Forecasters Call Hurricane Irma 'Potentially Catastrophic'

Hurricane Irma Updates

Florida declared a state of emergency Tuesday as residents braced for Hurricane Irma, an extremely risky Category 5 storm and the most powerful seen in the Atlantic Ocean in over a decade. The hurricane could reach Puerto Rico as early as Wednesday afternoon before making its way toward the continental US.

Hurricane Irma remains a major Category 5 hurricane with winds at 185 miles per hour as of 11 p.m. Tuesday night.

The NHC did not issue any coastal watches or warnings for Jose, which is now located some 1,505 miles (2,420 kilometers) east of the Lesser Antilles.

Irma is moving toward the west-northwest near 15 miles per hour.

Irma could become the first major hurricane classified as a category 3 or higher to make US landfall since Hurricane Wilma in 2005.

Some fluctuations in intensity are likely during the next day or two, but Irma is forecast to remain a powerful category 4 or 5 hurricane during the next couple of days.

Forecasters predict Irma could turn north toward the eastern United States by the weekend with its path targeting Puerto Rico late Wednesday or early Thursday, the Dominican Republic and Haiti on Thursday and Bahamas and Cuba on Friday. "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 can not afford to not be prepared".

Girardin said inhabitants of Saint-Martin and Saint-Barthelemy should prepare themselves for high winds, surging sea levels and waves when the hurricane strikes on Wednesday.

City officials said residents should comply whenever Miami-Dade County issues an evacuation.

Hurricane Irma approaches the Leeward Islands as Tropical Storm Jose strengthens. He said Irma's estimated winds of over 180 miles per hour could be "beyond detrimental" to the area.

"This morning I requested President [Donald] Trump declare a pre-landfall emergency for the entire state of Florida", the governor said. Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency to give local governments "ample time, resources and flexibility" to prepare for the storm. The hurricane's path is now forecast to ride up the middle of Florida, keeping the worst side of the storm in the Atlantic Ocean.

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