A hurricane hunter plane from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association was scheduled to depart from the Bahamas late Sunday afternoon to explore Category 3 Hurricane Irma, which was making its way through the central Atlantic.
The Cayman Islands National Weather Service reported that Hurricane Irma poses no immediate threat to the Cayman Islands.
A strong high pressure ridge over the central Atlantic was steering Irma west-southwestward at 15 mph. Maximum wind speed was recorded at 115 miles per hour. According to the National Hurricane Center, Irma is forecast to turn west, then west-northwest by Wednesday, with gradual strengthening expected during the next two to three days.
“Irma is expected to be a major hurricane when it moves near or over the northeastern Leeward Islands by the middle of this week and could cause dangerous wind, storm surge, and rainfall impacts, along with rough surf and rip currents on some islands,” the National Hurricane Center reported Sunday.
Hurricane and tropical storm watches were likely be issued for some of these islands later Sunday, the center stated.
Meteorologists with NOAA said they were expecting additional information from the plane on the storm’s intensity by Sunday evening. A major hurricane is defined as a storm with wind speeds of more than 110 miles per hour.
Meteorologists predicted that direct impacts from Irma were possible in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico later this week, and tropical storm or hurricane watches could be issued for these islands by Monday.
The possibility of direct impacts from Irma in Hispaniola, the Turks and Caicos and the Bahamas later this week was also increasing.
Forecasters said Sunday that it was too early to determine what direct impacts Irma might have on the continental United States.
Meanwhile, meteorologists are also monitoring a tropical wave several hundred miles southwest of the Cape Verde Islands, which is producing an area of disorganized showers and thunderstorms.
“Environmental conditions are conducive for gradual development during the next few days, and a tropical depression could form by the end of the week while the system moves westward to west-northwestward at about 10 mph over the tropical Atlantic Ocean,” the National Hurricane Center reported Sunday.