TRENTON, N.J. -- Gov. Chris Christie on Wednesday approved the deployment of more than 100 New Jersey Army National Guard Soldiers to provide emergency response support for people expected to be impacted by Hurricane Irma in Florida.

Citizen-Soldiers from the 253rd Transportation Company, a historic unit in Camp May, New Jersey, outfitted with high-wheeled vehicles, will depart from their home armory in two stages and are expected to arrive at Camp Blanding in central Florida as early as Friday.

"We are likely sending in excess of 100 Soldiers to participate in this emergency response and rescue mission for Hurricane Irma victims in Florida, and beyond the numbers, these are highly experienced and trained men and women who served on the front lines during Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy," Christie said. "Our thoughts, prayers and necessary available resources are with all of those in Florida who are bracing for impact."

The 253rd was among the first National Guard units in the nation called to active duty for the 1991 Persian Gulf War and later for Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. This unit has participated in all major domestic operations in New Jersey, including Irene and Sandy.

News reports say Irma is expected to remain a major hurricane for at least five days, including when it makes a predicted landfall on Florida and the U.S. mainland this weekend.

Evacuation of the Florida Keys has been ordered, and photos show long lines of bumper-to-bumper vehicles trying to make their way to safety.

With maximum sustained winds of 185 mph, Irma is a Category 5 -- the most serious type of major hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson wind scale.

By tonight, forecasters say, another hurricane will follow in Irma's footsteps. Tropical Storm Jose is expected to become a hurricane by Wednesday night. Its winds are expected to top 100 mph within the next two days. And Tropical Storm Katia isn't far behind.