Updated at 8:15 p.m.
Hurricane Irma continues ripping a path through the Caribbean towards Florida as a Category 5 storm with sustained winds of 175 mph, according to the 8 p.m. advisory from the National Hurricane Center.
Evacuation orders have been issued across South Florida: Monroe County is under complete evacuation orders; Miami-Dade County Zones A, B, C are under evacuation orders; Broward County east of U.S. 1 is under evacuation orders; Palm Beach County Zones A, B, C are also under evacuation orders.
From the National Hurricane Center's advisory: "There are no obvious reasons why Irma should not remain a powerful major hurricane for the next 3 days while it is heading for Florida or its adjacent surroundings. ... It has become more likely that Irma will make landfall in southern Florida as a dangerous major hurricane, and bring life-threatening storm surge and wind impacts to much of the state. A Hurricane Watch is in effect for South Florida, the Florida Keys, Lake Okeechobee, and Florida Bay, and will likely be expanded northward tonight."
There are also storm surge watches in the Florida Keys and up to Bonita Beach.
There are hurricane warnings for:
- Dominican Republic from Cabo Frances Viejo to the northern border with Haiti
- Haiti from the northern border with the Dominican Republic to Le Mole St. Nicholas
- Southeastern Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands
- Cuban provinces of Camaguey, Ciego de Avila, Sancti Spiritus and Villa Clara
- Central Bahamas
- Northwestern Bahamas
Hurricane watches have been issued for:
- Jupiter Inlet southward around the Florida peninsula to Bonita Beach
- Florida Keys
- Lake Okeechobee
- Florida Bay
- Cuban provinces of Guantanamo,Holguin, Las Tunas and Matanzas
Hurricane Irma is expected to remain a strong hurricane.
"Irma will be going through internal eyewall replacement cycles causing fluctuation in the intensity, but it is going to remain a strong Category 5 or 4 hurricane as its environment will be favorable over the next 3 days with warm water and low shear," said Meteorologist Cyndee O'Quinn .
O'Quinn advises that preparations for the hurricane should be completed before tropical storm force winds arrive in Florida in less than 48 hours.
"Tropical storm force winds could be seen as early as 2 a.m. Saturday morning in South Florida with the outer bands of Irma and then move up the I-4 corridor Saturday evening and on to north Florida by Sunday morning."
"I can not stress this enough. Get prepared, know your evacuation zone, listen to your locals. And you have to take this seriously. Remember we can rebuild your home, we can not rebuild your life," said Gov. Rick Scott at a press conference in Doral Wednesday afternoon. "This is a life-threatening storm, protecting life is an absolute top priority."
On Tuesday evening in preparation for the eventual arrival of Hurricane Irma, President Donald Trump signed an emergency declaration for the 67 Florida counties. The declaration allows the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to deploy to the field.
Justo Hernández has been named as the Federal Coordinating Officer for federal response operations in Florida, according to a release from the agency.
Hurricane hunter aircraft are making routine flights into Major Hurricane Irma multiple times a day to obtain more forensics on the storm. And as each day passes, the forecast situation as it relates to Florida will become much clearer.