Forecasters eye potentially powerful Hurricane Irma

By: Faith Eherts, Accuweather

While the Gulf Coast continues to deal with the devastating impacts of Harvey, emergency managers in the United States have another tropical threat to monitor by the name of Irma.

Far across the Atlantic, just west of the Cabo Verde Islands, Irma has strengthened into a Category 2 hurricane as of Thursday midday. Irma became a tropical storm at midday on Wednesday.

"There is the potential for Irma to ramp up to a powerful hurricane in the coming days," according to AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski.

"Irma is likely to become a major hurricane well before it reaches the Lesser Anteilles," Kottlowski said.

Irma will take about a week for the system to make its trek westward across the Atlantic Ocean. Meteorologists will likely be tracking this storm through the middle of September.

"All interests in the eastern Caribbean will need to monitor the progress of this evolving and likely dangerous tropical cyclone," Kottlowski said.

"It is way too soon to say with certainty where and if this system will impact the U.S."

During this time, plenty of atmospheric factors will come into play to determine its path.

Possibilities range from a landfall on the Leeward Islands in the northeastern Caribbean to the Carolinas and the island nation of Bermuda - and everything in between.

“Steering winds will guide Irma close to the Leeward Islands and then perhaps Puerto Rico and Hispaniola around the middle of next week,” according to AccuWeather Meteorologist Brian Thompson.

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Deadliest hurricanes in US history
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Deadliest hurricanes in US history

Galveston Hurricane, 1900

The Category 4 storm, which made landfall in Galveston, Texas, ranks as the deadliest weather disaster in U.S. history. It killed at least 8,000 people, according to the National Weather Service. The storm also flattened thousands of buildings in the coastal city of Galveston, leaving many people homeless. The city was flooded by a storm surge more than 15 feet (4.6 meters) tall.

In this photo: Men use ropes to pull away the debris of houses in order to look for bodies after the Galveston Hurricane of 1900.

Photo by Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

Okeechobee Hurricane, 1928

The Category 4 storm made landfall in Palm Beach County, Florida. An estimated 2,500 people died, but the figure could be as high as 3,000, according to the National Weather Service. The south shore of Lake Okeechobee was hit by severe flooding as a surge of water topped dikes in the area.

Photo by Planet News Archive/SSPL/Getty Images

Hurricane Katrina, 2005

The hurricane made a direct hit on New Orleans as a Category 3 storm, causing levees and flood walls to fail in dozens of places. Most of New Orleans was flooded, and some people who were stranded in their homes climbed to the roofs to await rescue. About 1,200 people died, according to the National Weather Service. Most victims were in Louisiana, but neighbouring Mississippi also was hard hit. Katrina caused an estimated $108 billion in damage, making it the costliest hurricane ever to strike the United States.

In this photo: Christian Schloegel stands amidst the rubble of his grandmothers home destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in Gulfport, Mississippi, on August 30, 2005.

Photo by Oscar Sosa/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Great New England Hurricane, 1938

The Category 3 storm made landfall in Long Island and Connecticut. It caused about 600 deaths, including off-shore fatalities, according to the National Weather Service. Parts of Massachusetts experienced wind gusts up to 186 miles per hour (299 km/h).

In this photo: Men search for bodies in the wreckage caused by the Great New England Hurricane.

Photo by Seelig/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

Hurricane Audrey, 1957

The Category 4 hurricane struck near the Texas-Louisiana border, unleashing storm surges that reached up to 25 miles (40 km) inland in the low-lying areas, according to the National Weather Service. It killed more than 400 people.

In this photo: Wreckage shows the aftermath of Hurricane Audrey, Louisiana.

Photo by Shel Hershorn/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Florida Keys Labor Day Hurricane, 1935

The storm ripped through the Florida Keys as a Category 5 storm. It then moved north just off the western coast of Florida before turning inland and making landfall as a Category 2. More than 400 people died.

In this photo: Rescue workers search for more victims of a 100-mile-an-hour hurricane.

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Conditions are favorable for tropical development throughout the central Atlantic, heightening the threat of significant strengthening as this system approaches the U.S.

“At the very least, there will be an increase in surf in the northeastern Caribbean early next week,” Thompson said.

Residents who live along the East Coast or have interests in the Caribbean Sea should take time to review emergency procedures and make sure they are prepared for extreme tropical conditions.

The system being monitored for tropical development near the Carolina coast at midweek has missed its chance at gathering the name Irma. This storm will bring rough seas, heavy rain and strong winds over the North Atlantic into this weekend.

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