Residents along the East Coast and the Gulf Coast should be on alert as a new Category 4 hurricane barrels across the northern Caribbean and toward the United States.
Florida and Puerto Rico both declared a State of Emergency on Monday, bracing for possible direct impact as Hurricane Irma was elevated to Category 4 status. It is about 450 miles east of the Leeward Islands in the West Indies.
The National Hurricane Center said Monday afternoon it had maximum sustained winds of 130 mph, with some strengthening expected through Tuesday night.
Irma is expected to be a Category 4 hurricane when it closes in on the East Coast this week. After Harvey hitting Texas late last month, this could be the shortest timeframe for back-to-back Category 4 hurricanes to make landfall in the U.S.
"This hurricane has the potential to be a major event for the East Coast," said Evan Myers, expert senior meteorologist and chief operating officer. "It also has the potential to significantly strain FEMA and other governmental resources occurring so quickly on the heels of Harvey."
Irma is projected to move to the north of the islands in the eastern Caribbean on a path that could take it to Puerto Rico by Wednesday and to the Bahamas and the U.S. East Coast later this week.
The exact path of Irma beyond the end of the week remains uncertain, AccuWeather.com said, noting landfall in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas is all in the realm of possibilities.
It's still also possible Irma could hook northward and miss the East Coast or take a southern track closer to Cuba.
This uncertainty means that the entire southern and eastern U.S. should monitor Irma, AccuWeather.com said. Residents along the coast are urged to start preparing and making sure plans are in place to deal with the worst-case scenario. This includes plans on how to evacuate and what is important to bring with you and your family.
"As we saw just 10 days ago with Harvey, it is important to be ready to evacuate," Myers said. "Be prepared with a list of items you would need to take if you had 30 minutes' notice or one hour's notice or six hours or a day to evacuate."
Check back to Daily Voice for updates on the hurricane.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.