HAVANA TIMES – Hurricane Irma, with maximum sustained winds of 120 mph (195 km/h), continues its journey west with the center currently aiming to sweep over the northern Leeward Islands and possibly Puerto Rico by sometime Wednesday, reports the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami.
The Category 3 Saffir-Simpson (1-5 maximum) storm is now being projected to pass close to the north coast of the Dominican Republic on Thursday and then near the north coast of Haiti and eastern Cuba by sometime Friday.
The latest forecast also shows, with no assurances at this time, a passing of the center of the major storm somewhere in Central Cuba on the coming weekend.
After Cuba, if Irma continues to advance, the NHC says it is still too early to tell where it could take aim at the United States.
At 11:00 a.m. Cuba time (EDT) on Monday, the center of Hurricane Irma was located near latitude 16.8 North, longitude 53.3 West and moving toward the west-southwest near 14 mph (22 km/h).
The NHC further reports that ”Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 35 miles (55 km) from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 140 miles 220 km).”
With the storm quickly approaching, a hurricane warning is now in effect for the islands of Antigua, Barbuda, Anguilla, Monsterrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Maarte and St. Barthelemy.
A hurricane watch has been issued for the British Virgin Islands, Guadeloupe, the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Vieques and Culebra islands.
According to the NHC, a Hurricane Warning means that hurricane conditions are expected somewhere within the warning area. A warning is typically issued 36 hours before the anticipated first occurrence of tropical-storm-force winds, conditions that make outside preparations difficult or dangerous. Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion.
A Hurricane Watch means that hurricane conditions are possible within the watch area. A watch is typically issued 48 hours before the anticipated first occurrence of tropical-storm-force winds, conditions that make outside preparations difficult or dangerous.
We expect a report on Hurricane Irma from the Cuban Weather Service (INSMET) at 6:00 p.m. local time.