Hurricane Irma is on a crash course with Florida, according to the latest projections by the National Hurricane Center.
Irma striking Florida has seemed likely for days, although hurricane forecasters say they remain uncertain about the hurricane’s track after 72 hours.
Hurricane Irma has already hit Barbuda, a tiny island that has been reduced to “literally rubble,” according to its prime minister. The U.S. and British Virgin Islands were also hit Wednesday, and as of the 11 p.m. update from the NHC are no longer under hurricane warning.
The storm hit Puerto Rico Wednesday evening, with its eye just north of San Juan, and by Thursday morning Irma is likely to pass near or just north of the Dominican Republic and Haiti, followed by the Turks and Caicos Islands and the Bahamas that evening. It looks poised to hi Cuba on Saturday and Sunday and Florida starting early Sunday.
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The storm currently has maximum sustained winds of 185 miles per hour and is moving west-northwest. The NHC said it is expected to maintain that path for the next several days Warm waters in its path are expected to keep the storm “very powerful.” Storm surges, wind and rainfall threaten areas in the path of the storm, as do flash floods and mudslides.
A hurricane warning – meaning the storm is expected to hit the areas within 36 hours – is in effect for the following:
- British Virgin Islands
- U.S. Virgin Islands
- Puerto Rico, Vieques and Culebra
- Dominican Republic from Cabo Engano to the northern border with Haiti
- Haiti from the northern border with the Dominican Republic to LeMole St. Nicholas
- Southeastern Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands
- Central Bahamas
A hurricane watch is in effect for:
- Cuba from Matanzas province eastward to Guantanamo province
- Northwestern Bahamas
A tropical storm warning is in effect for:
- Dominican Republic from south of Cabo Engano westward to the southern border with Haiti
- Haiti from south of Le Mole St. Nicholas to Port-Au-Prince
- Cuba provinces of Guantanamo, Holguin, and Las Tunas
NHC said the threat of direct impact in Florida has increased. Projections currently have Irma’s track going up the east side of the state on Sunday, directly through Miami up to Port St. Lucie, remaining close to Florida’s Atlantic coast. Irma is likely to remain a Category 5 or 4 hurricane for at least the next couple of days. It could also impact the Carolinas.
Hurricane-force winds extend outwards by 50 miles from the center and tropical storm-force winds extend outward up to 185 miles from the center.
NHC only makes projections about the storm over the next five days, but the National Center for Atmospheric Research puts together a string of predictions about the storm’s eventual path. According to those projections, after Florida the storm is likely to continue north, passing through the southwestern portion of Georgia, followed by South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland. Some predictions also look at Irma possibly veering west, into eastern Kentucky.
In addition to Irma, two more hurricanes were active in the Atlantic as of Wednesday evening. Hurricane Katia is poised to hit the eastern coast of Mexico near Veracruz, and Hurricane Jose is in the Atlantic east of the Leeward Islands, which were already battered by Irma.