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A geocolor image of Hurricane Irma, captured by GOES-16 and released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Sept. 5, 2017 (NOAA via AP)

Early Wednesday morning Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 storm, made landfall in the Caribbean, first slamming into Antigua and Barbuda before moving over St. Martin, Anguilla and parts of the British Virgin Islands. It's now barreling toward Puerto Rico, and is expect to hit just north of the island Wednesday afternoon. Irma's heavy rain and strong winds, which have reached a sustained maximum of 185 mph, have made it the most powerful storm ever recorded in the Atlantic.

Irma's trajectory: The storm, which the National Hurricane Center has declared "potentially catastrophic," is expected to hit Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Turks and Caicos, and Cuba before reaching Florida and the Southeast U.S. this weekend, at which point it's expected to weaken to a Category 4 hurricane.

Meanwhile, two other storms are also building momentum in the Atlantic. Tropical Storm Jose is expected to become a hurricane by Wednesday night, and Tropical Storm Katia is strengthening in the Gulf of Mexico.

President Trump on Twitter Wednesday morning: "Watching Hurricane closely. My team, which has done, and is doing, such a good job in Texas, is already in Florida. No rest for the weary! ... Hurricane looks like largest ever recorded in the Atlantic!"

Mandatory evacuations have already begun in parts of southern Florida, including in the Keys, where 25,000 people have already left, according to Florida Gov. Rick Scott. Scott also said he deployed 1,000 National Guard members in preparation for the storm, and 7,000 more will be activated on Friday. President Trump has also approved disaster declarations for Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, all of which are at risk of being hit head on.

Live updates:

  • An electric company in Puerto Rico warned that the island could be without power for four to six months, per the Miami Herald. The government also said it's prepared to open 456 shelters that can house 62,000 people.
  • In the U.S. Virgin Islands, Gov. Kenneth E. Mapp ordered a 36-hour curfew beginning Wednesday at 6 a.m. local time.
  • Emergency evacuations have been ordered for six southern islands in the Bahamas. Prime Minister Hubert Minnis called it "the largest such evacuation in the history of the country."
  • Florida Gov. Rick Scott urged residents Wednesday not to focus on the exact path of the storm. "A storm of this size could have effects statewide and everyone must be prepared."
  • South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster has declared a state of emergency to prepare for the storm.
  • Note: Hurricane Harvey, at its strongest, was a Category 4 hurricane. Irma is even stronger at a Category 5.

Go deeper in the Axios stream:

Go deeper

The Mischief Makers

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Several Republican and Democratic lawmakers are emerging as troublemakers within their parties and political thorns for their leadership.

Why it matters: We're calling this group "The Mischief Makers" — members who threaten to upend party unity — the theme eclipsing Washington at the moment — and potentially jeopardize the Democrats' or Republicans' position heading into the 2022 midterms.

Obama speechwriter fears Biden unity drive is one-sided

Cody Keenan (right) is shown heading to Marine One in December 2009. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Obama's former speechwriter says he's "preemptively frustrated" with President Biden's effort to find unity with Republicans.

What they're saying: Cody Keenan told Axios that Biden's messaging team has "struck all the right chords," but at some point "they're gonna have to answer questions like, 'Why didn't you achieve unity?' when there's an entire political party that's already acting to stop it."

Scoop: Conservative group puts $700k behind Hawley

Sen. Josh Hawley explains his objection to certifying the 2020 election results hours after the U.S. Capitol siege. Photo: Congress.gov via Getty Images

A Republican group is raising and spending huge amounts of money defending Sen. Josh Hawley after he was ostracized for early January’s attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Why it matters: The Senate Conservatives Fund is plugging Hawley's ideological bona fides and backfilling lost corporate cash with needed political and financial support, helping inoculate him as he weighs reelection or a possible presidential campaign in 2024.