PUERTO RICO – President Donald Trump issued a state of emergency for Puerto Rico on Tuesday night.
A White House statement said Trump ordered federal assistance to the state for local response efforts for the emergency conditions resulting from Hurricane Irma, which is churning in the Atlantic Ocean as a Category 5 storm.
Looking east from San Juan, Puerto Rico, where Hurricane Irma is active, the waters are still fairly calm -- at least at this point.
But there are signs of panic in other parts of the city, including at the airport, where travelers are trying to find a way off the island before the Category 5 storm hits.
American Airlines has added more flights to make sure people can leave before the winds pick up.
"We're trying to get the heck out of here," Cheryl Mihalik, a New Jersey resident, said at the airport. "We came here specially to find out what our options were because we don’t have access to the TV and nobody knows anything. Everyone in Puerto Rico is like, 'Oh, it’s going to pass over.' They have no idea."
People in Puerto Rico know well the impact a Category 5 hurricane can have.
A Walmart store was jammed and water was in short supply. Many of the shelves were empty by 2 p.m.
"Here, we’ve been through a lot," Sarah Cruz said.
Cruz said people are taking the storm seriously because of its size and strength.
The governor has also declared a state of emergency on the island and the Federal Emergency Management Agency has more than 400 people on the ground. The agency already setting up to prepare for the fallout from the store, including food and water.
The president's action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA to coordinate all disaster relief efforts in the commonwealth.
Since Irma is also expected to affect the U.S. Virgin Islands, FEMA also has crews allocated there.