Irma strengthens to a Category 4 hurricane; parts of Florida now in forecast path

Hurricane Irma, which was upgraded to Category 4 status at 5 p.m. ET on Monday, continues to move to the west in the Atlantic Ocean and could approach the Florida coastline by Saturday or Sunday. 

Also during the 5 p.m. forecast update from the National Hurricane Center, parts of Southeast Florida, including the Miami area, are within the hurricane's projected five-day path.

In the National Hurricane Center's 5 p.m. update, the center of Irma is now expected to pass over or just to the north of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic this week. By early Saturday, Irma is expected to be threatening the Bahamas and Cuba. 

Whether it strikes Florida, or anywhere else in the United States, is a big question.

"There is an increasing chance of seeing some impacts from Irma in the Florida Peninsula and the Florida Keys later this week and this weekend," National Hurricane Center meteorologist Daniel Brown said. "it is still too early to determine what direct impacts Irma might have on the continental United States. However, everyone in hurricane-prone areas should ensure that they have their hurricane plan in place, as we are now near the peak of the season."

Although social media has been abuzz with various forecasts, the National Hurricane Center projects that Irma will fluctuate between Category 3 and Category 4 status between now and Saturday. 

The Hurricane Center also issued a hurricane warning for parts of the US and British Virgin Islands. A hurricane watch has been issued for Puerto Rico. The hurricane could come close to striking Puerto Rico late Wednesday. 

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