Governor Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency for the entire state of Florida as Hurricane Irma has now strengthened into a Category 5 storm.
According to the National Hurricane Center’s 11 a.m. advisory Tuesday, Irma grew to 180 mph sustained winds as it moves west at 14 mph through the Caribbean. Gusts from the storm are currently reaching up to 220 mph. Over the next day, the storm is likely to get even stronger, the National Hurricane Center said Tuesday.
Already, Irma is now the strongest Atlantic hurricane since Felix in 2007. At its current sustained wind speeds, Irma would be the strongest hurricane to hit the United States since Category 5 Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
Forecasters project Irma to turn west-northwest by the end of the day Tuesday, moving on an overall track that increases the possibility of a landfall along the U.S. coastline. Most forecast models currently have the entire state of Florida feeling the impact of the hurricane, with models showing landfall scenarios from the eastern Gulf Coast to the Carolinas.
While Irma’s impact on the U.S. remains uncertain, state officials are preparing for the full impact of the hurricane. Governor Rick Scott said he has spoken with President Donald Trump who has offered “full resources” as the state gets ready for the possibility of Irma coming its way.
“Hurricane Irma is a major and life-threatening storm and Florida must be prepared,” said Scott. “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.”
“It is still too early to determine what direct impacts Irma might have on the continental United States,” Scott added. “However, everyone in hurricane-prone areas should ensure that they have their hurricane plan in place.”
Local officials said they are prepared for possible impacts by the storm.
“We are aware of the weather forecast and we are taking necessary precautions,” City of Pensacola officials said Tuesday.
Escambia County Emergency Management is also closely monitoring Hurricane Irma.
“While Hurricane Irma may not come our way, our residents should take the time now to double-check their storm supplies and preparations so that when a confirmed threat develops, they are ready,” Escambia County officials said.