'Increasing chance' Hurricane Irma could affect Florida, NHC says
There is an "increasing chance" that Florida and the Florida Keys will see "some impacts from" Hurricane Irma -- which is currently a Category 3 storm closing in on the Caribbean -- later this week and over the weekend, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said this morning, adding that it's still too early to determine what direct effects it may have. ABC News meteorologists say at this time the possibilities of where Irma could reach in the U.S. span from Mobile, Alabama, to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, and the forecast cone of uncertainty is now very close to including parts of southern Florida and Miami. The storm is expected to be near the Cuba coast by Saturday. Irma's winds have strengthened to 120 mph as the storm closes in on the Caribbean. National Hurricane Center: "Increasing chance" Florida will see "some impacts from" Hurricane Irma. https://t.co/eYUB7F2YAb pic.twitter.com/tgDGlxysL5-- ABC News (@ABC) September 4, 2017
Rain and winds are expected to move into the northern Leeward Islands, including Antigua and Saint Martin, Tuesday afternoon and evening, with the worst conditions occurring Tuesday night into early Wednesday morning. The Virgins Islands and Puerto Rico are forecast to see deteriorating conditions throughout the day on Wednesday with the worst of the rain and wind arriving Wednesday night. Hurricane warnings -- which are usually issued 36 hours before the anticipated first occurrence of tropical-storm-force winds -- are in effect for Antigua, Barbuda, Anguilla, Montserrat, St. Kitts, Nevis, Saba, St. Eustatius, Sint Maarten, Saint Martin and Saint Barthelemy as of 11 a.m. ET, according to the National Hurricane Center. Hurricane watches -- which typically are issued 48 hours before the anticipated first occurrence of tropical-storm-force winds -- have been issued for the U.S. Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Vieques, Culebra and Guadeloupe. Some Caribbean island were making preparations as the storm approached. In Puerto Rico, a State of Emergency has been declared that activates the National Guard, and Gov. Ricard Rossello said at a news conference Sunday that residents of the U.S. territory should prepare for the storm. Rossello said wind gusts could reach up to 60 mph and waves could reach up to 20 feet. Rossello said the government is preparing 456 shelters on the island, which can house 62,000 people. In Antigua, Prime Minister Gaston Browne recommended taking preventative measures, like cleaning drains, The Associated Press reported Sunday. Workers were also seen pruning trees and shrubs to help keep them from tearing down phone and power lines, the AP said. In a statement, according to the AP, Browne said, while "the passage of a hurricane is not a matter to be taken lightly," he added, "we must not panic." ABC News' Ginger Zee, Max Golembo, Dan Peck and Josh Hoyos contributed to this report. The Associated Press contributed to this report.