One of the strongest hurricanes on record is headed towards the U.S.

Hurricane Irma could make landfall in the Caribbean Tuesday night.
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One of the strongest hurricanes on record is barreling toward the Caribbean islands – and may even reach Florida. 

Hurricane Irma is now a Category 5 storm (the highest on the scale that measures hurricanes), with maximum sustained winds of 180 mph.

To put that into perspective, Hurricane Harvey – which devastated parts of Texas and Louisiana in late August – was a Category 4 hurricane with sustained winds of 130 mph when it made landfall in Texas, the Washington Post said

Weather officials are saying Irma could be catastrophic and life-threatening, noting heavy rainfall, strong winds, and 7- to 11-foot storm surges are possible, the National Hurricane Center says

This could cause widespread power outages, make roads and bridges impassable and cause buildings' walls and roofs to fail, including "complete destruction of mobile homes," the National Weather Service notes

Where's Irma headed? 

If Irma stays on track, the "extremely dangerous core" of the hurricane is forecast to move over the northern Leeward Islands Tuesday night and early Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center says

Then it could hit the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico by Wednesday afternoon into Thursday

All of those areas are under a hurricane warning. 

The forecast has Irma then heading towards the Dominican Republic and Haiti (they're under a hurricane watch) Thursday or early Friday.

By this weekend Irma could hit Cuba, the Florida Keys and mainland Florida. This has prompted a mandatory evacuation order for the Florida Keys

The National Hurricane Center says it's too soon to specify the timing and intensity of the storm when it reaches Florida, although officials expect Irma to be a Category 4 or 5 hurricane over the next couple days. 

For the latest on the hurricane, visit the National Hurricane Center's website here

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