Published On: Tue, Sep 5th, 2017

Hurricane Irma now extremely dangerous category 5

MIAMI - Reports from NOAA and US Air Force Hurricane Hunter aircraft indicate that Hurricane Irma continues to strengthen and maximum sustained winds have increased to near 175 mph (280 km/h) with higher gusts.  Irma is now an extremely dangerous category 5 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.  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.

According to the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami, at 8:00 am on Tuesday the distinct eye center of Hurricane Irma was located about 270 miles (440 km) east of Antigua, moving toward the west near 14 mph (22 km/h). This general motion is expected to continue on Tuesday, followed by a turn toward the west-northwest on Tuesday night.

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On the forecast track, the dangerous core of Irma will move near or over portions of the northern Leeward Islands on Tuesday night and early Wednesday.    Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 45 miles (75 km) from the centre and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 140 miles (220 km).

A hurricane warning is in effect for Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla, Montserrat, St Kitts and Nevis, Saba, St Eustatius, St Maarten, St Martin, St Barthelemy, British Virgin Islands, US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Vieques and Culebra.

A Hurricane watch is in effect for Guadeloupe, Dominican Republic from Cabo Engano to the northern border with Haiti.

A tropical storm warning is in effect for Guadeloupe and Dominica.

A tropical storm watch is in effect for the Dominican Republic from south of Cabo Engao to Isla Saona.

Interests elsewhere in the Dominican Republic, along with Haiti, the Turks and Caicos Islands, Cuba, and the southeastern and central Bahamas should monitor the progress of Irma.

The combination of a dangerous storm surge and large breaking waves will raise water levels by as much as 7 to 11 feet above normal tide levels along the coasts of the extreme northern Leeward Islands within the hurricane warning area near and to the north of the center of Irma.

Near the coast, the surge will be accompanied by large and destructive waves.  The combination of a dangerous storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline.

The water is expected to reach the following heights above ground if the peak surge occurs at the time of high tide: British and US  Virgin Islands except St  Croix 7 to 11 ft; northern coast of Puerto Rico 2 to 4 ft; southern coast of Puerto Rico and St  Croix 1 to 2 ft.

The deepest water will occur along the immediate coast in areas of onshore winds, where the surge will be accompanied by large and destructive waves.  Surge-related flooding depends on the relative timing of the surge and the tidal cycle, and can vary greatly over short distances.

Hurricane conditions are expected within the hurricane warning area in the Leeward Islands by Tuesday night, with tropical storm conditions beginning later Tuesday.  Tropical storm conditions are expected within the tropical storm warning area where hurricane conditions are also possible.  Hurricane conditions are expected to begin within the hurricane warning area in the British and US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico on Wednesday, with tropical storm conditions beginning Tuesday night.  Hurricane and tropical storm conditions are possible within the watch area in the Dominican Republic by early Thursday.

Irma is expected to produce total rainfall accumulations of 4 to 8 inches with isolated maximum amounts of 12 inches across the northern Leeward Islands, the British and US Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.  These rainfall amounts may cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides.

Swells generated by Irma will affect the northern Leeward Islands, Puerto Rico, and the US and British Virgin Islands during the next several days.  These swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.

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