Another storm, Hurricane Irma, is making its way toward the U.S., this time approaching Florida as it plows through islands in the Caribbean, according to the Weather Channel.
Hurricane Irma, now a Category 5 hurricane, is nearing the island of Barbuda with 185 mph winds, the Weather Channel reported. Irma will move through the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Hispañola, the Bahamas and Cuba before posing a serious threat to Florida starting this weekend.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency on Monday as Irma moved westward, bringing heavy rains and winds stronger than any Atlantic hurricane since Wilma in 2005.
“It is incredibly important that all Floridians pay attention to this incredibly dangerous storm,’’ Scott said in a public statement. “Do not sit and wait to prepare. Prepare now.”
According to CNN, Scott suspended tolls on all Florida roads starting at 5 p.m. Tuesday to help ease evacuations. On Wednesday, officials in the Florida Keys are set to begin mandatory evacuations for visitors and residents before Hurricane Irma reaches Florida. South Florida schools are beginning to close, and residents across the region are trying their best to prepare for the storm by stocking up on food, water and other necessities. Sandbag and shelter locations are to be announced in coming days.
Central Florida could feel the impact of tropical storm winds as early as Saturday morning, according to the National Hurricane Center.
“In Florida, we always prepare for the worst and hope for the best,” Scott continued, “and while the exact path of Irma is not absolutely known at this time, we cannot afford to not be prepared.”
As for the Leeward Islands, the storm is projected to hit the northern islands overnight into Wednesday as a Category 5 hurricane, the strongest to affect this region since Hurricane Lenny in 1999. According to the Weather Channel, destructive winds, capable of widespread tree damage, power outages and structural damage are expected. Heavy rains are likely to cause flooding and mudslides as well. Residents in these areas should make preparations immediately for the storm.
Senior Ce’jae Hodge is from St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, and said her parents and little brother are in her family home as the island’s residents prepare for the storm as best they can.
“It’s indescribably rough being so far away from home when tragedy is about to strike,” Hodge said. “However, I find comfort in the fact that even though Irma is big, God is much bigger.”
This is a developing story. Updates on Hurricane Irma to come.