As Hurricane Irma barrels toward the northeast Caribbean, it has strengthened into a Category 5 storm.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center has warned of a growing possibility the hurricane could impact Florida later this week – as Texas and Louisiana are still dealing with the devastating aftermath caused by Hurricane Harvey earlier this month.
“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?
As of Tuesday morning, Hurricane Irma is about 270 miles east of the Caribbean island of Antigua, according to an advisory.
It has maximum sustained winds of about 180 mph and was classified as a Category 5 – the highest rating for hurricanes – on Tuesday morning.
When is it expected to make landfall?
Hurricane Irma is expected to slam through the Leeward Islands in the West Indies, and tropical storm winds could begin to arrive in the area today, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Irma is also expected to impact the British and U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico on Wednesday, according to forecasters.
Additionally, Turks and Caicos, the Bahamas, Cuba, Dominican Republic and Haiti are also in the projected path of Hurricane Irma, the National Hurricane Center said.
The Florida Peninsula and the Florida Keys could be impacted by the storm later this week and weekend, but otherwise it’s too early to tell how Irma could impact the continental U.S., according to the National Hurricane Center.
A hurricane warning is currently in effect for more than a dozen island nations, including the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Antigua and Saint Martin.
The Dominican Republic has issued a hurricane watch for parts of the country.
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 up to 10 inches of rain, cause landslides and flash floods and generate waves of up to 23 feet. Government officials began evacuations and urged people to finalize all preparations as shelves emptied out across islands including Puerto Rico.
HURRICANE IRMA NOW POWERFUL CATEGORY 5 STORM
“The decisions that we make in the next couple of hours can make the difference between life and death,” Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello said. “This is an extremely dangerous storm.”
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.
“It also has the potential to significantly strain FEMA and other governmental resources occurring so quickly on the heels of (Hurricane) Harvey.”
“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 order to ensure “local governments have ample time, resources and flexibility to get prepared for this dangerous storm.”