Hurricane Irma strengthens to category 4 as storm nears Leeward Islands
Florida Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency Monday afternoon as Hurricane Irma strengthened into a Category 4 storm.
According to the National Hurricane Center’s 8 p.m. advisory Monday, Irma grew to 140 mph sustained winds as it chugged at 13 mph through the Caribbean. Irma’s projected to turn west-northwest by the end of the day Tuesday, moving on an overall track that increased the possibility that South Florida will feel its effects, if not take a direct hit.
It’s also supposed to strengthen over the next two days. At its current sustained wind speeds, Irma would be the biggest hurricane to hit South Florida since Category 5 Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
“Today, given these forecasts and the intensity of this storm, I have declared a state of emergency for every county in Florida to make certain that state, federal and local governments are able to work together and make sure resources are dispersed to local communities as we get prepared for this storm,” read Scott’s statement on the flgov.com website. “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. 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.
Irma’s about 450 miles (725 km) east of the Leeward Islands. The pressure remains at 944 mb. Irma’s range of influence has increased to 40 miles from its center for hurricane winds and tropical storm force winds still at 140 miles from the center.
Now under hurricane warning: Antigua; Barbuda; Anguilla; Montserrat; Saint Kitts and Nevis; Saba; St. Eustatius; Sint Maarten; Saint Martin; and Saint Barthelemy. Hurricane watches have been issued for the U.S. Virgin Islands; Puerto Rico; the British Virgin Islands; Guadeloupe; Vieques; and Culebra.
“Hurricane conditions are expected within the hurricane warning area by Tuesday night, with tropical storm conditions expected by late Tuesday,” the NHC advisory warned. “Hurricane conditions are possible within the hurricane watch area by late Wednesday, with tropical storm conditions possible by early Wednesday.”
A 2 to 4-foot storm surge is projected for Puerto Rico’s northern coast while a 1 to 2-foot surge is projected for the southern coast and the U.S. Virgin Island St. Croix. The rest of the U.S. Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands are looking at a 4 to 6-foot storm surge.
The Dominican Republic, Haiti, Turks and Caicos, Cuba and the southeastern Bahamas aren’t under hurricane watch yet, but “Irma could directly affect Hispaniola, Turks and Caicos, the Bahamas and Cuba as a major hurricane later this week,” according to the NHC.