WASHINGTON — The US National Hurricane Center (NHC) said Monday that Hurricane Irma has strengthened to category 4, as it edges toward the southern state of Florida and the US territory of Puerto Rico.
As of 8 p.m. Atlantic Standard Time (0000 GMT Tuesday), the hurricane is located 725 km east of the Leeward Islands with maximum sustained winds of 220 km per hour, according to an update by the NHC.
Irma is moving west at a speed of 20 km per hour, projected to reach Puerto Rico by late Tuesday, Cuba by Friday afternoon, and southern Florida by Saturday afternoon.
Rick Scott, the governor of Florida, tweeted Monday afternoon that he has declared a state of emergency for every county in Florida.
“I urge all Floridians to remain vigilant and stay alert to local weather and news,” Scott said.
Residents in other East Coast states, including Georgia and North Carolina, were also warned to be prepared for the incoming hurricane, as it may alter its course over the next few days.
Weather officials are predicting 25 cm of rainfall as a result of Irma, and also warned of landslides among other natural disasters.
Irma comes two weeks after Category 4 hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas, killing 66 and causing more than USD70 billion in property damage, potentially straining the Federal Emergency Management Agency. (Xinhua)