- REUTERS/Joe Skipper
With Hurricane Irma’s possible landfall on the United States approaching, President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency in Florida, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands on Tuesday.
According to the White House, the declarations authorize the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster-relief efforts in the three regions, all of which are forecast to be battered by the hurricane this week. The hurricane could reach Puerto Rico as early as Wednesday afternoon before making its way toward the continental US.
The announcement came in three separate White House statements Tuesday evening.
Forecasters have described Irma as a “potentially catastrophic” Category 5 storm and one of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes ever recorded.
The massive storm comes as Texas and Louisiana still reel from Hurricane Harvey, which dumped more than 50 inches of rain in some areas and claimed dozens of lives.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott ordered state officials to suspend tolls Tuesday evening as thousands of residents prepare to evacuate. He also activated members of the Florida National Guard on Tuesday, and said all 7,000 members will report for duty on Friday.
“With Hurricane Irma now a category 5 storm, we must do all we can to prepare our families and communities for any potential impact from this major weather event,” Scott said in a statement. “We do not know the exact path of this storm, but weather can change in an instant and while we hope for the best, we must prepare for the worst.”