Hurricane Irma strengthened into a Category 5 storm early Tuesday morning, as many of the Caribbean islands in its path prepared for landfall.
The storm will touch down in the Caribbean either late Tuesday or early Wednesday, and could continue into Florida over the weekend. Residents and travelers to these areas should prepare for hazardous conditions, including winds up to 175 miles per hour.
Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for all of Florida’s 67 counties on Monday. Earlier that day, Puerto Rico also declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard.
“Hurricane Irma is a major and life-threatening storm, and Florida must be prepared,” Gov. Scott said in a statement.
The National Weather Service said that the storm could drop up to 12 inches of rain in the Caribbean, causing flash floods and mudslides. The storm is predicted to remain a Category 4 or 5 over the next couple of days.
The storm will affect Caribbean islands where there are still many tourists. Kenneth Mapp, the governor of the Virgin Islands, told The Guardian that most hotels are at capacity, “with some 5,000 tourists.” The island could experience winds of up to 80 miles per hour.
The National Weather Service issues a hurricane warning for Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla, Montserrat, St Kitts and Nevis, St Martin/St Maarten, Saba, St Eustatius, and St. Barts. A hurricane watch is in effect for Puerto Rico, Vieques, Culebra, the British and U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guadeloupe.
Most airlines are offering customers the ability to rebook travel affected by the hurricane without any charge. Travelers should check with their airlines for more information.
American Airlines passengers traveling to the Caribbean through September 8 can rebook their flights.
Delta passengers traveling to the Caribbean on September 5 and 6 can rebook travel by September 9.
JetBlue passengers who had booked Caribbean travel on September 5 and 6 can change their flights without fees or fare increases.
Southwest passengers flying to Punta Cana or San Juan through Friday, September 8 can rebook their flights within 14 days of original scheduled travel.
United passengers flying to Aguadilla or San Juan, Puerto Rico can rebook flights that were scheduled through September 7.
Spirit passengers flying to Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands through September 7 can rebook without a modification charge, although they may have to pay a difference in fare.