Hurricane Irma has formed in the eastern Atlantic and forecasters expect the storm to strengthen to a Category 4 hurricane before approaching the Caribbean next week.

As of 4:00 p.m. Thursday, the hurricane — currently a Category 3 storm — was located about 1,780 miles east of the Leeward Islands, moving west-northwest at about 12 miles an hour. Forecasters expect the hurricane to take a westward turn on Saturday followed by a west-southwestward motion on Sunday.

It’s too early to tell whether the storm might pose any threat to Florida or the Gulf Coast. Forecast models show the storm making landfall anywhere between Louisiana and the northeast United States, or shifting north and avoiding land altogether.

Forecasters on Thursday morning said the hurricane’s maximum sustained winds had increased to nearly 115 miles per hours, with higher gusts. Hurricane-force winds currently extend outward up to 15 miles from the storm’s center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 80 miles.

The National Hurricane Center is also monitoring an area of low pressure in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico. Forecasters say there’s a 20 percent chance that a cyclone could form in the area over the next five days.


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