Evacuations ordered, residents prepare as Hurricane Irma barrels towards US

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - Officials in the Florida Keys are gearing up to get tourists and residents out of the possible path of Hurricane Irma.

Monroe County spokeswoman Cammy Clark says in a news release that a mandatory evacuation for tourists will begin at sunrise Wednesday. An evacuation plan for residents is also under way but a timetable hasn't been determined.

Clark says government offices, parks and schools will close and there will be no shelters in Monroe County. The county's three hospitals are also beginning evacuation plans.

U.S. 1 is the only route in and out of the island chain off the southern peninsula of Florida.

Clark says residents and tourists should begin filling their tanks with fuel to prepare to drive to the mainland.

HURRICANE IRMA COVERAGE:

Meanwhile, Florida Gov. Rick Scott is activating 100 members of the Florida National Guard to prepare for Irma.

Scott says in a statement that the initial 100 troops will be stationed throughout the state. Some 7,000 National Guard members will report to duty Friday, when the storm could be bearing down on Florida.

Scott said Tuesday that the exact path of the storm is still unknown but officials "must prepare for the worst."

On Monday he declared a state of emergency in all of Florida's 67 counties.

Two hurricanes hit the state last year but neither was as powerful as Category 5 Irma is right now.

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