The Foreign Ministry instructed Israelis in Florida to evacuate areas where Hurricane Irma is expected to make landfall, as dire warnings of the powerful storm’s potential impact spread Tuesday.
From Puerto Rico to Florida, people were keeping a close eye on Hurricane Irma, a monster storm that threatens to plow through the Caribbean and perhaps deliver a devastating blow to the US.
The storm is the strongest Atlantic hurricane since Rita in 2005, and one that comes on the heels of Harvey ravaging Texas less than two weeks ago.
Israel said residents in the Sunshine State should follow the orders of local authorities regarding a possible evacuation, according to the Ynet news site.
Israelis vacationing in the Dominican Republic were also instructed to leave the country’s beaches for the capital Santo Domingo until the storm passes.
Hurricane Irma grew into a dangerous Category 5 storm on Tuesday and roared toward islands in the northeast Caribbean.
The US National Hurricane Center said Irma was a “potentially catastrophic” storm with maximum sustained winds of 180 mph (285 kph) as it bore down on the twin-island nation of Antigua and Barbuda.
The center said there was a growing possibility that the storm’s effects could be felt in Florida later this week, though it was still too early to be sure of its future track: “Everyone in hurricane-prone areas should ensure that they have their hurricane plan in place.”
MIT meteorology professor Kerry Emanuel said Irma is in an area where all the weather factors are ripe for further strengthening.
He said the storm “is big and it’s intense,” and urged people to “please, please pay attention to what the emergency people tell you.”
“If they tell you to get out, get out,” he said.
In the Florida Keys, that is exactly what officials told both tourists and residents.
Monroe County spokeswoman Cammy Clark said in a news release that a mandatory evacuation of tourists would begin at sunrise Wednesday. A plan for evacuation of residents is also underway but a timetable hasn’t been determined.
People in Florida are buying drinking water and other staples as they prepare for Irma, which could start impacting the state by the weekend.
There are empty grocery store shelves across South Florida. Florida Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency to give local governments “ample time, resources and flexibility” to prepare for the storm. He urged residents to stay vigilant and monitor weather conditions.
The last major hurricane to hit Florida was Wilma in 2005. A major hurricane has winds of 111 mph (180 kph) or higher.