Florida Governor Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency in all 67 counties in his state as Hurricane Irma grew into a category 4 storm on Monday (4 September). The storm is expected to hit Florida and Puerto Rico on Wednesday, causing deadly storm surges, strong winds and heavy rains.
Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló also declared a state of emergency on Monday and activated the National Guard even before the National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane warning for the state. Schools and the University of Puerto Rico have been shut on Tuesday in the wake of the approaching storm.
U.S. Virgin Islands has also declared an emergency. "This is not an opportunity to go outside and try to have fun with a hurricane," Govenor Kenneth Mapp warned. "It's not time to get on a surfboard."
Although the hurricane's path remains uncertain, the US states have started taking measures to deal with the natural disaster, especially considering the destruction from Hurricane Harvey just a week ago in Texas and Louisiana.
Harvey unleashed its fury on Texas first after hitting the state as a category 4 storm, causing widespread flooding across the state, and later hit Louisiana bringing more rains.
"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.
The National Hurricane Center has warned that the storm will mainly hit Caribbean islands, with hurricane warnings in effect in the islands of Antigua, Barbuda, Anguilla, Montserrat, St Kitts, Nevis, Saba, St Eustatius, St Martin/Sint Maarten and S Barts and several others.
The center said swells generated by Irma would begin hitting the northern Leeward Islands on Monday, which are "likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions".
It added that Hurricane Irma was about 660km east of the Leeward Islands as of 11pm ET on Monday. It is packing maximum sustained winds of 140mph as it heads west at 13mph, the centre added, noting that landfall was expected early on Wednesday on the island of Anguilla, the CNN wrote.
Meanwhile, governor Scott took to Twitter to inform people that he has already spoken to US President Donald Trump, who has "offered the full resources of the federal government as Floridians prepare for Hurricane Irma".
"In Florida, we always prepare for the worst and hope for the best, and while the exact path of Irma is not absolutely known at this time, we cannot afford to not be prepared," Scott reportedly said in a statement released late on Monday afternoon.
"This state of emergency allows our emergency management officials to act swiftly in the best interest of Floridians without the burden of bureaucracy or red tape."