CHARLOTTE AMALIE — Hurricane Irma is expected to strengthen into a massive Category 5 storm before it passes near the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
Irma was 538 miles east of St. Croix at 7 a.m. today. Hurricane force winds extend out 45 miles from its center of circulation and tropical storm force winds extend out 140 miles.
Unless the storm wobbles south, The Weather Channel projected it to be a direct hit first on Antigua-Barbuda and then on St. Martin-Sint Maarten.
Sint Maarten was decimated by Hurricane Luis on Sept. 4, 1995 when that Category 4 storm wiped out its cruise ship dock, caused widespread looting and wrecked its infrastructure.
Gov. Kenneth Mapp said a state of emergency went into effect at 12 a.m. today and that he has activated the Virgin Islands National Guard (VING).
A hurricane warning is in effect for the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico today meaning that Irma is expected to be closest to St. Thomas, St. John, St. Croix, Water Island, Puerto Rico, Culebra and Vieques within 48 hours.
Hurricane warnings have also been issued for the northern Leeward Islands including Antigua, Barbuda, Anguilla, Montserrat, St. Kitts, Nevis, Saba, St. Eustatius, Sint Maarten, St. Martin and St. Barthelemy.
Additionally, both a hurricane watch and a tropical storm warning have been issued for Guadeloupe, and a tropical storm warning is in effect for Dominica.
Low wind shear, increased mid-level moisture and ample oceanic-heat content favor that Irma will remain a powerful hurricane (Category 3 or stronger) for the next several days, though some intensity fluctuations are likely at times.
St. Croix is located at 17.7 N latitude and 64.8 W longitude.
Potential Impact Timing
- Leeward Islands: Late Today-Wednesday; tropical storm-force winds will arrive later today.
- Virgin Islands/Puerto Rico: Wednesday- early Thursday
- Dominican Republic/Haiti: Thursday- early Friday
- Turks and Caicos: Late Thursday-Friday
- Bahamas: Friday-this weekend
- Cuba: Friday-this weekend
- Southeast United States: This weekend into early next week, beginning in south Florida Saturday
2017 VIRGIN ISLANDS FREE PRESS STORM TRACKER: HURRICANE IRMA SEPTEMBER 5