11 p.m. UPDATE: Hurricane Irma continues to head west with 110 mph winds. The National Hurricane Center places the storm about 1,030 miles east of the Leeward Islands.
5 p.m. UPDATE: Hurricane Irma steamed stubbornly westward as a strong Category 2 hurricane Wednesday about 1,135 miles east of the Leeward Islands, leaving many in Florida trying to enjoy a holiday weekend while taking nervous glances at the elephant on the forecast map.
“At this point we’re telling people enjoy your Labor Day Weekend,” said Andrew Hagen, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Miami. “But at some point, parts of the East Coast are going to need to monitor it closely.”
As of 5 p.m. Saturday, top winds were near 110 mph as it moved west at 15 mph.
Its is still expected to strengthen to a Category 3 or 4 storm by Wednesday with its projected track bending north, forecasters said.
A big question is what lies beyond its five-day cone — a gradual sweeping right turn into the Atlantic Ocean or an uncomfortable route toward the U.S. coastline.
“It’s too early to know,” Hagen said.
Hurricane Irma has weakened slightly to a Category 2 storm, but remains powerful and dangerous as it moves westward in the Atlantic Ocean, the National Hurricane Center reports.
The storm has sustained winds of 100 mph as of 11 a.m. Saturday, making it slightly less powerful than the Category 3 winds reported Thursday. Irma is expected to be a major hurricane as it edges closer to the Lesser Antilles early next week, the center reports.
The storm is moving west at 15 mph.
It’s too early to tell whether Hurricane Irma will affect the Bahamas or the continental United States, the hurricane center reports.
“Regardless, everyone in hurricane-prone areas should ensure that they have their hurricane plan in place, as we are now near the peak of the season,” the center writes.