Hurricane Irma maintains strength as a dangerous Category 5 storm

Hurricane Irma maintains strength as a dangerous Category 5 storm

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Hurricane Irma remains an extremely dangerous category 5 hurricane with winds of 185 mph as it bears down on the northern Leeward Island.  Irma will pass near or over Antigua, Barbuda, Anguilla, Montserrat, St. Kitts Tuesday night, and just north of the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico on Wednesday.

The storm posed an immediate threat to the small islands of the northern Leewards, including Antigua and Barbuda, as well as the British and U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

Irma is moving toward the west at 15 mph.

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.

The 5 p.m. update from the National Hurricane Center still has South Florida in the storm's path this weekend.

Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 60 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 175 miles.

Tuesday morning, First Alert Meteorologist Chris Zelman answered questions about the forecast for Irma at the time.

While the forecast for how the storm will impact South Georgia is still up in the air, there are things you can do now to get your family prepared.

As of Tuesday afternoon, South Georgia is looking toward around a 5 percent chance for Tropical Storm - force winds early next week.

Authorities warned that the storm could dump up to 10 inches (25 centimeters) of rain, cause landslides and flash floods and generate waves of up to 23 feet (7 meters) for islands in the Atlantic. Government officials have begun evacuations of some islands. Portions of South Florida may begin evacuations Wednesday morning.

Irma had maximum sustained winds of 185 mph (295 kph) in late afternoon as it approached the Caribbean from the east, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.

Four other storms have had winds that strong in the overall Atlantic region but they were in the Caribbean Sea or the Gulf of Mexico, which are usually home to warmer waters that fuel cyclones. Hurricane Allen hit 190 mph in 1980, while 2005's Wilma, 1988's Gilbert and a 1935 great Florida Key storm all had 185 mph winds.

Irma is the most powerful hurricane to have formed outside of the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico since record keeping began, NOAA says.

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello warned that all decisions taken in the next couple of hours would make a difference between life and death.

States of emergency were declared in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and all of Florida.

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