Hurricane Ike slammed into the Turks and Caicos Islands Saturday night as an "extremely dangerous" Category 4 storm, the U.S. National Hurricane Center reported.
At 11 p.m. ET, Ike was packing winds of 215 km/h as the large eye of the hurricane moved over the low-lying islands. Hurricane force winds extend outward up to 75 kilometres from the centre.
Forecasters said the core of the storm will start to affect the southeastern Bahamas early Sunday.
The Bahamas has expanded its hurricane warning to its central islands, including Cat Island, the Exumas, Long Island, Rum Cay and San Salvador.
Cuba issued a hurricane warning for the provinces of Guantanamo, Santiago de Cuba, Holguin, Las Tunnas and Granma. South Florida and the Florida Keys were advised to closely monitor the storm's progress.
Forecasters said Ike has taken a turn to the southwest that could send it over the Florida Keys by Tuesday and then into the Gulf of Mexico.
Ike is expected to produce storm surge flooding up to six metres above normal tide levels, with large and dangerous waves battering coasts, the centre said.
Large swells generated by the hurricane will affect parts of the southeast U.S. coast over the next couple of days, with the danger of life-threatening rip currents, it said.