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Florida Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency Monday afternoon as Hurricane Irma strengthened into a Category 4 storm.

Irma strengthened Monday, and new forecast data suggests the major hurricane will approach South Florida this weekend. It was too soon to make or deny that call over the weekend, but confidence is increasing that the Category 3 storm will come very close, it not make a direct hit, on the Sunshine State in six to eight days.

NASA/NOAA via AP

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Workers in the northeast Caribbean cleared drains and pruned trees as authorities urged islanders to prepare for Hurricane Irma, a Category 3 storm that grew stronger Monday and was forecast to begin buffeting the region the following day.

The University of Tampa on Aug. 29 fired a visiting professor who tweeted that Texas was experiencing “instant karma” from the destruction of Hurricane Harvey because the state voted for Republicans.

“I don't believe in instant karma but this kinda feels like it for Texas,” Kenneth Storey, an assistant professor of sociology, tweeted. “Hopefully this will help them realize the GOP doesn't care about them.”

Irma Intensifying Rapidly in the Atlantic

Sep 1, 2017

Irma is now a hurricane. In fact, it strengthened from a Tropical Storm to a Category 2 storm with winds of 100 mph in just six hours, quickly on its way to becoming the season’s second Major Hurricane this weekend.

Now that the rain has stopped and floodwaters are slowly starting to recede, government officials are figuring out where tens of thousands of evacuees in Texas and Louisiana can stay.

The White House estimates about 100,000 houses were affected by the storm. Many were destroyed or are too damaged to live in. More than 30,000 people are staying in emergency shelters and will soon be in need of permanent accommodations.

What should you do when confronted by a floating raft of thousands of fire ants?

Among the many scenes of devastation coming out of areas flooded by Tropical Storm Harvey, images of floating rafts of these ants have gone viral on social media.

As rains pounded Houston on Sunday, Dr. Karen Lu took to Twitter and conveyed both alarm and reassurance: "Roads around @MDAndersonNews impassable. Our on-site ride out team is caring for patients and we are all safe."

Tropical Storm Irma intensified steadily overnight and is now expected to become a Major Hurricane this weekend over the central Atlantic.

Jeff Huffman, Meteorologist from the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network, indicated that it's not clear yet if the storm will hit Florida. 

"I think it will be at least this weekend before we can get a good handle on Irma's path as it relates to the U.S.," said Huffman.  "The forecast is pretty clear cut over the next five to seven days, but the steering currents that would guide it beyond then are quite complex."

The rain has let up in Houston, but getting in and out of the city is still a difficult task. Houston's two main airports reopened Wednesday with limited service. But many roads are flooded, and some bridges have been damaged.

Since Saturday, when both the airports shut down, thousands of flights in and out the city have been canceled. Up to now, at the George Bush Intercontinental Airport, the runways were open only for limited operations and humanitarian flights.

University of Tampa Professor Fired Over Hurricane Tweet

Aug 30, 2017

The University of Tampa on Tuesday fired a visiting professor who tweeted that Texas was experiencing “instant karma” from the destruction of Hurricane Harvey because the state voted for Republicans.

Updated at 12:15 a.m. ET

The National Hurricane Center says Harvey is now a tropical depression. As of 8 p.m. ET, the storm was located southwest of Alexandria, La., with sustained winds of 35 mph.

As Tropical Storm Harvey, it had made landfall in Louisiana, at 4 a.m. Central time, just west of Cameron, according to the Center.

The confirmed death toll from Harvey is at least 25, across five Texas counties — although that figure is likely to rise and does not include people who are missing or believed dead.

Brandon McElveen's Ford F150 pickup is lifted up about six inches. He says that's just the style in the South, but this week, "it's come in handy" for driving through up to four feet of water.

McElveen's a counselor at the KIPP Explore Academy elementary school in Houston. Within hours of the flooding this week, he began getting calls and messages asking for help. One was from a family with two girls on the middle school softball team he also coaches.

With his truck and a borrowed kayak, he estimates he's helped more than 20 people to safety.

When the floodwaters in Texas eventually recede, the cleanup and rebuilding will begin.

The cleanup bill will likely be hefty — possibly topping $100 billion — and the vast majority of those efforts will be funded by the federal government.

President Trump doesn't seem worried about Congress footing the bill. "You're going to see very rapid action from Congress," he told reporters Monday. "You're going to get your funding."

In a visit to Austin on Tuesday, Trump met with the state's two Republican senators and again alluded to the price tag for federal help.

Houston Police say 60-year-old Sgt. Steve Perez, trying to get to work despite Hurricane Harvey, drowned in his patrol car in floodwaters.

In a somber news conference Tuesday afternoon, Police Chief Art Acevedo said Perez's wife, Cheryl, had asked her husband not to report to work Sunday morning. But Perez, who had been on the police force for 34 years and was just a few days short of his 61st birthday, insisted on going in.

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