Video footage shows that Hurricane Irma is starting to hit Puerto Rico on Wednesday.
Going forward, the hurricane is forecast to slam Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands this afternoon, the National Hurricane Center said.
Puerto Rico’s governor said that 700 people are in 150 shelters throughout the U.S. island territory.
Several people uploaded clips of the winds on social media.
Irma slammed islands in the Caribbean on Wednesday morning with catastrophic winds topping out at 185 mph.
The astonishing force of Hurricane Irma was recorded on footage from a camera on Maho Beach on the Island of St Maarten.
The deafening sound of the wind is captured on the video, along with the destruction the storm has caused to the surrounding area.
Toward the end of the video, the camera is apparently broken by the hurricane’s force.
Irma is expected to become the second powerful storm to thrash the U.S. mainland in as many weeks, but its precise trajectory remains uncertain. Hurricane Harvey killed more than 60 people, bringing record-setting rainfall causing catastrophic flooding when it hit Texas late last month. The damage caused is estimated to be as high as $180 billion.
Another video on YouTube showed the aftermath of Irma on St. Maarten. A house with its roof torn off appears as the camera pans to reveal the damage.
Another YouTube user uploaded a video showing similar damage with part of the roof torn from a multi-story house.
The NHC said Irma ranks as one of the five most powerful Atlantic hurricanes in the past 80 years and the strongest Atlantic basin storm ever outside the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico.
President Donald Trump approved emergency declarations for Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, mobilizing federal disaster relief efforts, according to the White House.
Authorities in the Florida Keys called for a mandatory evacuation of visitors to start at sunrise on Wednesday, and public schools throughout South Florida were ordered closed, some as early as Wednesday.
Residents of low-lying areas in densely populated Miami-Dade County were urged to move to higher ground by Wednesday, three days before Irma was expected to make landfall in Florida, as a precaution against coastal storm surges.
Irma may be the most devastating storm in U.S. history, according to research firm Barclays, CNBC reported.
“Given the potential magnitude of this storm as well as the potential to impact a highly populated area, we think Irma’s insured damage in Florida could be the largest ever in the US perhaps equivalent to Hurricane Katrina,” wrote Barclays’s Jay Gelb on Tuesday.
The storm damage could cost $125 billion-$130 billion, Gelb added, citing catastrophe modelers AIR Worldwide and Karen Clark and Co. That places it in a category with historic hurricanes not seen since the Miami hurricane in 1926.