Hurricane Irma strengthened to 120 mph sustained winds by Monday morning and became a Category 4 storm hours later.
The storm is expected to continue to strengthen this week as it heads toward the Caribbean. But it’s unclear how the East Coast could be affected.
There’s an increasing chance that Irma will impact Florida, along with islands in the Caribbean, later this week and this weekend, according to the National Hurricane Center. Rough surf and dangerous ocean conditions will begin to affect the southeastern U.S. coast by later this week, but it’s still too early to tell what direct impacts Irma might have on the continental U.S.
“Everyone in hurricane-prone areas should ensure they have their hurricane plan in place, as we are now near the peak of the season,” the National Hurricane Center reported.
There’s much concern over the path Irma will take because experts anticipated the hurricane reaching 4 or 5 status. Hurricanes of that magnitude cause catastrophic damage, with sustained winds of 130 mph to more than 157 mph.
The National Hurricane Center said that Irma had become a Category 4 storm as of about 4:45 p.m. Monday.
Forecast tracks on Monday morning showed the storm taking a path slightly more south and west than previously reported.
Meteorologists predicted that, if the storm were to reach North Carolina, it would do so early next week.