Irma is downgraded to Category 4.
Irma is among the strongest hurricanes ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean and one of the five most forceful storms to hit the Atlantic basin in 82 years, according to the National Hurricane Center.
At 5 a.m. Eastern, the center downgraded the hurricane to Category 4, based on the lower intensity of sustained winds. But the center warned that the tempest remained “extremely dangerous,” with potentially deadly storm surges across a wide section of the United States.
The hurricane’s eye continued to move west, away from the Turks and Caicos Islands and toward the southeastern Bahamas on Friday morning.
“The core of the hurricane will then move between the north coast of Cuba and the Bahamas during the next day or two,” the hurricane center said, “and be near the Florida Keys and the southern Florida Peninsula Sunday morning.”
Large and destructive waves were expected along the hurricane’s path: storm surges as high as 15 to 20 feet in the Turks and Caicos, and in the southeastern and central Bahamas; five to 10 feet on the northern coast of Cuba and the northwestern Bahamas; and one to three feet on the northern coast of Haiti.