Hurricane Irma is driving toward Florida passing the eastern end of Cuba as Hurricane Katia (L) is also seen in this NASA GOES satellite image taken at 1pm ET


Key Points

The Category 5 storm, had maximum sustained wind speeds of 185mph on Thursday, according to the US National Hurricane Centre.

It was downgraded to a Category 4 with 150mph winds on Friday but remains “extremely dangerous.”

The storm, of “nuclear” ferocity, has churned along a path through the Lesser Antilles and Puerto Rico, and towards the Dominican RepublicHaiti and Cuba. Residents of Florida are preparing for a potential hit over the weekend. Irma’s eye passed directly over the island of Barbuda, meaning its inhabitants were twice subjected to the fastest winds.

Live Updates

The Antigua and Barbuda Met Office has warned that Jose, the category four hurricane that is following in the wake of Irma – could make its presence felt in the northern Leeward Islands as early as midnight local time. That is in five hours time.

Hundreds of police reinforcements and rescue teams have started arriving on St Martin, an island divided between France and the Netherlands, amid reports of possible looting and shortages of drinking water, food and fuel, AFP reports.

Hurricane Irma’s predicted path continues to inch west as the massive storm, still armed with 155 mph winds, approaches Florida.

The National Hurricane Center’s latest track brings the Category 4 hurricane into southwest Florida, up the state a tad west of the center region, and further east than earlier forecasts.

However, the margin of error is still large enough that the entire state may get Irma’s powerful core.

Researchers have calculated that Friday has had the most hurricane activity in the history of the Atlantic region. 

Scientists use a measurement called Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) to give a good snapshot of hurricane activity because it combines storms’ wind speeds and how long they spin at such speeds.

With Irma and Jose Category 4 storms and Katia knocking on the door Category 3, Colorado State University hurricane expert Phil Klotzbach calculated that the entire day — based on universal time — Friday had an ACE of 16. That beat out the region’s record of 14.3 set on Sept. 11, 1961. Thursday now ranks third for ACE with 14.2 and Wednesday ranks fourth at 14.1.

“I can’t keep up with all the records,” says Mr Klotzbach, who keeps numerous hurricane records.

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Even Virginia has declared a state of emergency in preparation for Irma.
The office of governor Terry McAuliffe said while the track of the hurricane was still uncertain it’s likely Virginia will see ‘significant’ impacts as a result of the storm