The National Hurricane Center pinpointed the eye of the storm at about 70 miles southeast of Grand Turk Island.
"Barbuda right now is literally a rubble", CNN quoted Prime Minister Gaston Browne of Antigua and Barbuda as saying after Hurricane Irma left a trail of "absolute devastation" across the tiny Caribbean island. Then the storm is expected to take aim at Florida, where hurricane watches and storm surge watches were issued Thursday morning, and officials imposed mandatory evacuation orders for parts of the Miami metro area and the Florida Keys. Florida Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency on Tuesday and ordered evacuations, telling residents to "not sit and wait for the storm to come" because "it is extremely risky and deadly and will cause devastation".
"We are expecting to get the full force of the hurricane in around five hours' time, when we will retreat to a concrete wine cellar under the Great House", Branson said.
Hurricane watches currently only apply to the northern part of the region, and for now it is not expected to make landfall in the US. Tropical Storm watches are in place for Anguilla, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis.
The Dutch islands of Saba and Sint Eustatius also were hit, with damage believed to be extensive, according to the Netherlands ambassador to the United Nations, Karel van Oosterom.
Considered a "potentially catastrophic" Category 5 storm, Irma is wielding maximum sustained winds of 175 miles per hour, down 10 miles per hour from Wednesday.
Irma is expected to remain at least a Category 4 storm - the second strongest storm rating - before arriving in Florida.
Jose and Katia strengthened Wednesday afternoon, bringing the number of hurricanes churning in the Atlantic basin to three.
"The environment along the future track of Irma is favorable for the hurricane to maintain most of its current intensity, although some fluctuations are likely due to eyewall replacement cycles, which are hard to predict", reads the National Hurricane Center's forecast discussion.
In the middle of peak hurricane season, Hurricane Irma is only one of three hurricanes brewing in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. But despite the level of concern, Irma's path-and its potential impact on Florida-remained indistinct. Instead, it's expected to curve up into the open Atlantic and become a major hurricane - Category 3 or more - with winds up to 115 miles per hour.