Extra weather balloon launches in Minnesota to help track Hurricane Irma

- The National Weather Service Twin Cities office in Chanhassen, Minnesota is adding additional daily weather balloon launches to help track Hurricane Irma. NWS Twin Cities usually launches two weather balloons per day, but they will be launching four per day for Irma tracking.

Data from Monday morning’s Hurricane Hunter mission flight shows Irma gaining strength as it moves west-southwest at 14 mph.  At this pace, it will move over or just north of portions of the northern Leeward Islands early Wednesday. TRACKER: Where is Hurricane Irma heading?

A hurricane warning is in effect for the Caribbean islands of Antigua, Barbuda, Anguilla, Montserrat, St. Kitts, and Nevis, Saba, St. Eustatius, and Saint Maarten, Saint Martin and Saint Barthelemy.

The worst of the storm could pass just north of Puerto Rico by Wednesday and Thursday. A hurricane watch is in effect for Guadeloupe, the British Virgin Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Vieques, and Culebra. A tropical storm watch is in effect for Dominica.  Land interaction, especially with mountainous Cuba and Hispaniola, could disrupt the growing hurricane.

Long-range forecasts put Irma on a path that could potentially take it to the U.S. East Coast, but it’s too early to make a definitive prediction. The Florida Department of Emergency Management is advising residents to create disaster supply kits, including food, water and other essentials needed for survival.

BEFORE AND AFTER: Harvey's flooding seen from space (IMAGE SLIDER)

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