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Hurricane Irma turns westward with 120-mph winds

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NASA-NOAA’s Suomi NPP satellite captured a night-time image of Hurricane Irma in the Atlantic Ocean that showed a tight circulation. Photo: NASA/NOAA/UWM-CIMSS, William Straka III

By Caribbean News Now contributor

MIAMI, USA — Hurricane Irma maintained its category 3 status on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale on Friday and is forecast to remain a powerful hurricane for days, as it turned westwards as expected.

According to the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami, at 5:00 pm EDT on Friday the centre of Irma was located about 1,495 miles (2,405 km) east of the Leeward Islands, moving toward the west near 13 mph (20 km/h). A turn toward the west-southwest is expected on Saturday. Maximum sustained winds are near 120 mph (195 km/h) with higher gusts.

Fluctuations in strength, up or down, are possible during the next few days, but Irma is expected to remain a powerful hurricane through the weekend. Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 25 miles (35 km) from the centre and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 105 miles (165 km).

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Tropical weather outlook. NHC graphic

Meanwhile, a tropical wave located over the far eastern Atlantic Ocean off the west coast of Africa is producing disorganized cloudiness and showers. Environmental conditions are expected to be conducive for development, and this system could become a tropical depression after the weekend while it moves westward at 15 mph over the tropical Atlantic.

The chance of a tropical cyclone forming within the next five days is estimated to be medium (60 percent).