Here’s What Happened When Hurricane Irma Hit the Caribbean

While most of the United States was sleeping, Hurricane Irma made landfall in the Caribbean. The Category 5 hurricane with winds topping 185 miles per hour slammed into Barbuda and Antigua early Wednesday morning as it headed for Puerto Rico — with Florida in its sights.

The eye of the strongest storm to hit the Atlantic passed over Barbuda at 1:47 a.m. EST, according to the National Weather Service.

Irma ripped the roof off of the island's police station, forcing officers to take refuge at a nearby fire station and community center that served as an official shelter.

By 8 a.m. EST, Irma was hitting the island nation of Anguilla, the National Weather Service said, and the storm was also lashing the French islands of Saint Martin and Saint Barthélemy.

The National Hurricane Center said the most dangerous winds are forecast to pass near the northern Virgin Islands and near or just north of Puerto Rico on Wednesday.

You could potentially see some real devastation and destruction to the homes there," Heather Tesch, a meteorologist for The Weather Channel, told NBC News. "Add to that the storm surge and potential flooding, along with some very heavy rains [and] the wind damage — it is going to be a real mess in some of these areas."

Next in Irma's wide path is the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba and, most likely, Florida.

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President Trump declared a state of emergency in Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, while officials in Bahamas said they would evacuate six southern islands.

The northern Leeward Islands were expected to see normal tide levels rise by as much as 11 feet, while the Turks and Caicos Islands and southeastern Bahamas could experience surges of 20 feet and higher waves later in the week, forecasters said.