Military branches are laying the groundwork to respond to Hurricane Irma, deploying ships, personnel and equipment to Florida and United States territories in the Caribbean to respond to a storm that has already wreaked devastation on several islands.
So far, the Pentagon has sent six ships, an aircraft carrier, numerous aircraft and thousands of gallons of fuel to the region, as well as activated thousands of National Guard troops in Florida and Puerto Rico.
The Category 4 storm, one of the strongest hurricanes ever reported in the Atlantic, made its first landfall on the island of Barbuda as a Category 5 hurricane on Wednesday and is expected to hit Florida Saturday night.
Officials predict Irma will bring heavy rains and possible 12-foot storm surges in some parts of Florida, requiring military ships, aircraft and thousands of troops to help in evacuation, rescue and response efforts.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) activated the Florida National Guard on Tuesday in anticipation of the hurricane. About 4,000 troops were activated on Friday, and Scott said he expected the entire force of more than 8,000 would eventually be called into duty.
Puerto Rico, meanwhile, activated its 5,200 National Guard troops, while the U.S. Virgin Islands activated its nearly 700-member unit, according to the Pentagon. The Coast Guard will also help with efforts.