Irma strengthens to a Category 3 hurricane

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Irma is now a Category 3 hurricane moving through the Atlantic Ocean.

The National Hurricane Center said in its Wednesday 5 p.m. update that the storm was located 720 miles west of the Cabo Verde Islands, off the northwest coast of Africa.

Irma is currently moving west-northwest at 12 mph and is expected to move in a generally westward direction by the weekend. The hurricane center says this motion is expected to continue Thursday, followed by a westward turn on Saturday, and a west-southwestward motion by Sunday.

Maximum sustained winds have increased to near 115 mph, with higher gusts.

Fluctuations in strength — both up and down — are possible, but Irma is expected to remain a powerful hurricane for several days.

The hurricane center said Thursday Irma is forecast to strengthen to a Category 4 storm east of the Leeward Islands next week.

Irma is the ninth named storm of the 2017 season, and the fourth to form during the month of August. This also comes as now-Tropical Depression Harvey made a third landfall on the Gulf Coast.

Harvey brought catastrophic flooding to the Houston area earlier this week.

This is a developing story. Stay with 8News online and on air for the latest updates.

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