Hurricane Irma, which formed in the eastern Atlantic Ocean last week, continued to gain strength as it continues on a path that currently takes it towards the continental United States.
The storm reached Category 4 on the Saffir-Simpson scale Monday afternoon, with maximum sustained winds of 130 miles per hour. Irma is moving west at 13 mph. The storm is expected to remain on a westerly path into Tuesday before turning slightly toward the northwest later in the day.
A hurricane warning - meaning the impacts of a hurricane are imminent - is in effect for the islands of Antigua, Barbuda, Anguilla, Montserrat, St. Kitts, and Nevis, Saba, St. Eustatius, Sint Maarten, Saint Martin and Saint Barthelemy. A warning is typically issued 36 hours before the anticipated first occurrence of tropical storm-force winds - which would make activities outside to prepare for a storm difficult.
A hurricane watch is in effect for Guadeloupe, British Virgin Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Vieques, and Culebra.
On the current projected path, Irma may pass just east of Puerto Rico before continuing to the north and east of the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Cuba. While the path is subject to significant revisions over the coming days, the continental U.S. may again see impacts from a major hurricane next weekend.
Florida Governor Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency for every Florida county in hopes that local, state and federal government agencies will work together preparing for the impacts of Irma.
"I urge all Floridians to remain vigilant and stay alert to local weather and news," stated Scott.
He urged citizens to spend Monday - the Labor Day holiday - buying hurricane supplies and making sure their disaster kits were ready.
The previous major hurricane, Harvey, struck southern Texas last week as a Category 4 storm. The Galveston and Houston areas received as much as 50 inches of rain as the system stalled over the area, causing major flooding and prompting a national call for rescue and recovery assistance.
U.S. President Donald Trump made a disaster declaration for the state, and has visited the state twice over the past week to view emergency response efforts.