FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Hurricane Irma reached Category 4 status Sunday with winds reaching 130 mph, the National Hurricane Center said.
Additional strengthening is expected during the next 48 hours.
South Florida was added to the five-day forecast cone and could start to feel tropical storm force winds as soon as Friday evening, the center said.
Most forecast models now have most of Florida affected by the hurricane.
Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency throughout the state.
“Hurricane Irma is a major and life-threatening storm and Florida must be prepared,” Scott said. “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.”
Warnings were posted for several islands in the eastern Caribbean Monday morning when Irma was a Category 3 hurricane.
Hurricane warnings are now in effect for a long list of islands, including the islands of Antigua, Barbuda, Anguilla, Montserrat, St. Kitts, St. Martin and Nevis.
Meanwhile, South Floridians started emptying store shelves in early preparation for Irma. Shelves usually brimming with water bottles were bare at several stores Sunday afternoon.
“We’re really preparing because it seems like it’s going to be heading our way,” said Kimberly Antequara, of Pompano Beach, as she loaded a 5-gallon water jug into her cart at a store in Parkland. She said it was the first time she’s bought supplies for a hurricane despite being from the area.
Irma was still days away from the eastern edge of the Caribbean, and its potential impact there is uncertain.
Tropical storm-force winds could arrive in the eastern Caribbean late Tuesday and in the British and U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico by early Wednesday.
Irma could arrive as a dangerous major hurricane in the Bahamas and Cuba later this week, the hurricane center said. Irma is expected to remain a Category 4 hurricane over the next five days.
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