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Hurricane Irma makes first landfall

View of Hurricane Irma from space.

ST. JOHN'S, Antigua (AP) -- The most powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricane in recorded history made its first landfall in the islands of the northeast Caribbean early Wednesday, churning along a path pointing to Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba before possibly heading for Florida over the weekend.

The eye of Hurricane Irma passed over Barbuda around 1:47 a.m., the National Weather Service said. Residents said over local radio that phone lines went down. Heavy rain and howling winds raked the neighboring island of Antigua, sending debris flying as people huddled in their homes or government shelters.

Officials warned people to seek protection from Irma's "onslaught" in a statement that closed with: "May God protect us all."

The Category 5 storm had maximum sustained winds of 185 mph (295 kph), according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.

Its forecast late Tuesday was for the winds to fluctuate slightly but for the storm to remain at Category 4 or 5 strength for the next day or two. The most dangerous winds, usually nearest to the eye, were forecast to pass near the northern Virgin Islands and near or just north of Puerto Rico through the day Wednesday.

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