Hurricane Irma looks set to dodge one of the few landmasses big enough to slow it down as it makes it’s way toward Florida for this weekend.
While that may come as a small gift to the people who live on Hispaniola, the island home to the nations of Haiti and Dominican Republic, it leaves Irma with more destructive power as it steers toward Florida.
Irma will bring eight to 12 inches of rain to southeast Florida, predicts the National Hurricane Center.
That water does not include the massive waves that will accompany the storm, waves made even worse if Irma lands at high tide.
The eye of Irma is currently (4:30 p.m. EST) between the north coast of Hispaniola and the Caicos and Turks islands, reports the National Hurricane Center.
Irma will bring water surges and crushing waves as high as 20 feet and keep that intensity as it moves across the southeastern Bahamas by this evening. The hurricane will be near the central Bahamas by Friday, sustaining maximum winds of 175 mph with some higher gusts.
Current predictions have Irma bringing tropical storm conditions to Florida by late Saturday and hurricane conditions are possible by Sunday.
Hurricane Andrew—the devastating storm that tore through Florida in 1992 and all but razed the town of Homestead just south of Miami—was also a Category 5 hurricane, just not as large or as fast as Irma.
Puerto Rico was spared the worst of Irma, as the eye of the storm stayed just north of the U.S. territory, though it still left a million people without power and extensive flooding.
“Puerto Rico escaped. It could have been far worse, they really escaped the brunt,” President Donald Trump said from the White House on Thursday.
The president has approved an emergency declaration for the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. That allows the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other federal agencies to help with recovery on the U.S. government’s dime.
Meanwhile, the Florida Keys, part of Monroe County, are already under a mandatory evacuation order that includes the Naval Air Station Key West. Over 5,000 nonessential personnel have been told to leave the base and seek safety inland.
Miami-Dade, the county covering the southeastern corner of Florida, including Miami and Miami Beach, put its entire coastline under a mandatory evacuation order as of Thursday morning.
Broward County, just north of Miami-Dade, has also issued a mandatory evacuation order for its coastline areas.
Forecasts have Irma devouring almost the entirety of Florida but there is some chance it could turn further west and stay off the coast.
That would still wreak havoc on cities there, but leave far less damage.