PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – What was once Tropical Storm Irma is now a strong hurricane after rapidly intensifying in just a matter of hours.
The National Hurricane Center said Irma strengthened to a Category 3 hurricane Thursday afternoon with 115 mph sustained winds.
"Irma is going to stay a strong system," said Local 10 Chief Certified Meteorologist Betty Davis. "This is going to be a formidable hurricane."
Irma was moving west-northwest across the Atlantic Ocean at 12 mph and is forecast to become a major hurricane by the evening with models varying on its path.
"There are some models that show it getting closer to the Leeward Islands as we get into the middle of next week." says Davis. "And a Category 4 storm heading to those islands is kind of scary."
Despite Irma being thousands of miles away from the U.S., many want to know what the future holds for South Florida and the rest of the mainland.
"There is uncertainty in the track," Davis says. "The European Global Model has Irma on a track that keeps it towards more land areas like the Leewards and kind of close to Florida."
Irma is forecast to become a Category 4 hurricane by Tuesday.
Davis urges South Florida residents not to panic and to continue checking in with Local 10 and Local10.com, while also making sure to nail down your personal hurricane plan.
Be sure to download the Local 10 Hurricane Survival Guide to keep you safe before, during and after a storm.