According to the National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Irma has strengthened to a Category 5 storm with sustained winds of 175 mph.
Over the next few days, Irma will reportedly blast the northern Caribbean with flooding rain, damaging winds and rough surf, AccueWeather warned, bringing life-threatening conditions to the islands.
A similar scenario could play out somewhere along the Gulf or East coasts of the United States this weekend or next week, depending on where Irma tracks.
The storm could hit Florida, Georgia or the Carolinas, or even head into the eastern Gulf of Mexico.
Irma is now the strongest hurricane in the Atlantic since 2007.
— Philip Klotzbach (@philklotzbach) September 5, 2017
When a Category 5 hurricane hits land, “a high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse,” the hurricane center said.
“Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last for weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months,” the center said.
Hurricane warnings were in effect for several Caribbean islands, including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, where “preparations should be rushed to completion.” according to the hurricane center.
There is an increasing chance of seeing some impacts from Irma in the Florida Peninsula and the Florida Keys later this week and this weekend, the hurricane center warned.
“While the track is still uncertain, the time to prepare is now,” the Weather Channel warned.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Monday afternoon declared a state of emergency for the state’s 67 counties. He issued the executive order to give local governments time, resources and flexibility to prepare for the storm.