Category 5 Hurricane Irma Increases To Record Strength, And Could Take Direct Aim At Florida This Weekend

Early Friday, Hurricane Irma officially reached full-on Category 5 status, and only a few hours later, the storm has grown stronger, both in speed and otherwise. The Washington Post reports that the storm’s currently barrelling away with 186 mph sustained winds and adds that the National Hurricane Center believes that Atlantic conditions are “ideal for some additional intensification.” To illustrate, NOAA satellite PA Officer John Leslie tweeted the above video, which shows that Irma is now the “strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic — outside the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico.”

And Irma’s record-setting feats aren’t limited to the Atlantic. Irma may soon break the 190 mph record for the strongest hurricane ever recorded. The situation is changing rapidly, based upon wind speed and pressure, but here’s a handy graphic, courtesy of Baton Rouge ABC affiliate WRBZ’s Robert Gauthreaux, who illustrated Irma’s jump from 16th to 5th strongest hurricane recorded (and it’s further jumped to 2nd place after this tweet):

Irma’s current path puts the storm over the Leeward Islands late Tuesday with Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands seeing landfall late Wednesday or early Thursday. From there, Irma will likely pass over the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Turk and Caicos, the Bahamas, and Cuba. It’s then projected to make a northerly turn and could very likely strike Florida early Saturday morning (or even late Friday).

The Miami Herald notes that Florida Governor Rick Scott has already deployed 7,000 National Guard members after issuing a state of emergency for the state’s 67 counties. It must be noted, however, that the storm’s path could still change, but it seems more likely than not to strike somewhere in the Sunshine State. In addition, CNN projects that the weekend may bring slower wind speeds for Irma, but their current numbers still place it in the Category 4 range for a U.S. mainland landfall.

We’ll (of course) keep following Hurricane Irma over the coming days and bring updates as they develop.

(Via Washington Post, National Hurricane Center, Miami Herald, Weather Channel & CNN)

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