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    Dark clouds are seen over Miami's skyline. | Photo: Reuters

Irma has left a trail of destruction as it heads to the U.S. mainland to visit another sure lash to millions in the southernmost tip of the USA.

Millions of Florida citizens have been ordered to evacuate en masse as quickly as possible.

But the millions more in Hurricane Irma’s Caribbean path between the small and medium islands of the island chain, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, do also have all reason to worry.

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After Harvey visited huge harm and havoc on the United States, two other weather systems also developed, this time off the Gulf of Mexico, forcing Floridians to rush to pull their boats out of water, board-up their homes and gas-up their tanks to evacuate.

Hurricane Katia took shape Wednesday morning, while Hurricane Jose was located east of the Lesser Antilles, moving west - to make landfall Wednesday evening as a hurricane.

It rolled past the Dominican Republic and Haiti on Thursday and headed for Cuba on Friday morning, where seaside tourism resorts and areas in Irma’s path were already being evacuated, hitting the island Friday evening.

Now, Irma has left a trail of destruction as it heads to the U.S. mainland to visit another sure lash to millions in the southernmost tip of the USA.

Migraine Headaches

Still mopping-up after Harvey, facing the biggest clean-up bill of its type in U.S. history and the ugly legacy of Hurricane Katrina still looming large, the U.S. authorities aren’t having second guesses.

With Harvey’s bill still being calculated but already nearing US$180 billion by some estimates, warring Democrats and Republicans united in Washington to pass new measures to release US$7.9 billion (plus an additional US$7 billion to be advanced from the 2018 budget) as Harvey down-payments.

The overwhelmingly-approved funds will also help ready the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) for an even bigger in Florida battle after Irma.

A State of Emergency has been declared in all 67 Florida counties and 7,000 National Guard members have been told to report for duty Friday ahead of Irma’s expected weekend landfall.

Floridians are also emptying supermarket shelves as they stock-up ahead of what they fear could be the worst hit the state will ever have got, if the weather forecasts prove as correct as they normally do.

Florida Governor Rick Scott says Irma is ‘Bigger, faster and stronger than (Hurricane) Andrew’, which hit the U.S. state in 1992 with winds at 65 mph and causing US$26 billion in damage.

Counting costs

The Sunshine State was also hit by Ivan, recorded as the 7th costliest Atlantic hurricane at US$27 billion.

With Irma threatening to dwarf Katrina - and most of the properties in its Florida path uninsured - migraine headaches are like blowing with the wind.

The costs of previous hurricanes have been enormous, adding to the fears of Americans at a time when the US government’s funds are facing their own whirlwinds.

The most costly hurricane on record was Katrina at US$108 billion, followed by Wilma (US$29.4billion), Andrew (US$26.5 billion), Ivan (US$23.3 billion), Matthew (US$15.1 billion) and Rita (US$12 billion).

But with Harvey’s costs (in Texas alone) calculated to possibly eventually reach as much as US$160-$180 billion, Irma’s costs mounting in the U.S. Caribbean territories (Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands) ahead of an expected pounding of Florida, jitters are understandably setting in across Florida – in Washington.

Raging path

Irma is continuing on its raging path, just as Jose, which has many of Irma’s victims also in its path.

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Now, a magnitude 8 earthquake has rocked neighboring Mexico – the biggest in a century, according to the government -- followed by Hurricane Katia adding to the shock and awe already feared millions of Floridians pulling their boats ashore, filling-up gas tanks, stocking relief supplies and hitting the highways after being ordered to flee the danger zones and head for higher – or safer – ground.

For the Caribbean though, even while those islands already hit by Irma are awaiting Jose, the focus is on Cuba, The Bahamas and Turks & Caicos Islands, where 20-foot waves were expected and beach resorts were cleared ahead of Irma’s unwelcome arrival.


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