Hurricane Irma Strengthens to a Category 5 Storm as it Approaches Caribbean
A state of emergency has been declared in all Florida counties as the rapidly intensifying Hurricane Irma—now a Category 5 storm—is expected to cut a swath through the Caribbean and then shift northwards towards the US coast.
As residents along the US Gulf Coast begin the long and arduous process of recovering from Hurricane Harvey, a new threat is looming about 320 miles (515 km) east of the Leeward Islands. The latest observations from NOAA’s National Hurricane Center show the storm moving westwards towards the Caribbean at about 14 mph (22 km/hr). Irma is expected to hit the Caribbean and possibly the US mainland later this week.
The latest NHC advisory warned that Irma will be a “major hurricane located somewhere north of Cuba and south of Andros Island in the Bahamas,” and that “preparations should be rushed to completion in the hurricane warning area.”
Reports from NOAA and US Air Force Hurricane Hunter aircraft show that Irma is continuing to gain strength, with maximum sustained winds approaching 175 mph (280 km/h) and with higher gusts. The “extremely dangerous hurricane” is forecast to remain a “powerful Category 4 or 5 hurricane during the next couple of days,” says NOAA.