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Hurricane Irma could make the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season a historic one. The storm is currently barreling toward Florida as a Category 5 hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 185 mph. Over the next 12 to 24 hours, the Leeward Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are likely to bear the brunt of the storm. And the U.S. mainland is in its path.
The National Hurricane Center’s five-day outlook forecasts that on Sunday afternoon, Irma will be just south of the Florida Keys as a powerful Category 4 hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of about 140 mph. Such a storm could come ashore in the state with heavy rain and a potentially devastating storm surge.
The error cone exists not out of an abundance of caution by a government agency but because of real mathematical uncertainty about where the storm will go. A track that takes Irma east or west of the Florida Peninsula — and anywhere in between — is still possible.
For now, people in the southeastern U.S. need to keep an eye on Irma. And people in southern Florida should start preparing for a possible impact. Key West has already ordered a mandatory evacuation of residents starting Wednesday night.