Hurricane Irma – a potentially catastrophic Category 5 hurricane, continues to head toward the Leeward Islands. Those in the easternmost Leeward Islands must finish their preparations. Irma is centered at 2 p.m. AST/EDT abut 180 miles (290 km ) east of the Antigua, moving toward the west near 14 mph (22 km/h), and this general motion is expected to continue today, followed by a turn toward the west-northwest tonight. On the forecast track, the extremely dangerous core of IrmaÂ is forecast to move over portions of the northern Leeward Islands tonight and early Wednesday.
Reports from an Air Force Hurricane Hunter aircraft indicate that the maximum sustained winds have increased to near 185 mph (295 km/h) with higher gusts – an extremely dangerous category 5 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Some fluctuations in intensity are likely during the next day or two, but Irma is forecast to remain a powerful category 4 or 5 hurricane during the next couple of days. Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 60 miles (95 km) from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 160 miles (260 km). The latest minimum central pressure reported by reconnaissance aircraft is 926 mb (27.34 inches).
A Hurricane Warning is in effect for Antigua, Barbuda, Anguilla, Montserrat, St. Kitts, Nevis, Saba, St. Eustatius, Sint Maarten, Saint Martin, Saint Barthelemy, British Virgin Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Vieques, and Culebra. A Hurricane Watch is in effect for Guadeloupe, Dominican Republic from Cabo Engano to the northern border with Haiti, Haiti from the northern border with the Dominican Republic to Le Mole St. Nicholas, Turks and Caicos Islands, Southeastern Bahamas. A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for Guadeloupe and Dominica. A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for Dominican Republic from south of Cabo Engao to Isla Saona and for Haiti from south of Le Mole St. Nicholas to Port-Au-Prince.
Since Irma is a large hurricane, users are reminded to not focus on the exact forecast track since tropical-storm and hurricane-force winds and life-threatening storm surge extend far from the center. Residents in the Leeward Islands should complete their preparations very soon as the weather will begin to deteriorate over the easternmost Leeward Islands later this afternoon.
The next complete advisory will be issued at 5 p.m. AST/EDT by the National Hurricane Center -Â www.hurricanes.gov