The National Hurricane Center warned Tuesday that Hurricane Irma is "potentially catastrophic" as the Category 5 storm gathered strength, traveling toward the Caribbean and Florida.
The NHC said the storm could be life-threatening in the Leeward Islands and the British and U.S. Virgin Islands. The organization also anticipated dangerous conditions in Hispaniola, the Turks and Caicos, the Bahamas and Cuba.
“Preparations should be rushed to completion in the hurricane warning area,” the group said.
The NHC also warned that the storm could impact Florida, although it is still “too early” to be certain about its impact on the continental United States.
Key Messages on Category 5 Hurricane #Irma for 8am EDT https://t.co/7dsEmJX4yY— National Hurricane Center (@National Hurricane Center) 1504613523.0
Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) declared a state of emergency in all of Florida’s 67 counties in advance of the storm, his office said Tuesday. He also activated the Florida National Guard and suspended tolls on highways across the entire state.
“In preparation for the potential impacts of Hurricane Irma, I have directed the Florida Department of Transportation to suspend all tolls across the State of Florida to keep traffic flowing,” Scott said in a statement. “They will be suspended for the duration of the storm’s impacts to Florida. Ensuring the safety of Florida families and visitors is our top priority and suspending tolls statewide will help people quickly evacuate and make it easier for all Floridians to access important hurricane supplies to ensure they are fully prepared.”
“We are continuing to closely monitor the developments of Hurricane Irma and will continue to take aggressive action to keep our state safe,” Scott said.
8 am Special Advisory: #Irma is now a category 5 #hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 175 mph (280 km/h) More… https://t.co/N7IPMHK6M3— National Hurricane Center (@National Hurricane Center) 1504613786.0
The National Weather Service’s Miami branch shared some tips on how to prepare for a hurricane, including having access to enough drinking water and medications.
Are you concerned about Hurricane Irma? Here is a good graphic of things you can be doing now to make sure you are… https://t.co/uRotbuiBSm— NWS Miami (@NWS Miami) 1504448359.0
The Gulf region of the United States is still recovering from last month's Hurricane Harvey.