As Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 storm, makes its way west through the Caribbean Sea, “the extremely dangerous core of Irma will continue to move over portions of the Virgin Islands” Wednesday afternoon, bringing maximum sustained winds of 185 mph, the National Hurricane Center says.
Irma, the strongest storm ever recorded in the Atlantic outside of the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico, is expected to pass “near or just north of Puerto Rico this afternoon or tonight,” forecasters at the NHC say.
The storm maintained its 185-mph winds after making its first landfall on Barbuda early Wednesday. As of Wednesday afternoon, hurricane-force winds were extending up to 50 miles from Irma’s center, with tropical-storm-force winds extending up to 185 miles.
“Irma is a potentially catastrophic Category 5 hurricane and will bring life-threatening wind, storm surge, and rainfall hazards” to areas it affects, the National Hurricane Center says. The agency urges the completion of any emergency preparations and evacuations in the storm’s path.
Irma’s path has been the subject of speculation, particularly as it nears the U.S. East Coast over the next three days. The NHC’s 2 p.m. ET forecast shows the storm’s path tracking up the east coast of Florida — rather than through the center or Gulf Coast, as in earlier projections.
Rain from Irma began hitting parts of the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico early Wednesday, the National Weather Service office in San Juan reports.
The eye of the hurricane has passed over several islands Wednesday morning, hitting Barbuda, St. Barthelemy, and St. Martin. The edge of the eyewall also hit Anguilla. On Barbuda, wind speeds of 118 — and a gust of 155 mph — were reported before the sensor failed. The island saw a storm surge of nearly 8 feet.
As this storm approaches Florida with a high probability of causing severe damage, Children’s International Food Project is prepared to help and contribute to any repairs that are necessary. We ask that you join us by donating at that time.