South Florida threat gradually increasing as Irma track dips south

Hurricane Irma remained a strong Category 3 story early Monday, with winds of 115 mph, as hurricane watches were posted for Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla, Monserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Martin, Guadeloupe and the British Virgin Islands.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said islands farther north, including the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, should monitor the progress of the storm and be prepared for Irma possibly to head their direction.

Long-range forecasts indicated Irma likely would curve to the northwest beginning late Monday and skirt to the north of the islands in the eastern Caribbean on a path that could potentially take it to the U.S. East Coast, but it was too early to make a definitive prediction.

The U.S. hurricane center said some strengthening was expected through Tuesday night. The storm was centered about 625 miles (1,010 kilometers) east of the Leeward Islands and moving west-southwest at 14 mph (22 kph). Hurricanes force winds extend outward up to 30 miles from the center, and tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 140 miles.

Puerto Rico’s governor, Ricard Rossello, said government agencies in the U.S. territory were prepared to deal with any emergencies caused by the storm.

“We have established protocols for the safety of all,” he said at a news conference, while he also urged islanders to take precautions.

In the Dominican Republic, Public Works Minister Gonzalo Castillo said workers there were clearing away road works and also cleaning out blockages of sewer drains. He said President Danilo Medina would hold a meeting with emergencies agencies Monday to discuss storm preparations.

This report contains information from the Associated Press