BLOG: Irma Tracks Towards Florida

Won’t you be happy when we don’t have to talk about Hurricane Irma anymore?  Unfortunately, Irma will be our primary focus through the weekend since the storm is expected to make landfall in southern Florida by late Saturday night/early Sunday morning.

Right now, Irma is still a MAJOR Category 4 hurricane with winds sustained at 155 MPH.  Keep in mind, a Category 5 hurricane has winds at 157 MPH, so we are only talking about a 2 MPH difference here.  Having said that, for the past couple of days, we told you it was possible Irma could make landfall as a strong Category 4 or Category 5 storm.  Sure enough, the National Hurricane Center is starting to agree that Irma has time to strengthen a little bit.

Irma is passing between the Bahamas and Cuba.  It’s not expected to lose much strength through Saturday as it makes the turn towards southern Florida.

Irma looks to make landfall along the Florida Keys early Sunday morning as a potential Category 5 hurricane.  The track has been trending more west, so now, the storm will hug the Gulf coast of Florida and head north into Georgia.

What’s interesting is that the NHC is forecasting Irma to remain a major Category 4 hurricane all the way through Florida and into Georgia.  It’s possible the Gulf moisture could feed Irma and not allow it to weaken much, but typically land friction would cause some weakening.  It’ll be very interesting to see how this plays out.  By the time Irma reaches Georgia, Tennessee, and Kentucky, it’ll downgrade to a tropical storm, then a depression.

Hurricane watches and warnings have been issued for most of the Sunshine State.

The warning has been posted from Vero Beach and Sarasota all the way to the Keys.  The hurricane watch includes Tampa, Orlando, and Daytona Beach.  Mandatory evacuations are in place for much of south Florida, but not everyone is choosing to leave.  Anytime there is a big storm, you do have people who choose to ride it out and sometimes make the comparison to other major hurricanes.  You have to remember, no two hurricanes are alike.  One of the most devastating hurricanes to hit southern Florida was Hurricane Andrew back in 1992.

Lets compare those two storms:

Courtesy: NBC New York

 

Andrew was a major Category 5 hurricane as it made landfall on Elliott Key and Homestead, FL.  The storm was about 400 miles wide and hurricane force winds extended about 45 miles out from the eye.  Andrew crossed over southern Florida and went into the Gulf, only spending 4 hours in the state.

Irma is about 650 miles wide – a 150-mile difference!  Irma will literally engulf the entire state once it does make landfall.  Hurricane force winds extend 75 miles out from the eye.  Since Irma will track north through the entire state, it’ll spend about 24 hours there.  Big difference, huh?

If mandatory evacuations are in place, you should leave.  Take things that are important to you, because obviously you can’t take everything.  If I may, since I’m a huge animal lover, I just want everyone to remember that when you evacuate, you should take your animals with you or at least bring them to a shelter.  It infuriated and saddened me to read that some animals are being abandoned in Palm Beach County, left tied to trees and cars.  NEVER leave your pets behind!

I digress..

The storm will stay well west of Hampton Roads and northeast North Carolina.  Again, because the storm is so massive, we will likely feel SOME effects here, mostly in the form of showers and breezy conditions.

North Carolina could tap into some showers as early as Monday, but most of the rain won’t move into Hampton Roads until Monday night and Tuesday.  We don’t anticipate steady rain, but on and off showers that could add up to 1/2″ to 3/4″.  30 MPH wind gusts are possible.  And we can’t rule out some nuisance tidal flooding Monday and Tuesday.

If you have family or friends in Florida, I hope they stay safe wherever they are!

-Meteorologist Ashley Baylor

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