Hurricane Irma strengthened to 120 mph sustained winds by the 8 a.m. Monday morning advisory. The Category 3 storm is expected to get more muscular throughout Tuesday and Monday, as it edges toward the Caribbean.
Hurricane watches were posted for Antigua, Barbuda, Anguilla, Montserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saba, St. Eustatius, Sint Maarten, Saint Martin and Saint Barthelemy, which could start to see hurricane and tropical storm conditions by late Tuesday.
The National Hurricane Center said the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Haiti and Leeward Islands should monitor the progress of Irma, which is expected to turn west later Monday then kick up west-northwest Tuesday. Whether or not it’ll strike the U.S. East Coast can’t be definitively predicted, but most projections have it at least affecting the East Coast weather.
As of the 8 a.m. advisory, Irma was still moving west-southwest at 14 mph (22 kph) and was 610 miles (980 km) east of the Leeward Islands. Hurricanes force winds can be felt 30 miles from the center, and tropical storm force winds felt up to 140 miles. The central pressure is down to 947 mb from 969 mb at Sunday’s 11 a.m. advisory.
Puerto Rico’s governor, Ricard Rossello, said government agencies in the U.S. territory were prepared to deal with any emergencies caused by the storm.
“We have established protocols for the safety of all,” he said at a news conference, while he also urged islanders to take precautions.
In the Dominican Republic, Public Works Minister Gonzalo Castillo said workers there were clearing away road works and also cleaning out blockages of sewer drains. He said President Danilo Medina would hold a meeting with emergencies agencies Monday to discuss storm preparations.
This report contains information from the Associated Press