Florida evacuates as Hurricane Irma strengthens to record-breaking Category 5
Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared all counties in a state of emergency Tuesday as Hurricane Irma -- now a Category 5 storm -- neared the mainland.
With winds of 185 miles per hour, it is one of the most powerful weather events to ever form in the Atlantic ocean.
Emergency leaders in the Florida Keys have mandatory evacuation orders in place for tourists, set to begin Wednesday morning.
Residents will be asked to leave starting at 7 p.m.
Schools across the state were forced to close Thursday and Friday in anticipation, according to Sinclair station WPEC.
Palm Beach County Superintendent Robert Avossa said the move is necessary to give students, staff and their families time to prepare for the monster storm.
Hurricane warnings are already in effect for the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rick, St. Martin, Antigua, St. Kitts and other Carribbean areas.
The Dominican Republic, Turks and Caicos Island and the southeastern Bahamas are under a hurricane watch.
Gov. Scott activated 100 National Guard members Tuesday in preparation.
The guard members will be scattered across Florida and help with planning, logistics and operations.
"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," Gov. Scott said.
All 7,000 National Guard members will report for duty on Friday.
As Florida braces for Irma, Tropical Storm Jose isn't far behind.
Jose formed Tuesday with 40 mile-per-hour winds.