As people in Hurricane Harvey-ravaged Texas struggled to dig out from the wreckage and flooding aftermath, Hurricane Irma struck St. Martin as a Category 5 storm, with the northern eyewall pounding Anguilla, according to the National Hurricane Center.
On the forecast track “the extremely dangerous core of Irma” will move over portions of the northern Virgin Islands today, pass near or just north of Puerto Rico this afternoon or tonight, and pass near or just north of the coast of the Dominican Republic Thursday, the NHC reported.
Maximum sustained winds remain near 185 mph, with higher gusts, and though the Hurricane Center predicts some fluctuations in strength during the coming day or two, it says Irma is forecast to remain a powerful category 4 or 5 hurricane during the next couple of days.
NASA shared video of Hurricane Irma, which is a Category 5 storm this morning, from space on Tuesday.
President Trump declared a state of emergency in Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, The New York Times reported.
The four "most solid" buildings on the island of St. Martin have been destroyed, French Interior Minister Gérard Collomb announced, according to BBC News.
There was still no news of casualties and more damage was possible, he said.
Storm surges were predicted to reach 20 feet on the Turks and Caicos Islands and the southeastern Bahamas, according to the NHC.
The British and U.S. Virgin Islands were facing hurricane winds, with conditions expected to spread westward over part of Puerto Rico later today.
Hurricane and tropical storm conditions are possible within the watch area in Haiti by early Thursday and in the central Bahamas and Cuba by Friday.
Florida was already bracing for Irma on Tuesday, with several people telling Trade Only there were water shortages at grocery stores and long lines at gas stations.
Key West ordered a mandatory evacuation, and Gov. Rick Scott, R-Fla., urged residents to heed it.
"If there is an evacuation order in your area, please follow it," Scott said Tuesday, according to Fox News. "We can rebuild your home but we cannot rebuild your life."
Hurricane Harvey’s devastation was fresh on the minds of Floridians as they scrambled for supplies and prepared for potential disaster.
The storm's exact path still remains unclear, but after seeing news reports about water and food shortages in Texas last week as Harvey blew through, Florida residents want to be prepared.
The possibility of the storm led to a “mad run” on bottled water Tuesday morning in Clearwater, Fla., resident Carrie Hart told CNN. She said that employees at a Publix supermarket tried to calm agitated shoppers after the store ran out of cases of water. She said the store expects to have more water tonight.
Another Publix in Davie, near Fort Lauderdale, posted a sign with bad news for any shoppers looking to buy water.
"Sorry!! No water at this time!" the sign read. "Waiting for deliveries. Estimated time of arrival is unknown!”
Miramar, Fla., resident Terry Boram told Trade Only Today that she had never seen a spectacle like the one at her local grocery store on Tuesday.
“I finally got my water this morning — they were just bringing in one pallet at a time from the back, and was a free for all,” Boram said. “As soon as the pallet dropped, people were just diving on the pallet. I’ve never seen such a thing.”
She also said gas station lines were “crazy.”
“People are taking this storm seriously,” Boram said “Last year when Matthew came through, it was kind of a miss on us, but everybody was kind of complacent. Nobody took that storm seriously. This one, they are.”
Juli Kern of Fort Myers, Fla., agreed that everyone in southwestern Florida is “very nervous.”
“It appears there's no safe place to be or go. We could hop in the camper and go, but school is still open; work hasn't closed,” Kern said. “And it’s supposed to go north, so how far north do we go? Gas stations are running out of gas already. The grocery stores already have lines trying to buy water. Gas cans are gone. If we need to evacuate, we’d have to leave now or it’s going to be a parking lot to get out of Florida. [We] just don’t know what we should do.”
Boram thought she’d wait out the storm, adding: “If it turns and goes right up the spine of Florida, it’s just going to be chasing me if I try to leave.”