Irma swells to Category 4, moves toward Caribbean

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN/AP) — Hurricane Irma continues to move west with winds up to 140 mph after it was upgraded by weather officials to a Category 4 hurricane Monday afternoon.

The latest track, issued at 11 p.m. Monday from the National Hurricane Center, indicates the storm could affect several Caribbean islands by Tuesday night and into Wednesday, then be near the Florida keys by Saturday night.

Irma has maximum sustained winds of 140 mph and is moving west at 13 mph. The storm has been churning westward and that motion, with a slight turn to the west northwest, is expected on Tuesday.  At this pace, the center of Irma will be close to Anguilla by 8 a.m. Wednesday.

Hurricane warnings have been now posted for Puerto Rico, Vieques, Culebra,  and the U.S. and British Virgin Islands.  Hurricane warnings continue in effect for Antigua, Barbuda, Anguilla, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saba, St. Eustatius, Sint Maarten, St. Martin and Saint Barthelemy.

Up to 10 inches of rain and storm surge of 6 to 9 feet are possible in the warning area.

The National Hurricane Center said Irma’s hurricane-force winds extend 40 miles from the storm’s the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend out up to 140 miles.

A Hurricane Watches remains in effect for Guadeloupe.

Interests in South Florida should especially pay attention as Irma nears later this week and into the weekend. It is still too early to determine what impacts Irma might have on North Carolina. Irma will have to be watched carefully this week to see how it will affect the East Coast of the United States.

Forecasters are watching the storm closely, with more flights through the storm, to collect data, to be carried out on Tuesday.

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