Florida, Puerto Rico declare states of emergency as Irma strengthens to Category 4
MIAMI — Florida Gov. Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency for every county in the state as Hurricane Irma has strengthened into a Category 4 storm on its way towards the northeast Caribbean.
The storm’s center is 490 miles (790 kilometers) east of the Leeward Islands late Monday afternoon. It has maximum sustained winds of 130 mph (215 kph) and is moving west at 13 mph (20 kph).
Emergency officials are warning that Irma could dump up to 10 inches (25 centimeters) of rain, unleash landslides and dangerous flash floods and generate waves of up to 23 feet (7 meters) as the storm draws closer.
A hurricane warning has been issued for Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Martin, Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Maarten and St. Barts. A hurricane watch is in effect for Puerto Rico, Vieques, Culebra, the British and U.S. Virgin islands and Guadeloupe.
The governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rossello, declared a state of emergency Monday and activated the National Guard after the National Hurricane Center declared a hurricane watch due to the passage of Hurricane Irma.
“Hurricane conditions are possible within the watch area by Tuesday night, with tropical storm conditions possible by late Tuesday,” the NHC said.
“Irma is expected to impact the northeastern Leeward Islands by the middle of this week as a major hurricane, accompanied by dangerous wind, storm surge, and rainfall impacts, along with rough surf and rip currents,” the agency said.
Puerto Ricans warned
Irma is expected to remain a “dangerous major hurricane” through the week and could directly affect the British and US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Hispaniola, Turks and Caicos, and the Bahamas, the agency said, warning that residents of the Lesser Antilles should monitor the hurricane’s progress.
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello on Sunday asked the public to be aware of Irma’s possibly trajectory and the impact the storm could have around noon Wednesday. The National Meteorological Service said the island could experience tropical storm winds and between 4 and 8 inches of rain.
Puerto Rico’s State Agency for the Management of Emergencies and Disaster Management (AEMEAD) is monitoring Irma and has opened an information hotline.
Florida governor says be prepared
But it’s too soon to know the impact Irma could have on the continental United States, where no warnings or watches are currently in effect, the agency said.
“Regardless, everyone in hurricane-prone areas should ensure that they have their hurricane plan in place, as we are now near the peak of the season,” the hurricane center said.
In a series of tweets Sunday, Florida Gov. Rick Scott urged the state’s residents to ensure their disaster supply kits were ready.
“FL knows how important it is to be prepared. Encourage your loved ones to have a plan ahead of any potential storm,” Scott tweeted. “Disaster preparedness should be a priority for every Florida family.”
Irma was designated a tropical storm Wednesday morning, and by Thursday afternoon, it had strengthened, with winds of 115 mph.
Irma is a classic “Cape Verde hurricane,” a type of hurricane that forms in the far eastern Atlantic, near the Cape Verde Islands (now known as the Cabo Verde Islands), then tracks all the way across the Atlantic, CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller said.
Cape Verde storms frequently become some of the largest and most intense hurricanes. Examples are Hurricane Hugo, Hurricane Floyd, and Hurricane Ivan.