Irma is now an “extremely dangerous” Category 5 hurricane with wind speeds up to 185 miles per hour, according to the National Hurricane Center. That makes it the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean outside of the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico.
It’s still unclear where exactly the hurricane will make landfall in the US and which parts of the East Coast it will affect, but there’s an “increasing chance” that Florida will be impacted later this week and in the weekend, the National Hurricane Center said. The hurricane is expected to affect the Leeward Islands later today and the British and US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico tomorrow.
The danger of a Category 5 hurricane doesn’t only come from the strong winds. Irma is expected to raise sea levels by as much as seven to 11 feet in the Leeward Islands because of the storm surge and waves. Similar flooding could be seen in the British and US Virgin Islands, while Puerto Rico could see sea levels rise by one to four feet. Irma could also pour four to eight inches of rain, or as much as 12 inches in certain areas. “These rainfall amounts may cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides,” the National Hurricane Center said.
Because of how strong Irma has become, “preparations should be rushed to completion in the hurricane warning area,” forecasters at the hurricane center said. The hurricane is currently moving west at a speed of 14 mph and should turn toward the west-northwest tonight. The storm’s intensity is expected to fluctuate, but the forecasters think Irma will stay a Category 4 or 5 hurricane in the next couple days.
Because it’s still unclear which parts of the East Coast will be affected, people in coastal states, and even in the Gulf of Mexico, should keep an eye out for forecasts and start getting prepared. Irma’s timing couldn’t be worse, as Texas is still recovering from the devastating floods brought by Hurricane Harvey last week.
Update Sept. 5, 2017 02:25PM ET: Irma’s wind speeds have been updated as per latest NWS advisory.