Hurricane Irma Strengthens to ‘Extremely Dangerous’ Category 5 Storm; Caribbean, Puerto Rico, Florida Brace for Possible Impact

Hurricane Irma has strengthened into an “extremely dangerous” Category 5 storm, the National Hurricane Center said, threatening to slam into northeastern Caribbean islands and Puerto Rico by Wednesday before possibly taking aim at the US mainland.

Irma was churning Tuesday morning in the Atlantic about 270 miles east of Antigua and Barbuda, heading west with maximum sustained winds of 175 mph — well above the 157 mph threshold for a Category 5 — the hurricane center said.

The storm’s forecast track currently has it near or over Antigua and Barbuda by late Tuesday or early Wednesday, and the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico on Wednesday afternoon.

“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,” the center said.

It is still too early to tell the exact impact Irma will have on the United States.

Computer models show the system eventually heading toward Cuba and possibly turning north toward Florida by the weekend.

While Irma’s exact path is uncertain, several islands in the Caribbean as well as Florida are bracing for the storm.

After declaring a state of emergency all across Florida, Gov. Rick Scott said President Donald Trump had “offered the full resources of the federal government as Floridians prepare for Hurricane Irma.”

“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,” Scott said in a statement.

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SOURCE: CNN, Nicole Chavez and Jason Hanna