Category 3 hurricane Irma, forecast to become category 4 east of Leeward Islands

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Irma has strengthened into a Category 3 hurricane and is forecast to become a Category 4 east of the Leeward Islands.

At present Irma poses no immediate threat, however given its potential to strengthen and impact the Caribbean, countries are urged to monitor the progress of this system.

At 5 p.m., the center of Hurricane Irma was located near latitude 17.3 North, longitude 34.8 West.  Irma is moving toward the west-northwest near 12 mph (19 km/h).  This motion is expected to continue today, followed by a westward turn on Saturday, and a west-southwestward motion by Sunday.

Maximum sustained winds have increased to near 115 mph (185 km/h) with higher gusts.  Irma is a category 3 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.  Fluctuations in strength, both up and down, are possible, but Irma is expected to remain a powerful hurricane for several days.

Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 15 miles (30 km) from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 80 miles (130 km).

The estimated minimum central pressure is 967 mb (28.56 inches).

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