People living on Caribbean islands have been warned to rush through preparations as the ‘extremely dangerous’ Hurricane Irma speeds towards their homes.
Among the homes potentially in the path of the mega hurricane are Richard Branson’s 74-acre Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands and Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich’s $50million pad on St Barts.
The Miami-based National Hurricane Center reported that the storm, which is expected to make landfall along the string of French islands that includes Guadeloupe later today before heading to Haiti and Florida, has now become Category 5.
‘Preparations should be rushed to completion in the hurricane warning area,’ the NHC said in its 1200 GMT bulletin.
But Richard Branson, writing on his blog today, said he is not going to leave his island to dodge the storm.
Saint-Barthelemy, part of the French overseas island of Guadeloupe, shows the Saint-Jean Bay as part of preparations ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Irma
The monster hurricane, the most powerful on the five-level Saffir-Simpson scale, is about 270 miles east of the island of Antigua and is packing maximum sustained winds of 175 miles per hour.
The storm was moving towards the west at 14 miles per hour, and is expected to drop between four and eight inches of rain when it hits land.
British Airways has already cancelled a flight from Gatwick to Antigua in light of the warnings.
‘These rainfall amounts may cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides,’ the NHC warned.
The storm is also is expected to ’cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.’
Sir Richard Branson’s Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands could potentially be hit by Hurricane Irma
Paradise: Necker Island, which Richard Branson bought when he was just 28
Irma, which has triggered alarm and alerts from the French West Indies to Florida, comes after of Hurricane Harvey devastated parts of Texas and Louisiana late last month.
There have been hurricane warnings sent out to Antigua, Barbuda Anguilla, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saba, St. Eustatius and Sint Maarten.
They have also been issued for Saint Martin and Saint Barthelemy, the British Virgin Islands, US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Vieques and Culebra.
This image obtained from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows Hurricane Irma today
A hurricane watch is in effect for Guadeloupe and Dominican Republic from Cabo Engano to the northern border with Haiti.
There also been a tropical storm warning issued to Guadeloupe and Dominica and a a tropical storm watch for Dominican Republic from south of Cabo Engao to Isla Saona.
A state of emergency has already been announced in Puerto Rico, with Governor Ricardo Rossello announcing the availability of emergency shelters capable of housing 62,000 people.
A deserted Nikki Beach is shown above as residents make preparations to defend Saint-Barthelemy from Hurricane Irma
Locked up: Shops and houses closed on Guadeloupe as part of preparations ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Irma
Prepared: A little girl looks on as her hoem in Pointe-a-Pitre, on the French overseas island of Guadeloupe, is made ready for arrival of Hurricane Irma
A man leaves a supermarket with a shoppping trolley filled with packs of bottled water in Marigot, on the French overseas island of Saint-Martin
Schools have also been closed on the island.
Meanwhile schools and government offices in Guadeloupe have been ordered shut, while hospitals are stocking up on medicines, food and drinking water.
People living on shorelines will be moved to safety, authorities said in the Guadeloupe capital Marigot.
Saint Barthelemy and St Martin islands, both popular holiday destinations, are expected to be especially hard hit.
Americans in Puerto Rico are already stocking up on supplies for the hurricane, which is expected to hit between Wednesday and Thursday
The top French official of the islands, Anne Laubies, said the hurricane posed the greatest threat in 20 years, with more people endangered in flood-prone areas because of a rise in population.
Americans in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Florida are stocking up on supplies for a storm that’s expected to hit the Leeward Islands soon.
Florida Governor Rick Scott declared the state of emergency for all 67 counties in the state on Monday after some forecasts showed the powerful storm could be headed for the East Coast.
‘Hurricane Irma is a major and life-threatening storm and Florida must be prepared. I have continued to be briefed by the Florida Division of Emergency Management on Hurricane Irma and current forecast models have Florida in Irma’s path – potentially impacting millions of Floridians,’ Scott said.
WHEN WILL IRMA HIT?
Leeward Islands: Late Tuesday to Wednesday. Tropical storm-force winds start later Tuesday
Puerto Rico/Virgin Islands: Wednesday to early Thursday
Dominican Republic/Haiti: Thursday to early Friday
Turks and Caicos: Late Thursday to Friday
Bahamas: Friday to this weekend
Cuba: Friday to this weekend
Southeast United States: This weekend into early next week, beginning in south Florida on Saturday
‘Today, given these forecasts and the intensity of this storm, I have declared a state of emergency for every county in Florida to make certain that state, federal and local governments are able to work together and make sure resources are dispersed to local communities as we get prepared for this storm.’
Floridians took advantage of the Labor Day holiday to empty many store shelves of drinking water and other supplies in advance of Irma
By mid-day Monday, many grocery stores across South Florida had been emptied of bottled water and stores were hoping to restock beginning Tuesday morning.
States of emergency were also declared in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands where residents rushed to find last-minute supplies, forming long lines outside supermarkets and gas stations.
People in Puerto Rico braced for electricity outages after the director of the island’s power company predicted that storm damage could leave some areas without electricity for four to six months.
But ‘some areas will have power (back) in less than a week,’ Ricardo Ramos told radio station Notiuno 630 AM. The utility’s infrastructure has deteriorated greatly during a decade-long recession, and Puerto Ricans experienced an island wide outage last year.
