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article imageIrma to pass just North of Puerto Rico on its way to Florida

By Karen Graham     Sep 6, 2017 in Environment
Hurricane Irma smashed small northern Caribbean islands Wednesday morning as one of the strongest storms recorded in the Atlantic, as its path moves it closer to the British Virgin Islands and northern Puerto Rico later today.
Irma's core, with maximum, sustained winds of 185 mph, well above the 157 mph threshold of a Category 5, slammed Barbuda early Wednesday before hitting St. Martin and Anguilla, reports CNN. Early reports indicate major damage has been done.
Barbuda is "so badly damaged that there is no communication" from the island, said Keithley Meade, director of a meteorological office in Antigua and Barbuda. Barbuda is home to about 1,600 people. "We have a lot of broken trees across the island," Meade said from Antigua, whose 80,000 people comprise most of the two-island nation's population.
The latest forecast update as of 11:00 a.m.
The National Hurricane Center is reporting that Irma, a catastrophic category 5 hurricane, will bring life threatening wind, storm surge, and rainfall hazards to parts of the northern Leeward Islands, including the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico today.
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Irma's center or eye is expected to pass near or just north of Puerto Rico on Wednesday afternoon or night. At 11:00 a.m., Irma was about 65 miles (110 kilometers) east-southeast of St. Thomas, and 140 miles (225 kilometers) east of San Juan, Puerto Rico, moving west-northwest at 16 mph (26 kph). The storm has a minimum central pressure of 918 MB...27.11 inches.
The government of France has discontinued all warnings for Guadeloupe, and the government of Antigua has discontinued all warnings for Antigua, Barbuda, St. Kitts, Nevis, and Montserrat.
In an interview with FEMA Administrator Brock Long on AMHQ this morning with Jim Cantore and Stephanie Abrams, Long discussed what FEMA is doing in regards to Hurricane Irma. “Very similar to the way we handled Harvey, when it comes to the life safety mission we’re trying to lean as far forward as we can, so we’re operating out of our Caribbean office, we have incident management teams already in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, as well as we’ve fully deployed staff to the state of Florida to begin understanding contingencies and life safety movement that we have to take.”
Long also addresses what people need to know now to find FEMA ahead of Irma hitting the US: “We’re trying to push a lot of our access to digital platforms, so 1. Download the FEMA app, 2. Should individual assistance be turned on by the President of the United States at the Governor’s request, go to disasterassistance.gov. So what we’re trying to do is push a lot of people to be able to digitally register rather than going through a phone call. We also have 1-800-621-FEMA.”
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Puerto Rico very vulnerable right now
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló declared a state of emergency and has activated the National Guard. Storm surge is expected to be up to five feet, along with damaging winds and rainfall of up to 15 inches in parts of the U.S. Territory.
In August, the director of Puerto Rico's power utility, Ricardo Ramos Rodríguez, said a number of issues have made the island's electric system "vulnerable and fragile," CNN affiliate WAPA reported.
There is the very real danger that the hurricane could knock out power lines, it could take weeks or even months before power can be restored. This is partly because many power company employees have recently retired which many others have left their jobs for better prospects on the U.S. mainland.
More about Hurricane Irma, Puerto rico, Florida, Track, category 5
 
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