Hurricane Irma was downgraded to Category 4 status early Saturday as the storm slammed Cuba with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph, the National Hurricane Center confirmed.
As of 5 a.m. ET Saturday, the eye of the storm was still moving over Cuba's Camaguey Archipelago, the National Hurricane Center said. The center of the storm was located about 245 miles south-southeast of Miami and was moving to the west at 12 mph, the National Hurricane Center added.
The storm has killed at least 20 people since roaring out of the open Atlantic and chewing through a string of Caribbean islands.
As Hurricane Irma approaches the United States, Charlotte-area officials are urging you to take preventative actions when it comes to your home, pets and family.
Downed trees are likely going to be a big issue for the Carolinas.
“It’s going to be chaos,” said Tim Young, who owns Tim Young tree service in Charlotte.
“These winds will snap pine trees like graham crackers. They will impale a house with a viciousness. They can kill you in a high wind.”
As Hurricane Irma continues on its track toward the United States as a powerful Category 4 hurricane, both Carolinas are under a state of emergency to prepare.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced Wednesday that a state of emergency would go into effect at 8 a.m. Thursday. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster declared a state of emergency for the Palmetto State Wednesday.
In a press conference Friday night, Governor McMaster ordered the mandatory evacuation of barrier islands in three counties in preparation for Irma. Colleton County, Beaufort County, and Jasper County's barrier islands are to be evacuated effective 10 a.m. ahead of the storm. McMaster also warned of a possible storm surge on the Carolina coast of 4-8 feet.
The South Carolina Emergency Management Division has activated the State Public Hotline to answer questions about Hurricane Irma.
Residents of South Carolina can call the hotline at 1-866-246-0133 to receive information about the state's safety response or have safety questions answered.
As Hurricane Irma barrels toward south Florida, the track has shifted further west as it reaches the Carolinas.
"I think a lot of folks are missing the point on this storm. They're getting caught up in where the line track is instead of looking at the cone. They're also focused on where the center is and not what's going on around it," said Chief Meteorologist Brad Panovich