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Hurricane Irma drops to Category 2, but remains dangerous

Hurricane Irma fell to Category 2 Saturday morning, but will likely regain some strength in the next two days as its intensity continues to fluctuate, forecasters said.

A National Hurricane Center advisory said Irma’s sustained winds had continued to drop to 110 miles per hour with some higher gusts, but that the storm is expected to remain powerful throughout the weekend.

The storm was about 1,220 miles from the Leeward Islands and moving west at about 15 miles an hour.

The storm is also beginning to make an expected turn to the west-southwest in the next few days due to a high pressure ridge, and be a major hurricane when it approaches the Lesser Antilles sometime next week, forecasters said. Irma is likely to remain a “powerful hurricane” when that happens, though the hurricane should begin turning to the northwest when it reaches the end of that ridge.

Though models predicting the hurricane’s path agree on the overall scenario, forecasters noted that the best-performing models still have about a 200-mile north-south spread on the fifth day.

Hurricane Irma’s core also appears to be compact, forecasters said. A ship passed within 50 miles to the west of the storm’s center and reported winds of about 45 mph, and tropical storm force winds associated with the storm extend at most about 60 miles.

The National Hurricane Center cautioned that it is still too early to determine how Irma will affect the U.S. mainland.