Hurricane Irma began its turn to the west late Friday, according to the National Hurricane Center, and while it’s not clear yet exactly where it’s heading, the U.S. Virgin Islands are right in the middle of the possible storm track.
Irma was about 1,544 miles east of the U.S. Virgin Islands, packing sustained winds as high as 120 mile an hour as of the 5 p.m. Friday update.
The storm completed a cycle of “eye-wall strengthening,” which means it now has a large warm eye and may continue to strengthen, forecasters said.
“During the next few days, water temperatures along the track will warm significantly, but there could be some higher shear, and of course more eye wall replacements,” according to the NHC.
Conditions suggest Irma will begin to turn slight west-southwestward on Saturday and continue through early next
week. When Later on, the storm should reach the southern periphery of the ridge, and begin to move west-northwestward, according to the meteorologists.
Irma was declared a tropical storm on Wednesday, but just 20 hours later, on Thursday, it had already blow up to a Category 3 hurricane.
Hurricane models are unclear yet on its path, with the extremes ranging from curling south into the lower Caribbean and on to the Gulf of Mexico, to a path curling back to the northeast and meandering out to sea.
But the vast majority of the computer models show the storm heading generally west, passing through the windward islands and into the Antilles, with the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico right in the way.
With that in mind, officials have begin issuing warnings to islanders to begin hurricane preparations before the storm comes knocking on the door.
Coast Guard Warns Boaters
Friday, the U.S. Coast Guard cautioned mariners in the USVI and Puerto Rico to be ready for Hurricane Irma, which is expected to arrive in the region late Tuesday.
“Securing vessels prior to landfall of a hurricane is one of the first steps to prepare,” the Coast Guard observed in a Friday news release.
“Mariners should take precautions to ensure their personal safety should a storm or hurricane approach. High seas, heavy rains and damaging winds that often accompany tropical depressions, storms and hurricanes present serious dangers to boaters out on the water. Often times the Coast Guard has to reposition assets or personnel prior to a storm for their safety which can limit response both during and in the immediate aftermath of a major storm. The public is encouraged to follow the same preparations,” the news release said.
“It is also important to remove vessel Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRBs) from the vessel prior to a major storm. These devices often float free from vessels in marinas or at docks during hurricanes and signal a distress when there is none.”
Sen. Dwayne M. DeGraff on Friday reminded V.I. merchants to uphold all applicable Virgin Islands laws and regulations regarding price controls and price gouging during the hurricane season.
With Hurricane Irma possibly heading our way, I’m asking merchants to not take advantage of our residents in these difficult economic times as they prepare for the impending storm,” DeGraff said. “I’m asking residents to report any instances of price gouging they may come across to the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs.”