Hurricane watches have been issued for Antigua, Barbuda, Anguilla, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis as Hurricane Irma continues to bear down on the Caribbean, and preparations continued in the U.S Virgin Islands with sand bag distribution.
A hurricane watch means that hurricane conditions – sustained winds of 74 mph or higher are possible within the specified area in the next 48 hours.
A NOAA Hurricane Hunter aircraft flew into Hurricane Irma Sunday, recording surface winds close to 100 knots (nautical miles per hour) and conditions that are likely to strengthen the over the next day or two, according to the NHC. Based on center fixes from the Hurricane Hunters, Irma has been moving a little south of west. A strong high pressure ridge over the central Atlantic should steer Irma on a west-southward to westward course over the next couple of days.
The V.I. Department of Public Works has begun distributing sand bags at the following locations from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.:
– St. Croix:
Department of Public Works, Anna’s Hope
Department of Public Works, Frederiksted
Grove Fire Station
Cotton Valley Fire Station
– St. Thomas:
Department of Public Works
Bordeaux Fire Station
Tutu Fire Station
– St. John:
Department of Public Works
According to the National Hurricane Center, Irma is a category 3 storm. It has continued on a westward to west-southwestward path across the Atlantic Ocean, with sustained winds of 115 miles per hour.
Some strengthening is forecast during the next 48 hours.
According to the National Hurricane Center’s 5 p.m. update, the government of Antigua has issued a hurricane watch for the islands of Antigua, Barbuda, Anguilla, Montserrat, St. Kitts, and Nevis. The government of the Netherlands has issued a Hurricane Watch for the islands of Saba, St. Eustatius, and Sint Maarten.
The government of France issued a Hurricane Watch for St. Martin and St. Barthelemy.
“Interests in the remainder of the Leeward Islands, the British and U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico should monitor the progress of Irma,” the NHC cautioned.
As of 5 p.m. Sunday the center of Hurricane Irma was located near latitude 17.6 north, longitude 49.8 West. Irma is moving toward the west near 14 mph. A westward to west-southwestward motion with some reduction in forward speed is expected through Monday night. On the forecast track, the center of Irma is forecast to approach the northern Leeward Islands late Tuesday.
Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 35 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 140 miles.
The National Weather Service at San Juan advised that much of the guidance indicates Irma has turned slightly westward to west-southwestward. Marine conditions will continue to deteriorate by early next week. Seas will be dangerous with waves 30 feet or greater offshore and 15 to 20 feet on the northern coasts of St. Thomas and St. John. As it currently stands, most of the impact is expected to be north of St. Thomas and St. John, causing storm and hurricane conditions throughout the territory, according to the NWS.
VITEMA Director, Mona Barnes is encouraging the community to continue to remain vigilant and to monitor weather reports on Hurricane Irma. In the event the U.S. Virgin Islands is placed under a hurricane watch or warning, she advised the community to be ready, be prepared and be safe.
“Don’t wait for a hurricane watch or warning to prepare. Make a checklist of necessary pre-hurricane preparations and review them with your family. Stock emergency kits with items such as water, medicines, flashlights, radios, food, batteries, cash and copies of your critical information. Your plans should also include family members with access and functional needs, and pets,” Barnes said.
“Stay informed about the weather using credible sources of information. As a territory, we will continue to do our very best to ensure we are prepared to protect the people of the Virgin Islands,” Barnes stated.
Information on how to prepare is online at www.Ready.gov. Those who want up-to-the-moment information can register for instant alerts from the National Weather Service and VITEMA at www.VIAlert.gov.