Hurricane Irma expected to strengthen in Atlantic Ocean this weekend

Powerful Hurricane Irma is expected to strengthen over the eastern Atlantic Ocean during the weekend – potentially becoming as potent as a Category 5 storms as it swirls its way towards the Leewards Islands where it could make landfall next week.

Irma strengthened to a Category 3 storm on Thursday but had been downgraded to a Category 2 on Saturday. Irma was forecast to be an “extremely dangerous” storm for the next several days, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Irma was also expected to intensify next week when it nears the Lesser Antilles.

The storm was moving northwest at nearly 15 mph and no coastal watches or warnings were in effect. Its maximum sustained winds had decreased to 110 mph.


Forecasters said it was too early to determine if it would make landfall or pose a threat to the United States.

"It is much too early to determine what direct impacts Irma will have on the continental United States," the National Hurricane Center said. "Regardless, 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."

Forecasters warned people in the U.S. East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico to monitor the storm and its path, according to the Weather Channel.

Should Irma strike the U.S., it could form a devastating 1-2 punch of Category 4 storms after the havoc wreaked by Hurricane Harvey last weekend.

Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Lidia lashed Mexico’s resort-studded southern Baja California peninsula with heavy rains and is responsible for at least four deaths in the country's Los Cabos area.

Authorities warned the death toll could rise over the weekend as emergency crews surveyed the damage in villages with ramshackle homes. At least one person was considered missing.


State Tourism Secretary Luis Genero Ruiz said about 20,000 foreign tourists were stranded after airlines suspended flights to the area.

Lidia had maximum sustained winds of 40 mph Saturday with weakening expected over the next few days as the storm reaches the mountainous terrain of Baja California. The storm was centered about 70 miles south-southwest of Santa Rosalia, Mexico and was heading northwest at about 12 mph.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.