Hurricane Irma, with winds of 130 miles per hour (mph) was churning its way towards the Leeward Islands on Monday. Whether officials predicted on Monday evening that the Category 3 storm would move near or over portions of the northern chain of islands on Tuesday night and early Wednesday.
Hurricane warnings have already gone into effect for Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla, Montserrat, St. Kitts-Nevis, Saba, St. Eustatius, Sint Maarten and Saint Barthelemy, while a hurricane watch remains in effect for the British Virgin Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Vieques, and Culebra.
At 7:00 pm on Monday the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said that the storm was 560 miles east of the Leeward Islands and moving toward the west-southwest near 13 mph.
Maximum sustained winds were near 130 mph with higher gusts.
Additional strengthening is forecast through Tuesday night and it is forecast the hurricane could impact the islands with winds of up to 150 mph.
Dangerous storm surge expected
The NHC has also warned that the combination of a dangerous storm surge and large breaking waves will raise water levels by as much as six to nine feet above normal tide levels along the coasts of the extreme northern islands.
The NHC said that near the coast, the surge will be accompanied by large and destructive waves.
The NHC also said that hurricane conditions are expected within the hurricane warning area by Tuesday night, with tropical storm conditions expected by late Tuesday.
Irma is expected to produce total rainfall accumulations of three to six inches across the Leeward Islands, with isolated maximum amounts of 10 inches across the northern Leeward Islands.
“These rainfall amounts may cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides. Swells generated by Irma will affect the northern Leeward Islands during the next several days.”
Flights to be canceled
The regional airline, LIAT, said it was canceling several flights as a result of the storm.
“The Miami based National Hurricane Center has advised that Irma is expected to affect the north eastern Leeward Islands as a major hurricane. In the interest of passenger and crew safety, several flights have been retimed and/or cancelled,” it said, naming flights from Antigua to St. Kitts, St. Kitts to St. St. Maarten, St. Maarten to Tortola, Tortola to Antigua, Antigua to St. Kitts and from St. Kitts to Tortola.