One of the most powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricanes in recorded history made its first landfall in the islands of the northeast Caribbean early Wednesday, roaring along a path pointing to Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba before possibly heading for Florida over the weekend.
The storm is one of the strongest ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean, according to the National Hurricane Center. There have been, however, storms with comparable winds in the Caribbean or the Gulf of Mexico, where warm waters can fuel particularly dangerous hurricanes. President Trump declared a state of emergency in Puerto Rico, Florida and the United States Virgin Islands on Tuesday.
“We have to prepare for an event that we have never experienced here,” Gov. Ricardo Rosselló of Puerto Rico said at a news conference earlier on Tuesday, calling the hurricane’s arrival imminent and its potential catastrophic.
Irma’s path has been the subject of speculation, particularly as it nears the U.S. East Coast over the next three days. The NHC’s 8 a.m. forecast shows the storm’s predicted path tracking up the center of Florida. Florida Gov. Rick Scott activated 100 members of the Florida National Guard to be deployed across the state, and 7,000 National Guard members were to report for duty Friday when the storm could be approaching the area. On Monday, Scott declared a state of emergency in all of Florida’s 67 counties.
The Hurricane Center in Miami said hurricane-force winds extended 50 miles from Irma’s center and tropical storm-force winds extended 175 miles.
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