Hurricane-force winds of 125 miles per hour (over 200 kp/h) whipped roofs clean off buildings, ripped trees from the ground and forced evacuations along the coast.
Intense wind and rain are already ripping through Miami, while water rises around the Florida Keys.
Hurricane watches and warnings have been extended north along the Florida coast. Fortunately, the hurricane changed track slightly and the low-lying islands of the Bahamas archipelago were spared the feared storm surges.
Even that, however, could bring unsafe flash flooding and storm surges in many populated areas, BBC’s Havana correspondent said. Can you tell us about that? There also were reports of power cuts and walls collapsing in some areas of the island country.
Irma is expected to hit Florida on Sunday.
McMaster couldn’t say how many people his order would affect.
“I don’t know where we are going when we get to Antigua – or how we will get there”, said Beautymey John, who was on a dock waiting to board a boat to safety with her five children.
Antonia Navarro, 56, a resident of the northern Cuban port town of Nuevitas in Camaguey, said a local ice cream factory was destroyed and glass windows at a hospital were blown out.
He said that parts of Florida would be without power for days. “We have to pray a lot for our relatives who live there”.
“The entire south-eastern United States better wake up and pay attention”, he said.
Both also suffered damage from Irma earlier in the week.
Are there more hurricanes to come?
Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 storm at its peak, is the second major hurricane of the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season, sandwiched between Harvey and the upcoming Jose. In Palm Beach, Trump’s waterfront Mar-a-Lago estate was ordered evacuated.
After the near-annihilation of tiny Barbuda by Hurricane Irma, its 1,700 evacuated residents took shelter on its sister island of Antigua, hunkering down in government buildings and residential homes as Hurricane Jose approached.
Amid the exodus, almost one-third of all gas stations in Florida’s metropolitan areas were out of gasoline, with scattered outages in Georgia, North Carolina and SC, according to Gasbuddy.com, a retail fuel price tracking service.
Flights out of the island were suspended on Saturday due to weather.
“All of us have been affected by Irma and some more than others”, Gus Jaspert, governor of the British Virgin Islands, said in a Facebook statement late Thursday in which he declared a state of emergency for the territory.
On St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin islands, a convoy of FEMA trucks carrying water rumbled past damaged homes with sirens blaring.
The middle Leeward Island’s moderate climate has made it a tourist destination, but a relatively limited one beyond a small airport, ferry service to Antigua, and a few resorts because of previous tropical storms and hurricanes, and it’s questionable how it will bounce back from the 1-2 punch from Hurricanes Irma and Jose.