Hurricane Irma, the strongest storm ever recorded in the Atlantic outside of the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico, is bearing down on the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. The storm maintained its 185-mph winds after making its first landfall on Barbuda early Wednesday.

“Irma is a potentially catastrophic Category 5 hurricane and will bring life-threatening wind, storm surge, and rainfall hazards” to areas it affects, the National Hurricane Center says. The agency urges the completion of any emergency preparations and evacuations in the storm’s path.

Irma’s path has been the subject of speculation, particularly as it nears the U.S. East Coast over the next three days. The NHC’s 11 a.m. ET forecast shows the storm’s path tracking up the east coast Florida — rather than through the center or Gulf coast, as in earlier projections.

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