It could hit Florida on Saturday. On Wednesday morning, it was heading toward Saint Martin and prompting hurricane warnings in the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, and other areas. The storm maintained its 185-mph winds after making its first landfall on Barbuda early Wednesday.
"But it's becoming more certain the area will see significant impacts from the storm", the weather service in Charleston said. Additionally, computer models indicate that the hurricane will nearly certainly reach the Florida Keys, where it will encounter a fertile ground to brew an even bigger storm. However, the US government is preparing for the worst.
Anxiety and anticipation of the unknown have anxious many in Puerto Rico, neighboring islands, and Florida.
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Flood insurance essentially guarantees, up to a limit, money for the program's 5 million policyholders to fix damage or rebuild. The government bets that Americans, who are mostly kind, decent and generous, will simply bite the bullet and pay up.
"Irma will begin rounding the southwestern edge of the high soon, which will allow the hurricane to turn westward later today and then west-northwestward in 36-48 hours", forecaster Robbie Berg said in a discussion. Its maximum sustained winds of 185 miles per hour were well above the 157 miles per hour threshold of a Category 5 storm.
Officials in the Florida Keys say they expect to announce a mandatory evacuation for visitors starting Wednesday and for residents starting Thursday.
As frantic residents stockpiled emergency supplies, the Government froze prices on necessities, including food and water, medicines, power generators and batteries. The island is already feeling heavy effects from the storm, with hundreds of thousands without electricity.
As of Wednesday morning, the storm was far from land in the Atlantic Ocean, more than 1,200 miles east of the Lesser Antilles - a group of islands that includes popular tourism destinations like Aruba, Barbados and the Virgin Islands.