Just days after Hurricane Harvey devastated parts of Texas and Louisiana, another storm, Hurricane Irma, has strengthened over the Atlantic Ocean, threatening to batter parts of the Caribbean this week as “an extremely dangerous” Category 5 storm, the National Weather Service said on Tuesday morning.
There is a growing likelihood that Irma will also reach parts of Florida later in the week and weekend, though it is too soon to predict the effect of the storm, which has already earned its Category 5 status with maximum sustained winds of 175 miles per hour, according to the service.
“It is still too early to determine what direct impacts Irma might have on the continental United States,” the service said in its Tuesday morning statement on the storm. “However, everyone in hurricane-prone areas should ensure that they have their hurricane plan in place.”
The storm’s “dangerous core” is expected to move near or over the Leeward islands as soon as Tuesday night, bringing with it “life-threatening wind, storm surge, and rainfall,” according to the service.
The latest forecasts also put Irma on a more direct path toward South Florida, raising the possibility that the United States could be hit with back-to-back major hurricanes. Gov. Rick Scott of Florida declared a state of emergency on Monday for the state’s 67 counties.
Mr. Scott said on Twitter that he had discussed the storm on Monday with President Trump, who “offered the full resources of the federal government as Floridians prepare for Hurricane Irma.”
Coast Guard crew members and helicopters that assisted in rescue missions in southeast Texas for Hurricane Harvey were also starting to return to their home stations, including Florida, to prepare for Irma, a Coast Guard spokesman said.
American Airlines announced late Monday that it had canceled several flights on Tuesday between Miami and the Caribbean destinations.
“For people in South Florida, now is the time to start preparing and getting those hurricane kits in order,” Chuck Caracozza, a meteorologist at National Weather Service in Miami, said.
Puerto Rico and the British and U.S. Virgin Islands are expected to feel Irma’s effects as a “dangerous major hurricane” as soon as Wednesday, the service said. If the peak storm surge coincides with high tide, water levels in the Virgin Islands may reach heights of 7 to 11 feet above ground.
The storm is also expected to bring 4 to 8 inches of rain, though parts of the northern Leeward Islands, the British and U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico, may see up to a foot, according to the service.
Hurricane Irma, which surfaced as a tropical storm off Africa shortly after Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas last month, has intensified in recent days, gaining strength from the Caribbean’s warmer waters.
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