The Bahamas and Cuba could see Irma arrive as a unsafe major hurricane later this week, the hurricane center said.
A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for: Dominican Republic from south of Cabo Engano westward to the southern border with Haiti, Haiti from south of Le Mole St. Nicholas to Port-Au-Prince, Cuba provinces of Guantanamo, Holguin, and Las Tunas.
"The Leeward Islands are going to get destroyed", warned Colorado State University meteorology professor Phil Klotzbach, a noted hurricane expert. "This is a serious storm".
It's been 25 years since a Category 5 hurricane struck the US, and Irma could potentially become just the fourth storm of that strength to barrel into the nation.
Irma's wind speeds make it the strongest hurricane in the Atlantic basin, outside the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea, in the NHC's recorded history, the center said. The others are Allen (1980), the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, Gilbert (1988), and Wilma (2005).
Hurricane Irma is roaring along a path pointing to Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba before possibly heading for Florida over the weekend. A warning is typically issued 36 hours before the anticipated first occurrence of tropical-storm- force winds, conditions that make outside preparations hard or risky. "May God protect us all", local authorities said.
St Martin - a pristine resort known for its vibrant nightlife - suffered the full fury of the storm, with rescuers on the French side of the island saying at least eight people had died there and another 21 were injured.
Residents on the U.S. East Coast were urged to monitor the storm's progress due to the possibility it could turn northward toward Florida, Georgia or the Carolinas.More news: White House still deciding who gets Trump's Harvey donation
"People normally go to friends and family during a storm". "We'll find out soon enough".
As of 0300 GMT, the eye of the storm was just north of Puerto Rico and the hurricane was moving west-northwest at 16 miles (26 kilometers) per hour.
The chance of direct impacts from Irma later this week and this weekend is increasing in the Florida Keys and portions of the Florida Peninsula, but forecasters say it is still too early to specify the timing and magnitude of the impacts.
The storm continued to roar towards the Caribbean Tuesday, promising to deliver a unsafe mix of wind, rain and storm surge to the region.
Authorities warned that the storm could dump up to 10 inches of rain, cause landslides and flash floods and generate waves of up to 23 feet.
Puerto Rico's Governor Ricardo Rossello urged the island's 3.4 million residents to seek refuge in one of 460 hurricane shelters. However, if that decision is made, it will likely be made on Friday. "This is an extremely risky storm". The northernmost island, Barbuda, home to roughly 1,800 people, was "totally demolished", with 90 percent of all dwellings there leveled, Prime Minister Gaston Browne said, according to island television broadcasts.
Pauline Jackson, a 59-year-old registered nurse from Florida visiting Puerto Rico, said she had tried to leave before the storm but all flights were sold out.
Browne said one person was killed on Barbuda.More news: North Korea: 'More Gift Packages' Coming For The US
Guadeloupe prefect Eric Maire called the situation in St Martin "dramatic", saying the island - which is divided between the Netherlands and France - was without drinking water or electricity, and warning the death toll was nearly certain to rise. Power outages last for weeks or months.
"This is not an opportunity to go outside and try to have fun with a hurricane", U.S. Virgin Islands Gov. Kenneth Mapp warned. "It's not time to get on a surfboard".
In Florida, people stocked up on drinking water and other supplies.
Gov. Rick Scott activated 100 members of the Florida National Guard to be deployed across the state, and 7,000 National Guard members were to report for duty Friday when the storm could be approaching the area.
Officials in the Florida Keys geared up to get tourists and residents out of Irma's path, and the mayor of Miami-Dade County said people should be prepared to evacuate Miami Beach and most coastal areas.
Mayor Carlos Gimenez said the voluntary evacuations could begin as soon as Wednesday evening. France sent emergency food and water there and to the French island of St. Bart's, where Irma ripped off roofs and knocked out electricity.
The hurricane center said Tropical Storm Jose was about 1,505 miles (2,420 kilometers) east of the Lesser Antilles with maximum sustained winds of 40 mph (65 kph). It was moving west at 14 miles per hour, also an increase from the 12 miles per hour earlier Tuesday.More news: (DAL) Shares Trading up at $47.33 Delta to Launch Nonstop Year-Round…
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