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2017 Hurricane Irma


Irma strengthens into a powerful category 4 hurricane

PUBLISHED Mon, September 04, 2017 - 3:40pm EDT

Hurricane Irma has strengthened into a powerful category four storm with maximum sustained winds near 130 miles (215 kilometers) per hour as it moves closer to the Leeward Islands in the eastern Caribbean, forecasters say. The storm could affect Florida on Sunday. (more)

As of 5 p.m. ET on Monday, the center of Irma was located about 490 miles (790 kilometers) east of the Leeward Islands, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC). Its maximum sustained winds are near 130 miles (215 kilometers) per hour with higher gusts.

Forecasters expect Irma to reach the northeastern Leeward Islands as a category four hurricane on early Wednesday morning. It is then expected to pass close to Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba and the Bahamas over the next few days.

A hurricane warning is in effect for Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla, Montserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saba, Sint Eustatius, Saint Martin, and Saint Barthélemy. A hurricane watch is in effect for Guadeloupe, the British Virgin Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Vieques, and Culebra. A tropical storm watch is in effect for Dominica.

NHC senior hurricane specialist Daniel Brown said the northeastern Leeward Islands should expect life-threatening wind, storm surge, and rainfall. "Preparations should be rushed to completion, as tropical-storm force winds are expected to first arrive in the hurricane warning area by late Tuesday," he warned.

After passing through the Caribbean, Hurricane Irma could affect the U.S. state of Florida on Sunday, although it remains uncertain how close to the state the storm will come. Irma could still be a major hurricane at that point.

As a result, Florida Governor Rick Scott has declared a statewide state of emergency.

"Hurricane Irma is a major and life-threatening storm and Florida must be prepared," Scott said in a statement. "I have continued to be briefed by the Florida Division of Emergency Management on Hurricane Irma and current forecast models have Florida in Irma's path - potentially impacting millions of Floridians."

The governor explained that he declared the state of emergency to make certain that state, federal and local governments are able to work together and to make sure that resources are dispersed to local communities.

"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. "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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More Updates

 6 months   WATCH LIVE: Hurricane Irma reaches the Florida Keys

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 6 months   Irma causes major damage on Caribbean islands, at least 2 dead

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