As Category 5 Hurricane Irma churns through the Caribbean and Hurricane Jose strengthens, The U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) issued hurricane and storm surge watches for parts of southern Florida in a public advisory on Thursday.
A "storm surge watch," meaning there could be life-threatening inundation from rising floods and waves in the next 48 hours, is in effect for the Jupiter Inlet to Bonita Beach and the Florida Keys, the NHC said. A storm surge at high tide could bring water levels between five and 10 feet above ground in the areas under watch.
The NHC put a hurricane watch in effect for the Jupiter Inlet southward around the Florida peninsula to Bonita Beach, the Florida Keys, Lake Okeechobee and Florida Bay.
Source: U.S. National Hurricane Center
"Based on what we know now, Florida will have major hurricane impacts with deadly storm surge and life-threatening winds, and we can expect this all on the east coast," Florida Gov. Rick Scott said in a news conference on Thursday, while stressing that all Floridians should be prepared to evacuate.
"Possessions can be replaced," Scott said. "Your family cannot."
The Center also announced that the "extremely dangerous Hurricane Irma" is "very near the Turks and Caicos Islands and heading for the Bahamas."
Hurricane Irma killed at least four people on the Caribbean island of St. Martin, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said. The storm left the island of Barbuda devastated, killing at least one person, and now has set its sights on Florida.
Television footage of the Franco-Dutch island of St. Martin showed a damaged marina with boats tossed into piles, submerged streets and flooded homes. Power was knocked out on St. Martin, St. Barthelemy and in parts of the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico.
"It is an enormous disaster, 95 percent of the island is destroyed. I am in shock," Daniel Gibbs, chairman of a local council on St. Martin, told Radio Caribbean International.