Hurricane Irma has been upgraded to a powerful category four storm as warnings have been issued for several Caribbean islands.
The hurricane had sustained winds of up to 140mph (220km/h) and was likely to strengthen in the next 48 hours, the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.
Irma was projected to hit the Leeward Islands, causing storm surges, life-threatening winds and torrential rain.
Irma was set to reach the island chain by late Tuesday or early Wednesday (local time), the centre added.
The storm was moving at a speed of 20km/h (13mph).
It may cause rainfall of up to 25cm (10in) in some northern areas and raise water levels by up to 3m (9ft) above normal levels, the NHC said.
The US state of Florida has declared a state of emergency.
It comes as residents in Texas and Louisiana are reeling from the effects of Hurricane Harvey, which struck as a category four storm, causing heavy rain and destroying thousands of homes.
However the NHC warned that it was too early to forecast Irma’s exact path or effects on the continental US.
Hurricane warnings have been issued for the islands of Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla, Montserrat, St Kitts and Nevis, St Martin, Sint Maarten, St Barthelemy, Saba, St Eustatius, Puerto Rico, British Virgin Islands and US Virgin Islands. It means that hurricane conditions are expected in the next 36 hours.