Hurricane Irma Strengthens to Category 5, Most Powerful Ever in Atlantic

(AP)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) – Hurricane Irma is the most powerful storm ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center says the Category 5 storm has winds of up to 185 mph as it approaches the Leeward Islands of the northeast Caribbean.

Four other storms have had winds that strong in the overall Atlantic region, but they have been in the Caribbean Sea of the Gulf of Mexico where the usually warmer waters fuel tropical cyclones.

Hurricane Allen hit 190 mph in 1980, while 2005’s Wilma, 1988’s Gilbert and a 1935 great Florida Key storm all had 185 mph winds.

Experts say Irma’s strength is a result of unusually warm water for that part of the Atlantic.

Officials in the Florida Keys area are already warning residents and visitors to prepare for evacuation.

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