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WHAT’S HAPPENING: Irma unleashes fury on Caribbean, eyes US

Gas station employee Albert Fernandez covers a pump after running out of gas as the demand for gas has increased due to Hurricane Irma, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017, in Key Largo, Fla. Irma roared into the Caribbean with record force early Wednesday, its winds shaking homes and flooding buildings on a chain of small islands along a path toward Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba and likely Florida by the weekend. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

MIAMI (AP) — Hurricane Irma shook homes and flooded buildings in small Caribbean islands as it marched toward Cuba and perhaps the U.S.

The storm unleased record-setting winds of 185 mph (300 kph) as it began a path of destruction.

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WHERE IS IRMA HEADED?

Hurricane Irma grew into a dangerous Category 5 storm on Tuesday and showed no signs of losing strength. The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Irma was a “potentially catastrophic” storm with winds that extend 50 miles (80 kilometers) from the center.

The center of the storm is expected to cross near Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba and possibly Florida. It could arrive in South Florida this weekend as a Category 4 or 5 storm. The last major hurricane to hit Florida was in 2005.

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POWERFUL IRMA

Irma had the most powerful winds ever recorded for a storm in the Atlantic Ocean.

Four other storms have had winds that strong in the overall Atlantic region but they were in the Caribbean Sea or the Gulf of Mexico, which are usually home to warmer waters that fuel cyclones. Irma was fueled by the unusually warm waters in the Atlantic.

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WHY RISK IT?

With Irma’s potentially catastrophic wind and rain set to crash through the low-lying Florida Keys this weekend, many storm-hardened residents don’t seem willing to ride this one out.

From Key Largo to Key West , residents and officials said Irma is a storm to be reckoned with. Keys officials expected to announce a mandatory evacuation Wednesday for visitors, with residents being told to leave the next day.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who plans to fly to the Keys on Wednesday, said a hospital in the island chain would have its patients evacuated by air.

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ARE RESOURCES STRAINED AFTER HARVEY?

President Donald Trump’s homeland security adviser said the government can handle Hurricane Irma relief because the life-saving phase for Hurricane Harvey is over.

Tom Bossert told The Associated Press that Harvey victims will not be forgotten. He said the government is working on longer-term assistance for those people, such as Small Business Administration loans, unemployment wages and reconstruction.

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