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What you need to know about Hurricane Irma

The latest projected track for Hurricane Irma takes it up the eastern edge of Florida.

How strong is Irma?

Irma has maximum sustained winds of 185 miles per hour, which makes it a Category 5, the strongest type of hurricane. The National Hurricane Center says it is a “potentially catastrophic” storm. It is one of the strongest hurricanes ever to move across the Atlantic basin, and it has reached a rare intensity.

Where is Irma?

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On Wednesday morning, tropical paradises were being hammered by the storm. The eye of the storm passed over Barbuda, St. Barthelemy, and St. Martin. The center said the hurricane had “pounded Anguilla.” Authorities in the region were still evaluating the situation Wednesday morning.

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Which way is it going?

At 8 a.m, the eye was moving west-northwest at 16 miles per hour, and it was expected to continue that way for the next couple of days, the center said.

What are its next targets?

The center says the extremely dangerous core of the storm is expected to continue rampaging through scenic islands, moving over the northern Leeward Islands, including the Virgin Islands, passing near or just north of Puerto Rico Wednesday afternoon or night, and passing near or just north of the coast of the Dominican Republic Thursday.

What are the dangers posed by Irma?

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The wind is whipping up the ocean, causing a life-threatening storm surge and flooding, including 7 to 11 feet above ground on the British and US Virgin Islands, if the surge peaks at high tide. High winds can cause damage to trees and buildings and power outages that could persist for weeks. Heavy rain (up to 20 inches in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands) could cause flash floods and mudslides. And massive waves will batter shores on coasts far from the storm causing hazardous surf and rip currents.

When is Irma going to hit the mainland?

Irma could have a direct impact on the Florida Keys and other parts of Florida beginning later this week and this weekend. But the center said it’s too soon to say exactly where the storm will hit and how hard it will hit. Governor Rick Scott of Florida warned residents about the storm, saying it was bigger than 1992’s Hurricane Andrew. The current five-day forecast for the storm puts its center just off the coast of Daytona Beach with winds of 125 miles per hour.

Is it going to weaken?

Irma is likely to remain a very powerful hurricane as it moves in favorable atmospheric conditions and over warm waters during the next three to four days, the center said.

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What will the effect be on Massachusetts?

Forecasters at the National Weather Service in Taunton say it looks like Massachusetts may have dodged a bullet. “It’s not a non-zero threat, but there’s no cause for alarm at this point with New England,” said Glenn Field, warning coordination meteorologist at the weather service office in Taunton. He said it appeared the storm was aiming at the Southeast instead. One possibility the forecasters see is a “similar scenario to Harvey’s remnants,” which arrived Sunday and made for a gloomy day but not a major storm. That could happen Tuesday or Wednesday of next week.

Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.