Mighty Hurricane Irma hits Caribbean islands
ST. JOHN’S, Antigua - Agence France-PresseMonster Hurricane Irma slammed into the island of Barbuda early yesterday as it barreled its way across the Caribbean packing ferocious winds and potential for towering coastal surges.
The eye of the rare Category Five storm made landfall on Barbuda, part of the twin island nation of Antigua and Barbuda, with winds gusting at up to 295 kph, the Miami-based U.S. National Hurricane Center said.
The storm is headed northwest toward the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, with potential for storm surges of up to six meters above normal tide levels, it added.
The NHC said on Sept. 5 that while Irma was in the Atlantic headed for the Caribbean it was the strongest hurricane ever recorded in that ocean.
Ahead of the storm, which comes on the heels of the devastating Hurricane Harvey late last month in Texas, people packed shelters and stocked up on provisions.
As people hunkered down in the north of the Caribbean arc known as the Leeward Islands, the NHC said Irma was a potentially catastrophic storm.
The core of the hurricane was expected to move over other parts of the northern Leeward Islands early yesterday, the NHC said.
Category Five is the highest on the scale for hurricanes in the Atlantic and Caribbean.
Florida expects the greatest danger during the weekend. President Donald Trump declared states of emergency in Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, authorizing federal funding to help local authorities respond.
Florida Governor Rick Scott said Irma posed "a severe threat to the entire state" barely a week after Harvey claimed at least 42 lives.