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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (CBSMiami/AP) — Florida officials are asking residents to evacuate the area directly south of Lake Okeechobee as Hurricane Irma approaches.

gettyimages 843085124 Area South Of Lake Okeechobee To Be Evacuated

Cars sit in traffic as they evacuate heading North on Overseas Highway in the Florida Keys on Septeber 5, 2017 in Islamorada, Florida. Residents are evacuating ahead of Hurricane Irma, a powerful storm expected to make landfall this weekend. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)

Gov. Rick Scott released a statement Thursday ordering an immediate voluntary evacuation for cities surrounding the southern half of the lake from Lake Port to Canal Point in Hendry, Palm Beach and Glades counties. Mandatory evacuations will be put in place beginning Friday morning.

The statement said Scott made the decision after discussing the Herbert Hoover Dike with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Col. Jason Kirk told Scott the structural integrity of the dike would not be compromised, but excessive could wind push some water over the dike.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Irma is “pummeling” the Turks and Caicos islands.
Forecasters say the Category 5 hurricane has top sustained winds of 175 mph (280 kph) and is expected to remain powerful for the next couple of days. Irma is centered about 55 miles (85 kilometers) west-southwest of Grand Turk Island and is moving west-northwest at 16 mph (26 kph).

In the Atlantic, Category 3 Hurricane Jose is moving toward the northern Leeward Islands. Jose has maximum sustained winds of 120 mph (195 kph) and is moving west-northwest at 18 mph (30 kph). The storm is about 540 miles (870 kilometers) east of the Lesser Antilles.

Air Force hurricane hunter aircraft are on the way to investigate Hurricane Katia in the Gulf of Mexico. Katia is stationary about 190 miles (310 kilometers) north-northeast of Veracruz, Mexico, and forecasters didn’t expect much movement overnight. It has top winds of 80 mph (130 kph).

(TM and © Copyright 2017 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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