Florida Governor Rick Scott has now called out the troops and ordered 7,000 National Guardsmen to report for duty by Friday morning. Of those called out, 100 have been mandated to start helping with Hurricane preparations. Earlier on, Florida declared a state of emergency, as the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) warned that Hurricane Irma could strike as a Category 5. The natural disaster, which has sustained winds of up to 185 miles per hour, is expected to strengthen even more within the coming hours. It is forecast to hit the Leeward Islands later today or early Wednesday morning.

The NHC warns that a Category 5 hurricane gives the potential for catastrophic outcomes including "uprooted trees and downed power lines, water and electricity outages, and significant property damage causing uninhabitable conditions."

Puerto Rico braces for Irma's landfall

Puerto Rico, which is expected to be hit first, has also declared a state of emergency and chaotic scenes could be seen at many convenient stores and groceries, as residents prepared for the worst. Popular items being bought included batteries, water, food, generators, candles and other necessities. Schools in Puerto Rico have closed today, while emergency shelters, with a capacity for 62,000 people, are now open. The island has a population of about 3.4 million, and according to its Governor Ricardo Rosselló, an approved emergency fund of $15 million has been granted.

The NHC says Irma may cause elevated water levels of up to nine feet above normal height, while rainfall of 10 inches is expected in Puerto Rico's northern areas. Forecasters are also expecting life-threatening winds and large storm surges of up to seven to 11 feet. Irma is now confirmed as one of the strongest storms ever recorded in the Atlantic.

Residents in other Caribbean nations are also bracing for the effects of Irma by boarding up their homes, getting their disaster preparedness and food kits in order and securing their valuables and loved ones. Hurricane warnings are now in effect for many islands as conditions are expected to worsen in the next 36 hours. They include the British Virgin Islands and US Virgin Islands, Antigua and Barbuda, Montserrat, St Kitts and Nevis, St Barthelemy, Anguilla, St Eustatius, St Martin and Saba.

Home to approximately 100,000 people, the US Virgin Islands has also declared a state of emergency and activated its National Guard.

More uncertainty in store for the US

As for the United States, forecasters say it is still too early to definitively state when or where Irma will hit. If the Hurricane does make landfall, it will come at a particularly bad time as Texas and Louisiana continue to pick up the pieces left by Hurricane Harvey. Billions of dollars in damage have been done and thousands of homes destroyed. In fact, estimates of Harvey's economic toll continue to rise, with research from Fundstrat suggesting that uninsured losses could easily top $200 billion.

CNN meteorologist and weather anchor Tom Sater confirms that Irma is moving through the Caribbean and could turn right, toward the north by Friday. If it does turn, the system may dissipate into the ocean. However, he remains pessimistic; adding that it looks like Irma will slam into the US if things continue to worsen.