Hurricane Irma now poses a ‘serious threat’ to the U.S., meteorologists say. Above, the possible tracks the storm could take
As of Tuesday morning, Hurricane Irma was gathering speed to the east of the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean
It’s still unclear which direction the storm will take as it inches close to the U.S. later this week
Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are expected to get severe rainfall from Irma
Hurricane warnings have been in effect for several Caribbean islands since Sunday
Both Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands expected four inches to eight inches of rain and winds of 40-50 mph with gusts of up to 60 mph.
‘This is not an opportunity to go outside and try to have fun with a hurricane,’ U.S. Virgin Islands Gov. Kenneth Mapp warned. ‘It’s not time to get on a surfboard.’
Irma grew into a Category 4 storm on Monday, any by early Tuesday, it’s maximum sustained winds increased to near 150 miles per hour. In comparison, Hurricane Harvey had winds of 130 mph when it made landfall in Texas last week. It was centered about 320 miles east of the Leeward Islands and moving west at 14 mph.
It is forecast to begin buffeting the region on Tuesday and the US National Hurricane Center said additional strengthening was expected.
Authorities warned that the storm could dump up to 10 inches of rain, cause landslides and dangerous flash floods and generate waves of up to 23 feet.
In the Caribbean, hurricane warnings were issued for 12 island groups, including Antigua, where the governor urged people to evacuate the tiny island of Anegada if they could ahead of the storm.
Sailors secure the anchoring of their boats on Monday at the harbour in Pointe-a-Pitre, on the French overseas island of Guadeloupe, as part of preparations for arrival of Hurricane Irma
A firefighter helps a sailor to secure the anchoring of his boat on Monday in Guadeloupe]
Windows of a car dealer are protected by tape and sandbags, on Monday in Marigot, on the French overseas island of Saint-Martin
A shoppping trolley filled with packs of bottled water is pictured in a supermarket on Monday in Marigot, on the French overseas island of Saint-Martin
People buy materials at a hardware store after Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello declared a state of emergency in preparation for Hurricane Irma
Puerto Ricans are boarding up for the hurricane expected to hit the island on Wednesday or Thursday
Bottled water is already selling out in Puerto Rican grocery stores. The above grocery store pictured on Monday
A man walks towards his home carrying packs of bottled, in Pointe-a-Pitre, on the French overseas island of Guadeloupe on Monday
A woman looks at candles in a supermarket in Pointe-a-Pitre, on the French overseas island of Guadeloupe on Monday
Vivian Wheatley, proprietor of the Anegada Reef Hotel, planned to stay behind. She said she would stay in one of the hotel rooms and take advantage of the generator since there were no guests.
‘We know it’s a very powerful (storm), and we know it’s going to be very close,’ she said. ‘Let’s hope for the best.’
A hurricane warning was posted for Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Martin, Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Maarten and St. Barts, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. and British Virgin islands. A tropical storm warning was in effect for Guadeloupe and Dominica.
The storm’s center was expected to move near or over the northern Leeward Islands late Tuesday and early Wednesday, the hurricane center said.
‘Irma is a serious threat for the Caribbean islands and United States,’ AccuWeather Lead Long-Range Meteorologist Paul Pastelok said on Monday.
It is still unclear what path Irma will take as it inches closer to the US.
Right now, meteorologists say landfall in Georgia, Florida or the Carolinas are all possible. The storm could also move out into the Atlantic and completely bi-pass the East Coast, though that is now the least likely option.
Residents in Florida rushed to stock up on goods with news the hurricane could potentially strike the state
A woman stocked up on bottled water in Florida on Monday as Gov Rick Scott declared a state of emergency due to the hurricane
A woman looks at empty shelves that are normally filled with bottles of water after Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello declared a state of emergency in preparation for Hurricane Irma
Workers put boats on dry docks in preparation as Hurricane Irma was upgraded to a Category 4 storm late on Monday
‘This hurricane has the potential to be a major event for the East Coast. It also has the potential to significantly strain FEMA and other governmental resources occurring so quickly on the heels of Harvey,’ Evan Myers, Expert Senior Meteorologist and Chief Operating Officer said.
If it does hit the U.S., it won’t be until this weekend, but residents in the southern U.S. shouldn’t waste time getting an emergency plan together.
‘As we saw just 10 days ago with Harvey, it is important to be ready to evacuate and be prepared with at a minimum, a list of items you would take if you had 30 minute notice or 1 hours notice of 6 hours or a day to evacuate,’ Myers said.
Meanwhile, government workers on the islands of the eastern Caribbean are clearing drains and pruning trees ahead of Irma.
American Airlines also announced a number of flight cancellations on Monday night to multiple Caribbean destinations.
It is forecast to begin buffeting the region on Tuesday and the US National Hurricane Center said additional strengthening was expected
Irma is set to hit the northernmost Leeward Islands on Tuesday. Above, a picture of the storm on Monday
The storm is expected to pick up speed as it sets its sights on the U.S.
The National Hurricane Center warned that the Bahamas, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico are at risk as well
The storm is expected to pick up speed just as it hits the Leeward Islands on Tuesday