Leeward Islands brace for Hurricane Irma
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, Sint 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.
The Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC) said that the storm was now 560 miles east of the Leeward Islands and is moving toward the west-southwest near 14 mph.
“A turn toward the west is expected later today, followed by a west-northwestward 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.
“The Miami based National Hurricane Center has advised that Irma is expected to affect the north eastern Leeward Islands as a major hurricane. Islands. In the interest of passenger and crew safety, several flights have been retimed and/or cancelled,” it said, naming them as flights from Antigua to St Kitts, St Kitts to St Maarten, St Maarten to Tortola, ortola to Antigua, Antigua to St Kitts and from St Kitts to Tortola.