Hurricane Irma’s size and strength put the entire state of Florida on notice on Tuesday, and residents and visitors prepared to leave in anticipation of catastrophic winds and floods that could reach the state by this weekend.
Throughout South Florida, officials readied evacuation orders and people raided store shelves, buying up water and other hurricane supplies. Long lines formed at gas stations and people pulled shutters out of storage and put up plywood to protect their homes and businesses.
Irma’s winds measured 185 mph on Tuesday, a strong Category 5 storm, and forecasters say it could strengthen more as it neared the eastern-most Caribbean islands, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. The storm had the most powerful winds ever recorded for a storm in the Atlantic Ocean and posed an immediate threat to the small islands of the northern Leewards, including Antigua and Barbuda, as well as the British and U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
President Trump signed disaster declarations Tuesday night for Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, all in the projected path of Hurricane Irma. The president’s action, barely a week after Hurricane Harvey devastated portions of Texas and Louisiana, makes those jurisdictions eligible for federal disaster aid. It also authorizes the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate all disaster relief efforts.
For the latest on Hurricane Irma – go to CBS News.