Hurricane Irma is now so powerful it is registering on devices designed to detect earthquakes.
Scientists started picking up background noise from the storm on their earthquake-detecting seismometers as Irma strengthened into a Category 5 storm on Tuesday.
Winds causing trees to move and crashing ocean waves caused by Irma is what made it possible for the earthquake detectors to pick up the storm.
Irma is currently roaring toward the northeast Caribbean on a path that could take it to the US – causing thousands to start panic buying and preparing to evacuate in Florida.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Irma had sustained winds of 185mph, making it the most powerful storm ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean.
Hurricane Irma strengthened into a powerful Category 5 storm on Tuesday. Above, a sattelite view of the storm on Tuesday
It’s still unclear where the storm will turn once it gets closer to the U.S. later this week. It could go west into the Gulf of Mexico or east into the Atlantic, or make landfall in Georgia, Florida or the Carolinas
Americans in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are already stocking up on supplies for the hurricane, which is expected to hit between Wednesday and Thursday
Some people waited up to eight hours to check in, shop and leave a Costco in North Miami on Tuesday in preparation for Hurricane Irma
Four other storms have had winds that strong in the overall Atlantic region, but they have been in the Caribbean Sea or the Gulf of Mexico where the usually warmer waters fuel tropical cyclones.
Experts say Irma’s strength is a result of unusually warm water for that part of the Atlantic.
The center said there was a growing possibility that the storm’s effects could be felt in Florida later this week and over the weekend, though it was still too early to be sure of its future track: ‘Everyone in hurricane-prone areas should ensure that they have their hurricane plan in place.’
So far, a state of emergency has been called in the state and a mandatory evacuation is under way in the Florida Keys. Schools there are also cancelled until further notice.
People in the Florida Keys were putting up hurricane shutters and wooden boards on homes and businesses on Tuesday.
Trucks are currently hauling away boats and people are packing in preparation for leaving. Houses in the Keys stand at sea level, with parts of the main road to the Florida mainland going dangerously low.
In addition to Irma, Tropical Storm Jose has now formed behind it in the open Atlantic far from land. Jose is the 10th tropical storm of the season. It has maximum sustained winds of 40 mph and is about 1505 miles east of the Lesser Antilles.
Shoppers at Costco in North Miami waited up to eight hours for water and essentials in preparation for Hurricane Irma on Tuesday
Jackie Kreuter, 56, of Gulfport, Florida, tosses pool furniture in his pool on Tuesday so it doesn’t fly around during the impending hurricane. Kreuter, along with her mother, husband, sister, daughter, grandson, five dogs and a bird are boarding up their home and business and leaving for Ocala to get out of Hurricane Irma’s way
Residents purchase water at BJ Wholesale in preparation for Hurricane Irma on Tuesday in Miami, Florida
Motorists head north on US Route 1 in Key Largo, Florida on Tuesday as Hurricane Irma moves its path in the northeast Caribbean
Vehicles line up to get fuel at a Tom Thumb gas station in Shalimar, Florida on Tuesday
Irma’s center was expected to move near or over the northern Leeward Islands late Tuesday and early Wednesday, the hurricane center said. The eye was then expected to pass about 50 miles from Puerto Rico late Wednesday.
Authorities warned that the storm could dump up to 10 inches of rain, cause landslides and flash floods and generate waves of up to 23 feet.
Government officials began evacuations and urged people to finalize all preparations as shelves emptied out across islands including Puerto Rico.
‘The decisions that we make in the next couple of hours can make the difference between life and death,’ Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello said. ‘This is an extremely dangerous 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
Residents on the U.S. East Coast were urged to monitor the storm’s progress in case it should turn northward toward Florida, Georgia or the Carolinas.
‘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 (Hurricane) Harvey,’ Evan Myers, chief operating officer of AccuWeather, said in a statement.
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.
‘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.’
He also ordered the suspension of road tolls across the state and activated 100 members of the Florida National Guard to prepare for Hurricane Irma.
Scott says in a statement that the initial 100 troops will be stationed throughout the state. Some 7,000 National Guard members will report to duty Friday, when the storm could be bearing down on Florida.
Cyber School Supply employee Christopher Rodriguez installs wood panels on windows in preparation for Hurricane Irma, in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico on Tuesday
John Pepper of Miami waits to purchase plywood at Home Depot to cover his french doors in preparation for Hurricane Irma on Monday
Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency on Monday for all 67 counties in his state
Scott says tolls will be suspended to keep traffic flowing as residents begin to evacuate coastal areas in the potential path of the dangerous Category 5 storm.
The governor adds that tolls will remain suspended ‘for the duration of the storm’s impacts to Florida.’
