Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Hurricane Irma now at Category 5 strength, aiming for Caribbean islands

Hurricane Irma now at Category 5
Hurricane Irma strengthened to a Category 5 storm early Tuesday as it continues to pick up steam in the Atlantic, just east of a chain of islands in the Caribbean.

The National Hurricane Center said in latest advisory that the storm's center is about 225 miles east of Antigua, and is packing maximum sustained winds of 180 mph. It's moving almost due west at 14 mph.

Irma's wind speeds make it the strongest hurricane in the Atlantic basin, outside the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea, in the NHC's recorded history, the center said.

Warnings of winds and storm surges have been issued for the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

The NHC projects that Irma could hit Puerto Rico by Wednesday evening, prompting Gov. Ricardo Rosello to issue a state of emergency for his island. Irma is forecast to hit the Dominican Republic on Thursday and Cuba by Friday.

If the storm continues to turn north, it could approach South Florida by Saturday and travel up Florida's Gulf or Atlantic Coast.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Monday declared preemptive state of emergency for all 67 counties in the state to give residents time to prepare for what could be a major hurricane.

"In Florida, we always prepare for the worst and hope for the best and while the exact path of Irma is not absolutely known at this time, we cannot afford to not be prepared," Scott said in a statement. "This state of emergency allows our emergency management officials to act swiftly in the best interest of Floridians without the burden of bureaucracy or red tape."

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