Hurricane Irma continues its path through the Caribbean today as a category 5 storm - a major hurricane - with sustained winds of 185 miles per hour.
Irma is expected to bring life-threatening wind, storm surge and rainfall that could produce flooding and mudslides to the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico later Wednesday. Hurricane warnings are in effect for those areas, and officials warn that preparations for the storm's impacts should be completed quickly.
Storm surges at the Virgin Islands could be up to 11 feet, while the northern coast of Puerto Rico may see surges up to five feet. Four to 10 inches of rain are expected, with up to 15 inches falling over southwest Puerto Rico.
Wednesday morning, Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello urged everyone to seek shelter, and stated at a press conference that there is no reason for anyone to be on the streets.
A hurricane warning is also in effect for the northern coast of the Dominican Republic and other islands in the area. Later this week, Irma is expected to impact Cuba as it passes to the north of the island.
The current projected path, which could change dramatically, shows Irma making landfall over the southern Florida peninsula this weekend as a major hurricane, though the National Hurricane Center cautions that it is too soon to have details about timing and the severity of the impacts.
Despite the uncertainty, Florida Governor Rick Scott was taking no chances. On Twitter, the governor stated, "do not sit and wait for this storm to come. Remember, we can rebuild your home - not your life."
Scott said he expected additional evacuation orders as the storm approaches, and noted that hospitals in the Florida Keys would be evacuated Wednesday. Key West ordered evacuation of all visitors starting at 7:00 a.m. Wednesday. Residents would be under mandatory evacuation orders later in the day.
The Florida National Guard has been activated, and all members have been directed by the governor to report for duty Friday. Highway tolls have been suspected, along with weight and driver restrictions so trucks will be able to move emergency supplies quickly.
Irma is currently moving toward the northwest at 16 miles per hour.
Further east in the Atlantic, Tropical Storm Jose is expected to strengthen into a hurricane Wednesday night. Its path is projected to take it across areas already impacted by Irma, but will continue a more northerly route by early next week.