Hurricane Irma: Category 5 storm is ‘like nothing we’ve ever seen’

Click to play video: 'Hurricane Irma slams into Carribean island of St. Maarten'
Hurricane Irma slams into Carribean island of St. Maarten
WATCH ABOVE: Dramatic video shows Hurricane Irma slamming into St. Maarten – Sep 6, 2017

Hurricane Irma, a monster Category 5 storm, unleashed its fury over the Caribbean early Wednesday, packing potentially catastrophic winds as made its first landfall over the small island of Barbuda.

The strongest Atlantic Ocean hurricane ever recorded, with winds topping nearly 300 km/h, passed over the islands of Saint Martin, St. Maarten and Anguilla while causing extensive damage, according to Global News Chief Meteorologist Anthony Farnell.

LIVE UPDATES: Tracking Hurricane Irma’s path

As the eye of Hurricane Irma passed over Barbuda around 2 a.m. local time, winds ripped the roof of the island’s police station, toppled power and phone lines and created a storm surge of nearly two and half metres. Winds speeds maxed out at 250 km/h before the anemometer — a device that measures wind speeds — began to fail, Farnell said.

“Winds are closer to 300 km/h so the winds actually got stronger than that and these wind measurements, especially in some of these islands are not meant to sustain winds like this and neither are many of the structures,” Farnell explained.

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Irma is expected to remain a Category 5 storm through Thursday. Five is the highest on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale used to quantify storm wind speeds. Storms in that category have the potential to cause enormous damage.

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READ MORE: Powerful storm slams Caribbean, could be heading towards Florida

“Structures on many of these small islands are not built to sustain winds like this and will be completely destroyed,” Farnell explained. “Winds at this level will rip roofs off even well-built structures and the only buildings that remain intact are cement condominium, office, apartment and parking garages.

“As you head up in elevation, winds in a hurricane are even stronger. So some of the mountainside areas will feel even stronger gusts and this is also where the most poorly built homes reside,” Farnell said.

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Irma’s on track to pass over Turks and Caicos, Puerto Rico and Bahamas before tracking north towards Florida.

WATCH: Global News chief meteorologist Anthony Farnell provides the latest update on the track of Hurricane Irma which is slamming into the Caribbean.
Click to play video: 'Hurricane Irma still tracking towards Florida and U.S. east coast'
Hurricane Irma still tracking towards Florida and U.S. east coast

The U.S. National Weather Service said Puerto Rico had not seen a hurricane of Irma’s magnitude since Hurricane San Felipe in 1928, which killed a total of 2,748 people in Guadeloupe, Puerto Rico and Florida.

“The dangerousness of this event is like nothing we’ve ever seen,” Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello said. “A lot of infrastructure won’t be able to withstand this kind of force.”

READ MORE: What Canadians should know about Hurricane Irma

In Florida, people stocked up on drinking water and other supplies.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott activated 100 members of the Florida National Guard to be deployed across the state, and 7,000 National Guard members were to report for duty Friday when the storm could be approaching the area.

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WATCH: Florida Governor Rick Scott urges residents in Florida not to ignore evacuation orders about Hurricane Irma 

Click to play video: 'Irma is bigger and stronger than Hurricane Andrew: Florida Governor'
Irma is bigger and stronger than Hurricane Andrew: Florida Governor

The governor urged Florida residents to obey evacuation orders as the “massive storm” approached. Irma is “bigger, faster and stronger than Hurricane Andrew,” he warned.

“We can rebuild your home, we can’t rebuild your life,” Scott said during a press conference.

Hurricane Andrew made Florida landfall as a devastating Category 5 storm in 1992, causing over $25 billion in damage and leaving at least 65 people dead in its wake.

-with a file from Associated Press

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