PRESIDENT Donald Trump has declared a state of emergency as a Category 5 hurricane bears down on Florida, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.
The declarations authorise the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to co-ordinate disaster relief efforts in those places.
Hurricane Irma is wielding the most second most powerful winds ever recorded for a storm in the Atlantic Ocean - 297kmh - and is on a path that could take it towards Florida over the weekend.
Irma's size and strength have put the entire state on notice. Residents and visitors are preparing to leave in anticipation of catastrophic winds and floods.
Puerto Rico's governor is also warning the effects of Hurricane Irma could be catastrophic.
"It is much more dangerous than (Hurricane) Harvey,” he told Associated Press.
Hurricane warnings have also been posted for the Caribbean islands of Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla, Montserrat, St Kitts and Nevis, St Martin, Saba, St Eustatius, St Maarten and St Barts and for the British Virgin Islands.