Hurricane Irma, the most powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricane in recorded history, hit the islands of the north-east Carribean on Tuesday night local time. It follows a path that is also predicted to bear down on Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba and with a strong possibility that it will be headed for Florida over the weekend.
So powerful is the Hurricane Irma that officials warning people to seek protection from its wrath end their statements with almost a plea: “May God protect us all.”
At the far north-eastern edge of the Carribean, authorities on the Leeward Islands of Antigua and Barbuda cut power and urged residents to seek shelter indoors as they wait for the hurricane’s first contact with land early on Wednesday.
Hurricane Irma is a category 5 storm that had maximum sustained winds of 185 miles (295 km) per hour by early Tuesday evening, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami.
Category 5 hurricanes are uncommon but really dangerous, with the capacity to inflict life-threatening winds, storm surges and rainfall. Hurricane Harvey, which caused so much devastation to Houston, was category 4.
Other islands that might be affected, as they’re in the path of the storm, include the U.S. and British Virgin Islands and Anguilla, a small, low-lying British island territory of about 15,000 people.
President Trump has already declared emergencies in Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The eye of Hurricane Irma was anticipated to pass about 50 miles (80 km) from Puerto Rico late on Wednesday. It is also expected to dump up to 18 inches (45 cm) of rain in some areas when it hits land. Officials say the rainfall amounts may cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides.
The storm is almost certain to hit the U.S. by early next week. Florida is seen to bear the brunt of the storm. Residents of Florida are preparing well with food and drinking water stocked up. Other necessary supplies are being readied as well.
100 members of the Florida National Guard have been activated and Governor Rick Scott says they will be deployed across the state. 7,000 National Guard members were also asked to report for duty on Friday when the storm could be approaching the area. Scott has declared a state of emergency in all of Florida’s 67 counties.
Officials are also working in the Florida Keys to get tourists and residents out of Irma’s harm. Mayor Carlos Gimenez of Miami-Dade county said people should be prepared to evacuate Miami Beach and most of the county’s coastal areas. The mayor also said that the voluntary evacuations could begin as soon as Wednesday evening. The emergency operation center has been activated. Residents have been advised to stock up on food and water for three days.