion said that the state is expected to oppose the delay.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Friday scheduled Lambrix's execution for Oct. 5.
The 57-year-old Lambrix, also known as Cary Michael Lambrix, was convicted of the 1983 killings of Clarence Moore and Aleisha Bryant. Prosecutors say he killed them after an evening of drinking at his trailer near LaBelle, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) from Fort Myers.
Key West International Airport is preparing to close as Hurricane Irma approaches the island chain.
Officials said initially said the airport would close Wednesday night due to the Transportation Security Administration's security checkpoint ceasing the screening of passengers. However, the TSA agreed to keep the checkpoint open through Thursday evening.
Three Delta flights to Atlanta are scheduled for Thursday, departing at 7:05 a.m., 12:15 p.m. and 5:50 p.m. Monroe County spokeswoman Cammy Clark said in a news release that all commercial flights will then be canceled until further notice.
General aviation flights will continue from Key West and the Florida Keys Marathon International Airport until conditions become unsafe to operate. However international general aviation flights will end Wednesday afternoon, when U.S. Customs and Border Protection ceases operations.
President Donald Trump says his administration is closely watching Hurricane Irma.
On Twitter Wednesday morning, Trump says his "team, which has done, and is doing, such a good job in Texas, is already in Florida." He adds: "No rest for the weary!"
In a subsequent statement on Twitter, Trump says "Hurricane looks like largest ever recorded in the Atlantic!"
Hurricane Irma is the most powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricane in recorded history. It made its first landfall in the islands of the northeast Caribbean early Wednesday.
It's on a path toward Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba before possibly heading for Florida over the weekend.
Trump has declared emergencies in Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Expect to wait in line for gasoline in South Florida -- if you can find a station that still has gas.
Lines stretched around 50 cars deep at a gas station in Cooper City, which is southwest of Fort Lauderdale, by 5:30 a.m. Wednesday. The station had been out of fuel on Tuesday night, but received an overnight delivery.
Workers at a station in Doral, near Miami, put yellow caution tape around pumps Wednesday morning after running out of gasoline. Local news outlets reported both long lines and stations that had no gas across South Florida.
Officials in the island chain south of the Florida mainland are expected to announce evacuations as Hurricane Irma moves west through the Caribbean toward the state.
Officials in the Florida Keys say they expect to announce a mandatory evacuation for visitors starting Wednesday and for residents starting Thursday.
The Category 5 hurricane is expected to reach Florida by the weekend. On Wednesday morning it was about 40 miles (65 kilometers) north of Antigua.
People in South Florida raided store shelves, buying up water and other hurricane supplies. Long lines formed at gas stations and people pulled shutters out of storage and put up plywood to protect their homes and businesses.