Hurricane Irma, which is expected to sweep across the Caribbean this week before hitting Florida by Sunday, has strengthened to a Category 5 storm. The storm is already projected to be the strongest hurricane recorded outside of the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean.
Florida Governor Rick Scott is bracing the state for the storm, declaring a state of emergency in all 67 counties in the Sunshine State and activating all 7,000 members of the Florida National Guard. Schools across the Florida Keys are already closing down ahead of landfall. While the exact path of Irma, which analysts say will feature winds up to 180 mph, is still unclear, the National Hurricane Center predicts that it will travel up the west coast of the state. "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 in a statement Monday.
Storm surges could follow in Irma's wake on both sides of the Florida Peninsula, warns Bryan Norcross, a hurricane specialist at the Weather Channel. "The hurricane force winds in Irma are wider than Florida," he warned on Twitter on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, another storm is forming in Irma's wake: Tropical Storm Jose. The storm could become a Category 2 hurricane over the next two to three days. While Jose is not currently projected to hit the United States, the National Hurricane Center warned residents of the Leeward Islands to "monitor the future progress of Jose," which could hit the islands just days after Irma.