Meanwhile, Miami-Dade County’s mayor says residents and visitors should be prepared to evacuate Miami Beach, as soon as Wednesday evening.
An NFL game to be played between the the Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday has also been cancelled.
Water and basic foodstuffs are already flying off the shelves of some stores in Florida.
Pablo Rodriguez surveyed the empty water aisle at a Fort Lauderdale Winn Dixie with dismay, saying ‘I was hoping to get a few cases.’
The 65-year-old said he would have to try other shops, because ‘all the people are stocking up quick.’
Theresa Webster, 60, of Fort Lauderdale had heard water was sold out at Publix but still available at Winn Dixie, but there was none by the time she got there in the afternoon.
She was also stocking up on canned tuna, crackers and bread.
Said Webster: ‘I got some water already but I wanted more.’
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, but south Florida will no doubt feel some effects of the storm
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
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.
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.
The governors of both Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have submitted state of emergency declarations to the White House ahead of the storm.
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello says he has spoken to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and thanked him in a tweet for ‘the attention given to Puerto Rico’ ahead of the storm
Puerto Rico has announced a number of steps in preparation for the storm, including a 24-hour ban on the sale of alcohol starting 6am Wednesday.
Residents walk past a storefront, paneled with steel sheets in preparation for Hurricane Irma, in Carolina, Puerto Rico on Tuesday
After loading the back of her vehicle with food Maria Minier loads a recently purchased wood panel to be used in preparation for Hurricane Irma, in Carolina, Puerto Rico on Tuesday
Cyber School Supply Christopher Rodriguez is supported as he installs wood panels over a storefront window in preparation for Hurricane Irma, in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico on Tuesday
A couple arrive at a store to purchase supplies in preparation for Hurricane Irma, in Carolina, Puerto Rico on Tuesday
A photo taken on Tuesday in 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
Houses and businesses are closed in preparation for Hurricane Irma on the island of Guadeloupe on Tuesday
The government has also dispatched inspectors to stores throughout the territory to check for possible price-gouging.
U.S. Virgin Islands Gov. Kenneth Mapp says in a news briefing on Tuesday that he doesn’t want to frighten anyone but that forecasters predict the storm could skirt the territory or even pass directly over it.
Mapp says people in the islands may start to feel the storm’s effects around midmorning Wednesday.
‘This is not an opportunity to go outside and try to have fun with a hurricane,’ 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 on Monday 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
STUDY SHOWS PEOPLE PREPARE LESS FOR FEMALE-NAMED HURRICANES
People prepare differently for hurricanes depending on whether they have a male or female name, a new study has shown.
A team of Princeton University researchers studied data on fatalities in hurricanes in the U.S.dating back to the 1970s, and found that female hurricanes have been consistently more deadly than hurricanes given a male name.
The researchers say changing a hurricane’s name form Charlie to Eloise could nearly triple its death toll.
‘Feminine-named hurricanes (vs. masculine-named hurricanes) cause significantly more deaths, apparently because they lead to a lower perceived risk and consequently less preparedness,’ the researchers wrote in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Until the 1950s, hurricanes were tracked each year by the order in which they occurred. It was later decided that it would be easier for people to track these systems if they were given easily remembered names.
So now, each storm is given a name and they alternate back and forth between male and female. This year, the first storm of the season was given a female name, Arlene. The first storm of the season is an A-letter name and each subsequent storm takes the next letter in the alphabet. We’ve had nine storms this season, so we’re on the letter I, Irma.
The researchers do not suggest a new way of naming storms that might address this problem. They leave that to the media and policy makers.
However, they say that educating the public on gender biases might help address the issue of underestimating ‘female’ storms.
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.
Hundreds of flights are being cancelled in the eastern Caribbean through Tuesday, and cruise ships are being re-rerouted to stay away from the storm.
American Airlines has added extra flights out of two Caribbean islands Tuesday morning to get people out before the storm hit.
The flights were added in St. Maarten and St. Kitts and Nevis. Those are in addition to regularly scheduled flights Tuesday and Wednesday to Miami.
American says it expects to make additional flight changes as it monitors the storm.
Antigua’s airport has closed with an ominous statement from local authorities as Hurricane Irma approaches the Caribbean island.
The statement from the V.C. Bird International Airport says it is shutting down Tuesday and advises all visitors and residents of the two-island nation of Antigua and Barbuda to seek protection from the ‘onslaught’ of the Category 5 storm.
It closes with: ‘May God protect us all.’
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 National Hurricane Center warned that the Bahamas, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico are at risk
The storm is expected to pick up speed just as it hits the Leeward Islands on Tuesday