Hurricane Irma Strengthens, Could Be Another Weather Catastrophe

September 1, 2017 Updated: September 1, 2017

Hurricane Irma is rapidly intensifying in the Atlantic Ocean and could pose a major threat to the Caribbean and possibly the United States.

The storm is about five days away from the easternmost Caribbean islands, and it’s at least a week away from potentially hitting the United States, CNN reported.

The hurricane was about 720 miles west of the Cabo Verde islands, packing maximum sustained winds of 115 miles per hour, weather officials said, Reuters reported.

By Thursday afternoon, Aug. 31, Irma had strengthened into a Category 3 hurricane. It was designated a tropical storm just a day earlier, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.

“It’s still closer to Africa than the Caribbean islands,” Dennis Feltgen, a NHC spokesman, told NBC News. “But it’s holding its own and we’re still predicting it will strengthen.””

“We don’t know yet,” Feltgen said of whether the system poses a threat to the United States. “It’s just too far away.”

NHC forecast models were showing it heading for the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and neighboring Haiti with possible landfall by the middle of next week, said Reuters.

It was about 3,000 miles southeast of Miami. “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,” according to the latest Hurricane Center bulletin.

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The storm comes about a week after Hurricane Harvey slammed into southern Texas, which may have damaged or affected at least $23 billion worth of property, Reuters said.

The number represents market value, not storm damage, and is but a small fraction of the storm’s reach, as satellite images of the flooding are incomplete.

(NOAA)
(NOAA)

Volunteer rescuers evacuate people from a flooded residential area during the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey on August 29, 2017 in Houston, Texas. Floodwaters have breached a levee south of the city of Houston, officials said Tuesday, urging residents to leave the area immediately.  (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Volunteer rescuers evacuate people from a flooded residential area during the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey on Aug. 29, 2017, in Houston, Texas. Floodwaters have breached a levee south of the city of Houston, officials said Tuesday, urging residents to leave the area immediately. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

People walk to a Harris County Sheriff air boat while escaping a flooded neighbourhood during the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey on Aug. 29 in Houston, Texas. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
People walk to a Harris County Sheriff air boat while escaping a flooded neighborhood during the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey on Aug. 29 in Houston, Texas. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

Houston Police block Interstate 10 East early Monday morning near the junction with Loop 610 due to high water from Hurricane Harvey August 28, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)
Houston Police block Interstate 10 East early Monday morning near the junction with Loop 610 due to high water from Hurricane Harvey Aug. 28, 2017, in Houston, Texas. (Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)

Reuters contributed to this report.