Still reeling from the devastating effects of Hurricane Harvey, the East and Gulf coasts of the U.S. are warily eyeing Irma, which late Monday developed into a Category 4 storm, according to the National Hurricane Center. Forecasters issued hurricane warnings Monday for the Leeward Islands and a hurricane watch for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
Emergency officials in the Caribbean warned that Irma could dump up to 25 centimeters of rain, unleash landslides and flash floods, and generate waves of up to 7 meters as it gets closer. "We're looking at Irma as a very significant event," Ronald Jackson, executive director of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency, said by phone. "I can't recall a tropical cone developing that rapidly into a major hurricane prior to arriving in the central Caribbean.''
It is not clear if Irma will make landfall on the U.S. mainland, but the NHC warned that there was a distinct possibility it would impact the Florida Keys and the Florida Peninsula by the weekend. Meanwhile, Harvey, which caused mass flooding and devastation in Texas and Louisiana, has moved away from the U.S.