Another immense hurricane is barreling closer to the United States, this time threatening Florida, where officials announced mandatory evacuations Tuesday in advance of what forecasters say could be the most powerful hurricane to strike the Atlantic coast in more than a ten years.
Hurricane Irma passed over the island of Barbuda during the early morning hours of Wednesday as Floridians prepared for the worst ahead of the record-breaking storm.
Sustained winds on the ground in Barbuda were recorded at 108 mph, gusting to 155 mph before the anemometer, the instrument measuring the wind, broke. As of 5 a.m. ET, the monster Category 5 storm’s eye wall was butting up against St. Martin with sustained winds of 185 mph and even higher gusts.
Mandatory evacuations have already been ordered for Monroe County, which includes the Florida Keys. Evacuations for visitors are required beginning Wednesday morning while residents must evacuate starting Wednesday at 7 p.m.
Many areas of Florida have already seen gas shortages, with the hashtag #nogas popping up on social media Tuesday. Long lines formed all over the state, not just in the Miami area. Stations in the Tampa area have run out and long lines were common at Orlando stations as well.
Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Jose is following behind Irma on a similar path. Jose officially became a tropical storm on Tuesday before noon with winds of 40 mph and is expected to become a Category 2 hurricane by the end of the week. It could skirt the most northeastern Caribbean islands, but so far it is not projected to be a threat to Puerto Rico or the U.S