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    States of emergency declared in Caribbean, Florida ahead of 'extremely dangerous' Hurricane Irma

    By Kevin Byrne, AccuWeather staff writer
    September 05, 2017, 6:11:48 PM EDT

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    Preparations are well underway in the Caribbean Islands and the United States as extremely dangerous Hurricane Irma churns closer to land.

    The National Hurricane Center (NHC) said Irma became a Category 5 storm shortly before 8 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 5. The powerful storm has maximum sustained winds of 185 mph.

    Irma is the first Category 5 hurricane in the Atlantic since Matthew in October 2016. With maximum sustained winds of 185 mph, it’s the strongest hurricane since Wilma in 2005.

    The NHC also said Irma became the strongest hurricane in the Atlantic basin outside of the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico in recorded history.

    “Preparations should be rushed to completion in the hurricane warning area,” the hurricane center said, calling Irma an "extremely dangerous Category 5 hurricane."

    Irma cat 5 9517 am

    Hurricane Irma strengthened to a Category 5 Hurricane on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017. (Satellite image/NOAA)

    Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a statewide state of emergency on Monday night to ensure “local governments have ample time, resources and flexibility to get prepared.”

    “Hurricane Irma is a major and life-threatening storm, and Florida must be prepared,” Scott said. “I have continued to be briefed by the Florida Division of Emergency Management on Hurricane Irma and current forecast models have Florida in Irma’s path – potentially impacting millions of Floridians.”

    "In Florida, we always prepare for the worst and hope for the best, and while the exact path of Irma is not absolutely known at this time, we cannot afford to not be prepared,” Scott said.

    Scott added that he had spoken with President Donald Trump and said the president offered the full resources of the federal government as Floridians prepare.

    This week's NFL game between the Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers will not be played on Sunday in Miami as originally scheduled. The game will either be played at a neutral location on Sunday or moved to a date later in the season.

    On Tuesday, Scott directed all 7,000 members of the Florida National Guard to report for duty this Friday.

    Mandatory visitor evacuations will begin Wednesday morning in the Florida Keys, emergency officials said Tuesday.

    "We value our visitors and want them to be safe," Monroe County Administrator Roman Gastesi said. "This is the reason why we need them to calmly leave the Keys with plenty of advance notice before the storm may reach our shores."

    Gastesi said mandatory evacuations for residents would also likely be issued.

    Evacuations have also been ordered for Miami-Dade County beginning Wednesday.

    Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez said all county offices would be closed on Thursday and Friday, and he urged residents to bring enough supplies to last three days. Miami-Dade County schools have also been canceled on Thursday and Friday.

    Heeding the warning, many South Florida residents took to the stores to stock up on supplies including drinking water, the Miami Herald reported. Stores had already begun to replenish supplies and were expecting more shipments later this week.

    Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello declared a state of emergency for the island and had been in touch with White House officials, including Trump’s Chief of Staff John Kelly.

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    The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said supplies were in place at its distribution center in Puerto Rico’s capital of San Juan.

    U.S. Virgin Islands Gov. Kenneth Mapp declared a state of emergency for the islands and ordered the National Guard into active military service.

    After hitting the Caribbean Islands, Irma is expected to track towards South Florida later this week.

    “This hurricane has the potential to be a major event for the East Coast. It also has the potential to significantly strain FEMA and other governmental resources occurring so quickly on the heels of Harvey,” Evan Myers, expert senior meteorologist and chief operating officer, said.

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