Hurricane Irma made landfall in the Caribbean on Wednesday with record winds and powerful waves.
The Category 5 storm — the strongest Atlantic hurricane ever recorded north of the Caribbean and east of the Gulf of Mexico — passed over the island of Barbuda overnight.
The National Hurricane Center has warned of a growing possibility the hurricane could slam Florida later this week — as Texas and Louisiana are still dealing with the devastating aftermath caused by Hurricane Harvey.
“Everyone in hurricane-prone areas should ensure that they have their hurricane plan in place,” officials said.
Here’s what you should know about Hurricane Irma and its trajectory.
Where is Hurricane Irma today? Irma is located about 75 miles north of San Juan, Puerto Rico, the National Hurricane Center said in a 2 a.m. Thursday ET advisory. It was heading west-northwest at 16 mph.
When is it expected to make landfall? Hurricane Irma hit Barbuda early Wednesday morning — knocking out phone lines and breaking down communication between islands as the eye of the storm passed. Midcie Francis of the National Office of Disaster Services confirmed there was damage to several homes, but said it was too early to assess the extent.
Antiguan police were waiting until winds dropped down before sending helicopters to check on reports of damage in Barbuda. There were no immediate reports of casualties.
The island of Anguilla was experiencing “extremely heavy winds and rain,” according to the Disaster Management Department. There have been reports of flooding.
The National Hurricane Center said Irma’s winds would fluctuate, but the storm would likely remain at Category 4 or 5 for the next day or two as it roared past Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba, the Turks & Caicos, and parts of the Bahamas.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott said that the Florida Keys may feel Irma’s effects Friday night and early Saturday.
President Donald Trump has already declared emergencies in Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and authorities in the Bahamas said they would evacuate six southern islands.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott already declared a state of emergency Monday in all 67 counties.
What else should I know about the storm? Hurricane Irma is classified as a Category 5 storm — meaning it is extremely dangerous. It brings with it life-threatening winds, storm surges and rainfall, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Authorities warned that the storm could dump rain, cause landslides and flash floods, and generate waves. Government officials began evacuations and urged people to finalize all preparations as shelves emptied out across islands including Puerto Rico.
Residents on the U.S. East Coast were urged to monitor the storm’s progress in case it should turn northward toward Florida, Georgia, or the Carolinas.
“This hurricane has the potential to be a major event for the East Coast. It also has the potential to significantly strain FEMA and other governmental resources occurring so quickly on the heels of (Hurricane) Harvey,” Evan Myers, chief operating officer of AccuWeather, said in a statement.
And while its impact on the continental U.S. isn’t fully known yet, Florida Gov. Rick Scott already declared a state of emergency Monday in all 67 counties in order to ensure “local governments have ample time, resources and flexibility to get prepared for this dangerous storm.”
“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.
South Carolina’s Gov. Henry McMaster also declared a state of emergency in the Palmetto state on Wednesday ahead of the storm.
The last Category 5 storm to hit the United States was Hurricane Andrew in 1992. An estimated 250,000 were left homeless, and the storm caused more than $20 billion in damage in the Bahamas, Florida, and Louisiana. Fifty-five people were killed.
This Fox News piece is used by permission; Kaitlyn Schallhorn and Zoe Szathmary contributed, as did the Associated Press.
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