MIAMI – The eye of Hurricane Irma continued late Friday to churn along the north coast of Cuba, where it is expected to remain until Saturday, while Hurricane Jose is approaching the Lesser Antilles, the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) announced.
Irma, currently a category 4 hurricane, maintains sustained maximum winds of 250 kph (155 mph), with stronger gusts, and is expected to remain a “powerful hurricane” when it approaches the Florida peninsula on Sunday morning.
According to the NHC bulletin released at 0000 GMT, Irma is now located some 240 km east of Caibarien in Cuba, and 510 km southeast of Miami, Florida.
Irma currently travels west with a speed of 19 km/h and is expected to turn towards the northwest on Saturday.
The wind intensity of Irma, which reached a force of 295 km/h when it was a category 5, has reduced in the last hours and it is expected to remain like this when it arrives in Florida.
A storm surge warning is maintained from Sebastian’s cove southward around the Florida peninsula and a hurricane warning is in effect for Jupiter’s cove southward around the peninsula to the island of Anna Maria, the Florida Keys, Lake Okeechobee, Florida Bay and the Cuban provinces of Camaguey, Ciego de Avila, Sancti Spiritus and Villa Clara, as well as the Bahamas.
Irma, who left at least 18 people dead when it passed over the Lesser Antilles and Puerto Rico, now moves westward and is generating storm surges that are “a danger of life-threatening inundation, from rising water moving inland from the coastline.” the NHC said.
Despite the slight reduction in its winds, Irma continues to generate a “deadly” combination of storm surge and “large and destructive” waves.
The NHC predicts large amounts of rain accumulating in the affected Caribbean islands and the states of Florida, Georgia and the two Carolinas until Sep. 12.
The north of Cuba and the south of the Bahamas could accumulate rains of 127 to 254 millimeters, with isolated areas of up to 508 millimeters.
In the Florida Keys and southeast Florida rainfall will range between 254 and 381 millimeters.
Hurricane Jose, now also a category 4 with maximum sustained winds of 240 km/h, follows in the wake of Irma and will likely approach the islands of the Lesser Antilles on Saturday, with some fluctuations in its intensity.
Jose is located about 490 km east-southeast of the northern islands of Lesser Antilles and moves west-northwest at 28 km/h.
Pummeled by the passage of Irma, the islands of Barbuda and Anguilla, St. Maarten, St. Martin and St. Barthelemy are again under hurricane warning, while Antigua is under tropical storm warning and hurricane watch.