The most powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricane in recorded history is boring down on the islands of the northeast Caribbean today, following a path predicted to then rake Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba before possibly heading for Florida over the weekend.
At the far northeastern edge of the Caribbean, authorities on the Leeward Islands of Antigua and Barbuda cut power and urged residents to shelter indoors as they braced for Hurricane Irma’s first contact with land early Wednesday. Officials warned people to seek protection from Irma’s “onslaught” in a statement that closed with: “May God protect us all.”
The Category 5 storm had maximum sustained winds of 185 mph (295 kph), according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami. Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said his government was evacuating the six islands in the south because authorities would not be able to help anyone caught in the “potentially catastrophic” wind, flooding and storm surge. People there would be flown to Nassau starting Wednesday in what he called the largest storm evacuation in the country’s history. U.S. President Donald Trump declared emergencies in Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and authorities in the Bahamas said they would evacuate the residents of six islands at the southern end of the island chain.