Hurricane Irma is headed toward the Leeward Islands and is increasing in strength, the National Hurricane Center announced in a forecast this morning.

The hurricane has moved up to a category five on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, meaning roofs could blow away, walls could collapse and intense flooding could occur.

The hurricane centre reported that as of 11 a.m. Tuesday, maximum sustained winds were recorded at 180 miles per hour.

The hurricane is still moving at 14 miles per hour and is expected to reach the territory within the next 24 hours.

The centre also stated that the Virgin Islands could experience storm surges of seven to 11 feet and a possible 15 inches of rain.
“On the forecast track, the extremely dangerous core of Irma is forecast to move over portions of the northern Leeward Islands tonight and early Wednesday,” the National Hurricane Center said.

Governor Augustus Jaspert and Premier Dr. Orlando Smith released a statement urging residents to take all necessary precautions and evacuate if necessary.

“This could be the strongest hurricane to hit the BVI in recent memory. There should be no complacency,” the statement read.

“We are extremely concerned about the hurricane’s projected path, strength and level of impact. Nonetheless, it is important that we all remain calm so that we make the best decisions for ourselves and families.”

Anegada is expected to experience even stronger hurricane conditions than other islands in the territory, with a possible storm surge of 10 to 14 feet.

Residents have been urged to moved to Tortola or Virgin Gorda and go to a designated emergency shelter. The last ferry was scheduled to leave Anegada at noon for both islands.

Checklist

The following is the hurricane checklist DDM recommends:

-Make sure that you have an emergency kit well stocked with water, non-perishable food items for at least three days, batteries, a battery-operated radio, flashlights, and medication.

-If you are in a location with a high risk of flooding and storm surge, consider staying with family or friends who are located further inland and away from flood prone and landslide prone areas.

-Find out the name and location of the nearest emergency shelter to you. This information is available online or you can contact the Department of Disaster Management directly on 468-4200.

-Remember once hurricane conditions begin it will be unsafe for you to go outdoors. 

-Look out for the elderly and disabled people in your community who may need your help during this critical planning time.

-Bring your pets indoors and make sure you have enough food, water and supplies for them.

-If you are a boat owner, secure your vessel.

-Remain vigilant, stay informed and listen to and heed the instructions from the public service agencies.

-If the house shows signs of breaking up, stay under a table, stand in a sturdy closet or go in an interior room or a space within the building.

-Stay tuned to local radio and television stations, monitor cell providers and the DDM’s Facebook page, BVIDDM, for further updates and alerts.