BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) — Hurricane Irma, with winds of 120 miles per hour (mph) was churning its way towards the Leeward Islands on Tuesday with weather officials predicting that the Category 3 storm would move near or over portions of the northern chain of islands Tuesday night and early Wednesday.
Hurricane warnings have already gone into effect for Antigua, Barbuda, Anguilla, Montserrat, St Kitts-Nevis, Saba, St Eustatius, St Maarten, St Marti, Saint Barthelemy, while a hurricane watch remains in effect for the British Virgin Islands, US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Vieques, and Culebra.
“A turn toward the west is expected later today, followed by a west-north westward turn late Tuesday. On the forecast track, the centre of Irma will move near or over portions of the northern Leeward Islands Tuesday night and early Wednesday.”
The NHC said that maximum sustained winds are near 120 mph with higher gusts and that additional strengthening is forecast through Tuesday night.
It 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 Leeward Islands, within the hurricane warning area near and to the north of the centre of Irma.
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.
“Hurricane conditions are possible within the hurricane watch area by late Wednesday, with tropical storm conditions possible by early Wednesday,” the NHC said, adding that 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.”
Meanwhile, the regional airline, LIAT, said it was cancelling several flights as a result of the storm, naming them as flights from Antigua to St Kitts, St Kitts to St Maarten, St Maarten to Tortola, and Tortola to Antigua, Antigua to St Kitts and from St Kitts to Tortola.