Hurricane Irma has grown into the most powerful seen in the Atlantic in more than a decade, roaring toward islands in the northeast Caribbean Tuesday on a path that could eventually take it to the United States, per the AP. The US National Hurricane Center said the Category 5 Irma was a "potentially catastrophic" storm with winds of 185mph as it bore down on the twin-island nation of Antigua and Barbuda. That makes it the most powerful Atlantic hurricane ever recorded outside the Gulf of Mexico or the Caribbean, notes the Miami Herald. It is also the strongest Atlantic hurricane since Rita in 2005, officials said. Evacuations along the coast in Florida's Miami-Dade County could begin as early as Wednesday, per the Herald.
The hurricane center said there was a growing possibility that the storm's effects could be felt in Florida later this week and over the weekend, though it was still too early to be sure of its future track. If it stays on track and reaches the Florida Straits, the water there is warm enough that the already "intense" storm could become much worse with wind speeds potentially reaching 225mph, warned Kerry Emanuel, an MIT meteorology professor. "People who are living there (the Florida Keys) or have property there are very scared, and they should be," Emanuel said.