Category 5 Hurricane Irma nears Antigua

Category 5 Hurricane Irma nears Antigua”

She said EPA officials in New Jersey were on standby to fly down after the hurricane passed through. Residents said over local radio that phone lines went down.

The Category 5 storm had maximum sustained winds of 185 miles per hour (295 kph), according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.

Hurricane Irma, a powerful Category 5 storm, plowed toward the Caribbean and the southern United States on Tuesday with residents in its path braced for possible life-threatening winds, storm surges and flooding.

"On the forecast track, the extremely unsafe core of Irma will move over portions of the northern Virgin Islands today, pass near or just north of Puerto Rico this afternoon or tonight, and pass near or just north of the coast of the Dominican Republic Thursday", the NHC said.

"I expect the same from this storm", he said.

Many homes in Antigua and Barbuda are not built on concrete foundations or have poorly constructed wooden roofs that are susceptible to wind damage.

In addition to the Leeward Islands Tuesday night and early Wednesday, hurricane conditions were expected to begin in the British and U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico on Wednesday.

Warm water is fuel for hurricanes and Irma was moving over water that was 1.8 degrees (1 degree Celsius) warmer than normal.

Irma's wind speeds make it the strongest hurricane in the Atlantic basin, outside the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea, in the NHC's recorded history, the center said.

The storm's eye was expected to pass about 50 miles from Puerto Rico late Wednesday. Hurricane-force winds extended outward up to 50 miles (85 kilometers) from Irma's center and tropical storm-force winds extended outward up to 175 miles (280 kilometers).

Another concern was the 20 Superfund sites in Puerto Rico and the three in the U.S. Virgin islands, given that most were near the coast, she said. "It's not time to get on a surfboard".

Authorities in the Florida Keys ordered a mandatory evacuation of visitors to start at sunrise on Wednesday.

"The price you may pay for not evacuating is your life or serious physical harm", Minnis said.

State maintenance worker Juan Tosado said he was without power for three months after Hurricane Hugo killed dozens of people in Puerto Rico in 1989. "A lot of infrastructure won't be able to withstand this kind of force".

Puerto Rico's public power company has cut back on staff and maintenance amid a decade-long economic crisis and the agency's director warned that some areas could be without power from four to six months because the infrastructure has already deteriorated so badly. The utility's infrastructure has deteriorated greatly during a decade-long recession, and Puerto Ricans experienced an island-wide outage previous year.

Government officials began evacuations and urged people to finalize all preparations as store shelves emptied out around Puerto Rico. "Hurricane Irma is a risky storm and its projected path could put SC in harm's way".

Florida Governor Rick Scott said on Twitter late Monday he had spoken to U.S. President Donald Trump, who "offered the full resources of the federal government as Floridians prepare for Hurricane Irma".

"The chance of direct impacts from Irma beginning later this week and this weekend from wind, storm surge, and rainfall continues to increase in the Florida Keys and portions of the Florida Peninsula".

The storm seemed nearly certain to hit the United States by early next week.

"This could easily be the most costly storm in USA history, which is saying a lot considering what just happened two weeks ago", said Brian McNoldy, a hurricane researcher at the University of Miami. "Preparations should be rushed to completion in the hurricane warning area."Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rossello, who has declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard, urged the economically struggling US territory's 3.4 million residents to prepare for the potentially devastating storm".

"People who are living there (the Florida Keys) or have property there are very scared, and they should be", Emanuel said.

Mayor Carlos Gimenez said the voluntary evacuations could beg as soon as Wednesday evening.

Another storm, tropical storm Jose, is also forming over the open Atlantic behind Irma.

By early Wednesday afternoon the center of the storm was 20 miles (35 kilometers) east-southeast of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands and 90 miles (150 kilometers) east of San Juan, Puerto Rico and heading west-northwest at 16 mph (26 kph).

A tropical depression in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico could become a hurricane by the end of the week.

Associated Press writer Anita Kentish reported this story in Antigua and AP writer Danica Coto reported from San Juan, Puerto Rico.

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