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Floridians preparing for Hurricane Irma

Posted at 6:24 PM, Sep 04, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-04 18:24:10-04

(RNN) - Irma is now a Category 4 hurricane, the National Hurricane Center reported at 5 p.m. ET. The storm has strengthened as it heads toward the Caribbean. Additional strengthening is forecast during the next 48 hours. 

The hurricane is now about 490 miles east of the Leeward Islands with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph. It is presently moving west at 13 mph.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in all of the state's 67 counties in response to Irma. That declaration gives local governments time and tools they need to prepare, the governor's office said in a release. 

"I have continued to be briefed by the Florida Division of Emergency Management on Hurricane Irma and current forecast models have Florida in Irma's path, potentially impacting millions of Floridians," 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."

Irma's general motion toward the west is expected to continue into Tuesday, followed by a turn toward the west-northwest late Tuesday. The forecast track has the center of Irma moving near or over part of the northern Leeward Islands Tuesday night and early Wednesday.

Hurricane Warnings are in effect for Antigua, Barbuda, Anguilla, Montserrat, St. Kitts, Nevis, Saba, St. Eustasius, Saint Maarten, Saint Martin and Saint Barthelemy, with watches issued in several other regions including Guadeloupe, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello also declared a state of emergency after the NHC issued a hurricane watch for the US island territory.

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