Hurricane Irma: States of Emergency Declared as Storm Heads to Caribbean
States of emergency have been declared as Hurricane Irma grew into a category 4 storm that is forecast to begin buffeting the Caribbean on Tuesday.
The storm had maximum sustained winds of 130mph (215km/h) on Monday afternoon, and the US National Hurricane Center said they were expected to become stronger. Irma at the time was 490 miles (790km) east of the Leeward Islands and moving west at 13mph (20km/h).
Emergency officials have warned the storm could dump up to 10 inches (25cm) of rain, unleash landslides and flash floods and generate waves of up to 23ft (seven metres).
“We’re looking at Irma as a very significant event,” said Ronald Jackson, executive director of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency. “I can’t recall a tropical cone developing that rapidly into a major hurricane prior to arriving in the central Caribbean.”
On Monday, economically struggling Puerto Rico declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard. Florida has followed suit. The hurricane center expects Irma to reach southern Florida on Saturday and US residents were urged to monitor the storm’s progress in case it affects Georgia or the Carolinas.
Evan Myers, chief operating officer of AccuWeather, said: “This hurricane has the potential to be a major event for the east coast. It also has the potential to significantly strain Fema [US Federal Emergency Management Agency] and other governmental resources occurring so quickly on the heels of [Hurricane] Harvey.”
Irma will be the second powerful hurricane to hit the US and its territories in as many weeks. Residents in Texas and Louisiana are still reeling from the catastrophic effects of the Hurricane Harvey, which struck Texas as a category 4 hurricane on 25 August and dumped several feet of rain, destroying thousands of homes and businesses.
Ricardo Ramos, the director of Puerto Rico’s power company, predicted the storm could leave some areas of the US territory without electricity for four to six months.
The power company’s system has deteriorated greatly amid Puerto Rico’s decade-long recession, and the territory experienced an islandwide outage last year.
To help residents prepare for the storm, the Puerto Rican government activated a price freeze on basic necessities, including food and water, medicines, power generators and batteries.
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