MIAMI – Category 5 hurricane Irma has intensified even more on Tuesday with its maximum sustained winds hitting 295 km/h (185 miles/h) while moving towards Puerto Rico and other islands in the Northeastern Caribbean, the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) reported on Tuesday.
The “potentially catastrophic” hurricane Irma, the fourth one of the Atlantic hurricane season so far, is now located some 140 km east of Antigua and 145 km east of Barbuda, in the Eastern Caribbean.
In its public advisory released at 0000 GMT, the NHC indicated that the hurricane is moving toward the west at 24 km/h, is forecast to turn slightly towards the west-northwest on Tuesday night, and is expected to maintain this trajectory during the next couple of days.
According to its forecast track, Irma’s “extremely dangerous core” will move over parts of the islands in the northeastern Caribbean Sea during Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning, and then will pass near or just north of Puerto Rico late Wednesday and Wednesday night.
“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 Miami-based NHC warned.
US President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency in Puerto Rico, the state of Florida and the Virgin Islands ahead of the arrival of hurricane Irma, the White House announced Tuesday.
The declaration of the state of emergency expedites the disbursement of government funds for disaster prevention and relief.
Hurricane-force winds extend outwards up to 95 km from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outwards up to 280 km.
The Bahamas government has issued a hurricane watch for the islands of Turks and Caicos and the southeastern Bahamas, including Acklins, Crooked Island, Long Cay, the Inaguas, Mayaguana and Ragged.
A hurricane watch has also been issued for the northern coast of Haiti, from the border with the Dominican Republic to the northwestern coast.
There is a hurricane warning, issued 36 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical-storm-force winds, for the islands of Antigua, Barbuda, Anguilla, Montserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis, as well as for the islands of Saba, Saint Eustatius and Saint Martin, Saint Barthelemy, Virgin Islands British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Vieques and Culebra.