Florida Senator Marco Rubio took to Twitter on Tuesday morning to announce that evacuations of South Florida had to be completed by Friday night, which, at the time of tweeting, was "60 hours from now."
Hurricane Irma has officially been classified as the most powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricane in recorded history. Meteorologists are still largely uncertain of Irma's exact path, but the latest predictions show a likely turn towards the south of the United States, including Florida.
The first land bodies to be gripped by Irma's 185-miles-per-hour winds includes the north-east Caribbean, which will be followed by Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Cuba, before likely heading towards Florida.
As the eye of Hurricane Irma moved over Barbuda - a small Caribbean island with roughly 2,000 permanent inhabitants - reports of severe damage to local structures were being reported. According to the New York Times, the island's telephone lines are also down.
Next, Irma swirled towards St. Martin, according to the National Hurricane Center. On the way, the storm - augmented with torrential rains - collided with Antigua, sweeping up debris that has been pelting locals in their homes.
Caribbean officials have released a statement urging residents and tourists to batten down the hatches and seek safe cover. "May God protect us all," the statement added.
Both the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, as well as Anguilla, are in Irma's path.
Meanwhile, in the United States, Senator Marco Rubio has issued a warning to Floridians on Twitter. "Once TropStorm winds arrive you need to be inside," he wrote. "For all of S.Fla, all preparations & evacuations should be COMPLETED by sunset on Friday. That is 60 hours from now."On Tuesday the National Hurricane Center issued an updated public advisory, clarifying that "Irma is currently being steered by the subtropical ridge to the north, and a general west-northwestward motion on the south side of the ridge is expected during the next 48 to 72 hours."
"The bulk of the guidance now calls for Irma to turn northward between 78W-80W, moving near or over the Florida east coast or the northwestern Bahamas."The National Hurricane Center further stated that although the forecast has been "shifted eastward," there is a chance that future projections will show Irma moving westward.
"The forecast now calls for a landfall in south Florida between 96 and 120 miles per hour."Despite the National Hurricane Center's disclaimer that "tropical cyclone forecast tracks can be in error," Irma is widely expected to impact areas of the United States. According to the University of Miami's senior hurricane researcher, Brian McNoldy, "you'd be hard pressed to find any model that doesn't have some impact on Florida."
In anticipation of such a scenario, Floridians have been ferociously stocking up on emergency supplies and food stores.
Fla. Governor Rick Scott has already deployed 100 members of the National Guard to key areas across the entire state. Moreover, roughly 7,000 additional National Guard members are expected to join their colleagues on Friday.
Tourists and residents in the Florida Keys are reportedly being rushed out of the area to avoid being caught in Irma's swirling winds. Most of Miami Beach and other coastal counties have been ordered to evacuate.
Governor Scott spent allegedly spent Tuesday morning in strategic planning meetings with emergency services representatives and disaster management experts. The issues being discussed included comprehensive evacuation plans.
According to The Guardian, President Donald Trump has declared states of emergencies in Florida, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands.
[Featured Image by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/AP Images]