Last updated: September 5, 2017 at 22:19 pm
The Caribbean is bracing itself for the passage of category 5 Hurricane Irma, as wind speeds have increased to 185mph (295kmph).
This is up from 150mph at the start of 5am AST on Tuesday.
Disturbing reports now show that Irma as gotten so strong it is showing up on equipment designed to measure earthquakes.
Dominica, which overnight had a tropical storm watch in place, has now joined Guadeloupe is being under a tropical storm warning.
This means that tropical storm conditions are expected somewhere within the area during the next 36 hours.
More worrying are the areas under a hurricane warning – a list which this morning has grown to include more than 14 islands.
Antigua, Barbuda, Anguilla, Montserrat, St Kitts and Nevis Saba, St Eustatius, Sint Maarten, St Martin, St Barthelemy, the British Virgin Islands, the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Vieques and Culebra are all preparing for the worst of Irma.
One man, speaking to WIC News from Dominica, said that he was “bracing for a repeat of Erika.”
The hurricane is currently 130 miles (210km) east of Antigua, and 135 miles (220km) east-southeast of Barbuda.
Irma has started moving faster, now travelling west at 15mph (24kmph).
The government of Antigua and Barbuda is considering implementing a curfew during the hurricane’s passage, which is expected to make landfall within several hours.
Hurricane Irma: Tuesday night, Wednesday morning
The latest changes has seen the government of the Dominican Republic issue a hurricane warning along the north coast of the Dominican Republic, from the border with Haiti east to Cabo Engano.
Irma was upgraded to a category 5 hurricane this morning, having gone from a 3 to a 4 yesterday.
According to the National Hurricane Centre (NHC), which is based in Miami, preparations to protect life and property in the islands under a hurricane warning should be rushed to completion.
The NHC said that the storm is “dangerous”.
“The core of Irma will move near or over portions of the northern Leeward Islands tonight and early Wednesday,” the latest advisory from the NHC stated.
The combination of a dangerous storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline.
The northern Leeward Islands can expect up to 12 inches of rainfall in isolated incidents, but four to eight inches can be expected across the region.
“Although the centre of Irma is expected to pass approximately 170 miles to the north of Dominica this evening into early Wednesday, a deterioration in conditions is expected with showers, which could be moderate to heavy at times, thunderstorms and gusty winds up to tropical storm force,” said Viola Pascal, a forecaster at the Dominica Meteorological Service.
“Dangerous seas are expected to affect Dominica up to Wednesday.”
Roosevelt Skerrit, prime minister of Dominica, said yesterday that his government are taking the storm seriously.
St Kitts and Nevis ‘fearing the worse’
Politicians across the political benches in St Kitts and Nevis have released public statements as Hurricane Irma heads to the federation.
Prime Minister Timothy Harris said: “As prime minister and minister with responsibility for national security, I encourage all of our citizens and residents to do all in their power to minimise the impact of Hurricane Irma.”
While former prime minister and current leader of the opposition St Kitts and Nevis Labour Party, Denzil Douglas, said “we must prepare ourselves”.
“Take special care of the elderly, the sick, the women and children in our respective communities. It is our hope that with the help of Almighty God we will be spared but we must ready ourselves. May God protect us with his omnipotent hand.”
Thursday’s sitting of the National Assembly has been cancelled due to the weather, with one source in St Kitts telling WIC News that residents are “fearing the very worse” and that “not really knowing what will happen this week is everyone sad.”
Flights with regional carrier LIAT have been cancelled for a second day in a row.
On Monday, economically struggling Puerto Rico declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard, with Florida doing the same later.
Residents in Texas and Louisiana are still reeling from the catastrophic effects of the Hurricane Harvey, which struck Texas as a category 4 hurricane on 25 August.
The governor of the British Virgin Islands urged people on Anegada to leave if they could – Irma’s eye is expected to pass 35 miles (56km) from the capital of Road Town.
Antigua’s prime minister, Gaston Browne, urged people to take preventative measures in case the storm should hit, including cleaning drains and removing objects that could be sent airborne by high winds.
Yesterday workers began pruning trees and shrubs to reduce chances for branches to tear down power and phone lines.
“The passage of a hurricane is not a matter to be taken lightly, but we must not panic,” Browne said in a statement.