The tropics are raging. Irma has already caused death and devastation over many Caribbean islands. It has caused damage over the Greater Antilles and parts of the Bahamas. It moved over the Turks and Caicos islands late yesterday. Hurricane Irma is still a major hurricane, but the winds have decreased slightly. It is now a category 4 hurricane with sustained winds of 150mph. It is in-between Cuba and the southern Bahamas moving to the west/northwest.
Tropical storm force winds are reaching northern Cuba. Some of the hurricane force winds are affecting the southeastern Bahamas.
The core of strongest winds will move west/northwest over the next 24 hours. This could allow the strongest winds to brush against northern Cuba.
The center will likely stay offshore. The water temperatures are the warmest in the region (purple area below).
Sea surface temps are in the mid-upper 80s down there. Unfortunately, this should allow Irma to maintain its strength. If it moves over land a little more over northern Cuba, then maybe it will weaken slightly. We’ll see. Then it will move over open water through Saturday. The latest forecast is for Irma to make landfall somewhere over south Florida either late Saturday night or early Sunday morning.
It could move directly over Miami, but the most likely path (red line above) is just west of Miami. This would put it on the worst section of the storm. Sustained winds could be around 150mph with higher gusts. The forecast then takes Irma northward along I-95. It could be closer to the east coast. Possibly even just offshore for part of the time. Either way weakening is forecast. It could be down to a category 2 or 1 hurricane by the time it moves north of Jacksonville. Irma is then expected to move into southern Georgia as a tropical storm by Monday. Then it is will probably turn northwest and weaken. This would put it into Tennessee as a depression by early Wednesday morning.
The models are actually in fairly good agreement at this time. So there is some increasing confidence in the long term track, but I have cautious optimism about it. Here are the latest forecast models. Notice that they are very clustered over Florida. Some of them are near the coast. Most of them are over land.
The GFS and European are following a similar forecast to yesterday. That is also a sign of confidence. They are also closely lined up.
The European does take the storm more to the west after Florida. The GFS is stronger and a little more to the north.
They both weaken the system, but the GFS takes longer. I think a slower weakening would be favored as it wraps in some of the cooler air up this way and possibly expands. We will have some rain and wind here, but no where near as much as to our south/southwest. Here is the GFS forecast through Wednesday:
Estimates for Florida and parts of Georgia are between 6 and 12 inches of rain. That’s on top of the damaging winds that will occur. Also south Florida will have to contend with a storm surge of about 5-10 feet. I do think we’ll see more rain up here compared to what the models show. No matter what there will be a lot of deep moisture pushing up this way. So I think we could see an inch or two at least. This could easily increase. Especially if the track shifts east. Stay tuned for updates over the weekend in case it changes. We are not out of the woods completely, but right now the forecast looks pretty good for our region. There’s still a lot of time for updates. I’ll say a preliminary forecast that we could get a few gusts to over 35mph near the shore, but that is a very early forecast. We’ll be more definitive by the weekend.
Also in the tropics…Hurricane Katia is forecast to move onto the southeast coast of Mexico by early tomorrow. It will likely make landfall as a hurricane.
This is a double hit because the west coast of Mexico had an 8.2 Magnitude earthquake early this morning. There was a minor tsunami with the earthquake. Katia will cause flooding in that region tomorrow.
Finally, there is hurricane Jose. That system is east of the Lesser Antilles. It is moving generally west. Unfortunately, it is going to impact some of the same islands that were hit by Irma. Maybe not a direct hit this time, but definitely a big impact. This is terrible news. The storm will then move northwest over open water. It will turn north and then northeast into the middle of next week.
It should stay offshore, but some models do hook it around and bend it back southward. We’ll have to see what the long-term forecast shows down the road. For now I’m not too concerned about it, but I’ll be watching it closely.
Locally, we have some great weather. High pressure is locked into place. We have lots of clear skies across the region.
We started off a little chilly this morning. Lows were in the 50s for most of the area. Today we’ll have lots of sun with highs in the mid 70s. It will be great! Dew points are in the 50s. Winds will be northerly at 5-10mph. Tomorrow we’ll have a little more clouds. Our Future Trak model is throwing in a couple of showers, but I’m not buying it at this time. Maybe it is picking up on a little moisture coming in off of the ocean. Overall I think we’ll have fair skies this weekend with highs in the 70s. We may see a few showers late Monday depending on the track of Irma. I do expect at least scattered showers on Tuesday. It could be widespread rain. We’ll have those details as we go through the weekend. Stay tuned!
Meteorologist: Jeremy Wheeler