Environment

Updated at 4:20 p.m. ET

A string of tiny Caribbean islands have been left stunned and devastated by the destructive force of Hurricane Irma, one of the strongest storms ever to hit the region. Some islands appear to have been spared, but others suffered loss of life and damage on a near-apocalyptic scale.

Antigua and Barbuda

Updated at 5:00 a.m. ET Friday

The National Hurricane Center says Irma is now a Category 4 storm. It has maximum sustained winds of 155 mph.

Updated at 11 p.m. ET

Hurricane Irma continued its northwestward sweep Thursday evening, losing little steam as it skirted the Dominican Republic and Haiti and bearing the full force of its 165-mph winds down upon the southeastern Bahamas and away from the Turks and Caicos islands. Forecasters upgraded their alert for South Florida to a warning.

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY, ENERGY.GOV

The U.S. Department of Energy released this week new cleanup statistics at the site of the former Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant. 

Hunters, fishermen and other sportsmen had high expectations when Ryan Zinke was tapped to be President Trump's interior secretary, in part because of his promise to bring a balanced, Teddy Roosevelt-style vision to managing public lands.

But the former Republican congressman from Montana is now the target of a critical ad campaign by one of those groups, a symptom of eroding support among a deep-pocketed faction that has become increasingly influential.

Updated 2:14 a.m. ET Thursday

The National Hurricane Center says the dangerous core of the storm will move away from Puerto Rico Thursday morning and is expected to pass just north of the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Irma is expected to be near the Turks and Caicos and southeastern Bahamas by Thursday evening.

Updated at 10:10 p.m. ET

As Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 storm that the National Hurricane Center calls "extremely dangerous," is making its way west through the Caribbean Sea.

Erik Ryan and Mia Reynolds from San Leon, Texas, sit at the picnic table at their campsite in Bastrop State Park. Reynolds, who is currently on hold with FEMA, says that she has been through storms before.

"I did not want to wait around for a politician to tell me to evacuate. I saw the storm on the news and had a bad feeling. That's when I decided to rent a U-Haul truck and pull out."

Reynolds pauses as a an electronic voice comes over the phone: "Your wait time is now 154 minutes."

Updated at 2:15 a.m. ET Wednesday:

The most powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricane in recorded history made its first landfall in Northeast Caribbean islands. The eye passed over Barbuda around 1:47 a.m, according to the National Weather Service.

Updated at 11:10 p.m. ET

"Hurricane Irma has intensified into an extremely dangerous Category 5 hurricane," the National Hurricane Center says, citing the latest data from NOAA and Air Force hurricane hunter aircraft.

Updated at 11:20 p.m. ET

The governors of Florida and Puerto Rico have declared pre-emptive states of emergency ahead of Hurricane Irma, a powerful Category 4 storm churning through the Caribbean on a westward track. The U.S. Virgin Islands also declared a state of emergency.

Forecasters say the dangerous storm also looks increasingly likely to hit the U.S. East Coast, either in South Florida or the Carolinas.

"We have established protocols for the safety of all," Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello said, urging islanders to take precautions.

United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

Owners of a one-time silica mine in southern Illinois are donating the property to a Michigan-based group that works to help the endangered Indiana bat. 

Tropical depression Harvey flooded roads and buildings across south central Kentucky Thursday night and Friday, causing many schools to be closed and activities canceled.

Warren County Emergency Management reports portions of about two dozen roads have been impassable at various times due to heavy rainfall.  

Kentucky Mesonet data shows between five and six inches of rain fell at monitoring stations from Smiths Grove to Bowling Green.

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