Caribbean islands put under hurricane watch as Irma gets stronger and closer

Hurricane Irma’s projected path as of 11 p.m. Sunday.
Hurricane Irma’s projected path as of 11 p.m. Sunday. NOAA

Hurricane Irma revved itself up into a Category 3 storm Sunday, with winds of 115 mph, and a host of Caribbean islands placed themselves under a hurricane watch as the storm crept closer.

The National Hurricane Center’s11 p.m. Sunday advisory placed Irma about 710 miles east of the Leeward Islands, moving westward at 14 mph.

“Some strengthening is forecast during the next 48 hours,” the center advised. Already, hurricane-force winds extend 35 miles outward from the storm’s center, and tropical-storm-force winds out 140 miles.

Irma is still too far away for forecast models to be very reliable, but meteorologists said at the storm’s current pace, it could be nearing Florida by next weekend.

Hurricane Irma has strengthened into a Category 3 storm with winds of 115 mph. The National Hurricane Center has the storm at about 790 miles east of the Leeward Islands.

But for the northern Leeward Islands, the picture is much more clear — and much more gloomy. “The center of Irma is forecast to approach the northern Leeward Islands late Tuesday,” the National Hurricane Center said.

By late Sunday afternoon, hurricane watches were in effect for Antigua, Barbuda, Anguilla, Montserrat, St. Kitts, Nevis, Saba, St. Eustatius, Saint Martin and Saint Barthelemy.

“The remainder of the Leeward Islands, the British and U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico should monitor the progress of Irma,” the National Hurricane Center warned. “Additional hurricane and tropical storm watches may be required for portions of this area on Monday.”