Hurricane Irma strengthened into a powerful Category 5 storm on Tuesday, with sustained winds of up to 175 miles per hour.
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 first on Tuesday or Wednesday.
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.
Hurricane Irma strengthened into a powerful Category 4 storm on Monday forcing Florida to declare a state of emergency. Above, a satellite view of the hurricane on Tuesday
Hurricane Irma now poses a ‘serious threat’ to the U.S., meteorologists say. Above, the possible tracks the storm could take
‘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.’
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
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.
As of Tuesday morning, Hurricane Irma was gathering speed to the east of the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean
Americans in Puerto Rico are already stocking up on supplies for the hurricane, which is expected to hit between Wednesday and Thursday
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