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The Atlantic's most powerful hurricane slams the Caribbean

A geocolor image of Hurricane Irma, captured by GOES-16 and released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Sept. 5, 2017 (NOAA via AP)

Early Wednesday morning Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 storm, made landfall in the Caribbean, first slamming into Antigua and Barbuda before moving over St. Martin, Anguilla and parts of the British Virgin Islands. It's now barreling toward Puerto Rico, and is expect to hit just north of the island Wednesday afternoon. Irma's heavy rain and strong winds, which have reached a sustained maximum of 185 mph, have made it the most powerful storm ever recorded in the Atlantic.

Irma's trajectory: The storm, which the National Hurricane Center has declared "potentially catastrophic," is expected to hit Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Turks and Caicos, and Cuba before reaching Florida and the Southeast U.S. this weekend, at which point it's expected to weaken to a Category 4 hurricane.

Meanwhile, two other storms are also building momentum in the Atlantic. Tropical Storm Jose is expected to become a hurricane by Wednesday night, and Tropical Storm Katia is strengthening in the Gulf of Mexico.

President Trump on Twitter Wednesday morning: "Watching Hurricane closely. My team, which has done, and is doing, such a good job in Texas, is already in Florida. No rest for the weary! ... Hurricane looks like largest ever recorded in the Atlantic!"

Mandatory evacuations have already begun in parts of southern Florida, including in the Keys, where 25,000 people have already left, according to Florida Gov. Rick Scott. Scott also said he deployed 1,000 National Guard members in preparation for the storm, and 7,000 more will be activated on Friday. President Trump has also approved disaster declarations for Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, all of which are at risk of being hit head on.

Live updates:

  • An electric company in Puerto Rico warned that the island could be without power for four to six months, per the Miami Herald. The government also said it's prepared to open 456 shelters that can house 62,000 people.
  • In the U.S. Virgin Islands, Gov. Kenneth E. Mapp ordered a 36-hour curfew beginning Wednesday at 6 a.m. local time.
  • Emergency evacuations have been ordered for six southern islands in the Bahamas. Prime Minister Hubert Minnis called it "the largest such evacuation in the history of the country."
  • Florida Gov. Rick Scott urged residents Wednesday not to focus on the exact path of the storm. "A storm of this size could have effects statewide and everyone must be prepared."
  • South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster has declared a state of emergency to prepare for the storm.
  • Note: Hurricane Harvey, at its strongest, was a Category 4 hurricane. Irma is even stronger at a Category 5.

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