Hurricane Irma, fresh on the heels of Hurricane Harvey, strengthened Tuesday into a Category 5 storm with maximum winds of 175 miles per hour as it approaches the northern Leeward Islands.
The center of Irma was about 300 miles east of the Leeward Islands and is expected to pass over them Tuesday night or early Wednesday. The storm is moving west at about 14 miles per hour.
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.
The latest forecasts indicate Irma could hit Puerto Rico and then the northern half of the Dominican Republic, before rolling toward Cuba at the end of the week. The storm’s path over the weekend is less clear. It could move toward Florida and make landfall near Miami, or it could veer south of Cuba.
A hurricane warning has been issued for several Caribbean islands including Anguilla, St Kitts and Nevis and St Barts. The British and United States Virgin Islands are also under a hurricane warning. The storm could drop up to 10 inches of rain over parts of the Caribbean and cause dangerous flooding and landslides.