Hurricane Watches Extended in Florida Ahead of Dangerous Irma
Hurricane Irma continues to march through the Atlantic Ocean between Cuba and the Southeastern Bahamas. On Thursday, Irma continued its path of destruction as the eye of the storm moved away from Puerto Rico, through the Turks and Caicos and Southern Bahamas near Great Inagua Island.
— Lovin Turks & Caicos (@LovinTCI) September 8, 2017
[Providenciales, Turks and Caicos islands. Credit: Instagram/castaway_john via Storyful]
The National Hurricane Center estimated winds near 180 mph as the storm moved through the islands, with the potential for a 12 to 20 foot storm surge. Damage looks extensive in Grand Turk Island and Great Inagua Island from first reports.
— Shenique Miller (@sheniquemiller) September 8, 2017
Irma is a category 4 hurricane at this time with maximum sustained winds of 150 mph, with gusts to 185 mph. The cyclone is located about 270 miles east of Caibarien, Cuba and about 400 miles southeast of Miami. The storm has weakened slightly recently due to an eyewall replacement cycle. The eye is still well defined on Cuba radar.
Hurricane Watches in Florida have been extended northward along the east coast to the Flagler/Volusia County Line, and along the west coast to Anclote River. Additional watches and warnings continue in Cuba, the Bahamas, and the Turks and Caicos. Storm Surge Warnings were extended northward in Florida to Venice and Ponce Inlet.
Irma continues to move to the west-northwest at 14 mph. The hurricane should continue on this track for the next 24 hours. After that time, Irma will reach the southwestern edge of the subtropical Bermuda high and begin to turn north-northwestward and northward towards Florida. More than a foot of rain may fall around the storm.
The environment continues to be favorable for Irma to maintain its category 4 status, and only unpredictable eyewall replacement cycles could result in intensity fluctuations during the next 48 hours.
Thereafter, interaction with land and an increase in upper level wind shear should induce gradual weakening. If the cyclone moves closer to Cuba before moving northward, the circulation could be disrupted and some weakening may occur.
Key messages from the National Hurricane Center:
1. Irma is an extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane and will continue to bring life-threatening wind, storm surge, and rainfall hazards to the Bahamas through Saturday. Hurricane conditions will spread over portions of the north coast of Cuba, especially over the adjacent Cuban Keys, through Saturday.
2. Irma is likely to make landfall in Florida as a dangerous major hurricane, and will bring life-threatening wind impacts to much of the state regardless of the exact track of the center.
3. There is the danger of life-threatening storm surge inundation in southern Florida and the Florida Keys during the next 36 hours, where a Storm Surge Warning is in effect. In particular, the threat of significant storm surge flooding along the southwest coast of Florida has increased, and 6 to 12 feet of inundation above ground level is possible in this area. This is a life-threatening situation. Everyone in these areas should take all actions to protect life and property from rising water and follow evacuation
instructions from local officials.
4. Irma is expected to produce very heavy rain and inland flooding. Total rain accumulations of 4 to 12 inches, with isolated amounts of 20 inches are expected over the Florida peninsula Saturday through
Monday. The highest amounts are expected over the eastern Florida peninsula and upper Florida Keys. Irma will likely bring periods of heavy rain to much of Georgia, South Carolina, and western North
Carolina early next week, including some mountainous areas which are more prone to flash flooding. All areas seeing heavy rainfall from Irma will experience a risk of flooding and flash flooding.
For WeatherNation: Meteorologist Mace Michaels