-- Residents and officials in Puerto Rico and Florida are preparing for Hurricane Irma as it strengthens over the Caribbean into a "potentially catastrophic" Category 5 storm, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC).
The NHC said that "preparations should be rushed to completion" in hurricane warning areas, which include Puerto Rico and many other islands in the Caribbean.
The storm is expected to approach Florida Sunday morning with winds of 145 miles per hour. Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency on Monday for every county in the state to ensure that local governments have enough "time, resources and flexibility to get prepared for this dangerous storm," according to a statement from his office.
As part of the state of emergency, the National Guard has been activated and schools have been closed.
Monroe County, which includes the Florida Keys, has issued a mandatory evacuation order starting Wednesday morning, and schools are being closed until further notice, officials announced Tuesday.
Scott said in the statement that Irma is a "life-threatening" storm and Florida "must be prepared."
"In Florida, we always prepare for the worst and hope for the best," Scott said. "While the exact path of Irma is not absolutely known at this time, we cannot afford to not be prepared."
Residents are already stocking up on water, batteries, generators, plywood and other essentials as the storm nears the coastline. Scott urged residents to take the appropriate precautions.
Ahead, here are some of the safety tips officials recommend for residents in Irma's projected path.
How to prepare outside
How to prepare inside
For those staying in their homes, key steps can be taken ahead of time to ensure people have enough supplies to last through the storm.
Officials have also recommended rolling up area rugs and storing them on higher floors to reduce the chance of mold.
ABC News' Meghan Keneally contributed to this report.