As Hurricane Irma crept closer to the northern Leeward Islands Tuesday night, a hurricane watch was issued for parts of Cuba and Florida continued to be in the powerful storm’s projected path.
As of the 8 p.m. advisory by the National Hurricane Center, the Category 5 storm continued to pack startling 185 mph sustained winds, and was moving west at 15 mph.
Weather conditions were expected to deteriorate in the Leeward Islands soon, the advisory warned, calling Irma “potentially catastrophic.’’
The monster storm — considered the Atlantic’s most powerful hurricane storm ever outside the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean — was located about 85 miles east of Antigua and about 90 miles east southeast of Barbuda at 8 p.m.
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The Meteorological Service of Cuba issued a Hurricane Watch from the provinces of Matanzas eastward to Guantanamo, the advisory said. A watch is typically issued 48 hours before the first stormforce winds.
Meanwhile, a Hurricane Warning is in effect for much of the Caribbean, Puerto Rico and parts of the Dominican Republic. A warning means hurricane conditions are expected.
Irma was expected to turn to the west-northwest on Tuesday night and continue for the next few days, the advisory said.
The storm is expected to produce a storm surge as high as 15 to 20 feet in some places, including the Turks and Caicos islands and the southeastern Bahamas, the advisory said. Rainfall could reach up to 20 inches in some spots.
While Florida is still in the storm’s trajectory, it is not yet clear where the storm will make landfall or how bad it will impact the state.
Because Irma’s winds stretch 120 miles from the center, most of Florida, which is 160 miles wide, could feel Irma’s impact.