Florida officials batten down the hatches for Hurricane Irma

Florida officials batten down the hatches for Hurricane Irma
Florida officials batten down the hatches for Hurricane Irma
Posted at 4:27 PM, Sep 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-06 14:12:22-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) - Category 5 Hurricane Irma is barreling through the Caribbean.

The National Hurricane Center is calling Irma "potentially catastrophic" and it is showing no signs of slowing down. With St. Barts, Barbuda, and Guadeloupe already caught up in the devastating path, the storm is now bearing down on St. Marteen, battering the tourist hot spot with sustained winds of 185 miles per hour.

Next stop for Irma, Puerto Rico, and then the Florida cCoast.

Florida Governor Rick Scott is telling residents to brace for impact.

"This is serious and we cannot take chances ... if you are told to evacuate, get out quickly," asserted Scott. "Remember, we can rebuild your home but we cannot rebuild your life."

The Florida Keys is under mandatory evacuation. Station after station, out of gas. Grocery stores with bare shelves - the critical supplies, running short, leaving hundreds of people waiting in lines like this for water.

Scott says Irma could be bigger than Hurricane Andrew, a devastating category 5 hurricane that 25 years ago raced across South Florida with 165 mile per hour winds, destroying more than 63,000 homes, leaving $26.5 billion in damages and 65 people dead.

National Weather Service meteorologist Jane Hollingsworth agrees with Scott's Andrew comparison.

"This is a bigger storm, and it's actually stronger," said Hollingsworth. "The potential impacts are at least as great as Andrew, and depending on the track, could impact a much broader and larger area."

James Miller, communications director for the Florida Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, says the state has had a number of "sporadic shortages" as people rush out to fuel up, but a seven-day supply of gas is readily available.

"You do have people in the Panhandle rushing out to get stuff, and people all the way down in the Keys rushing out to get stuff, and people up in Jacksonville rushing out to get supplies," said Miller. "You can't just center all of your resources on one area of the state. You are kind of spread out, and it's making it a little more difficult."

900 members of the Florida National Guard were activated on Wednesday, bringing the number to 1,000. Another 6,000 National Guard members are to report to duty on Friday.