Maria Still a Major Hurricane Saturday; Some Models Shift West Towards the Outer Banks

Hurricane Maria weakens some, but maintains major hurricane strength well east of Florida Saturday. The destructive storm with a large eye exits Turks and Caicos and will spend the next few days over warm Atlantic waters. Wind shear is on the rise, so Maria will weaken some in the coming days. Waves build up to 30 feet near Maria, but swells and rough surf already reach the east coast of Florida up through the Carolinas. The risk for rip currents remains high through at least mid work week.

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Here is the 11 AM forecast track from the NHC. Maria is a category 3 hurricane with 115 mph winds. It will head north-northwest through Monday and run into some hostile upper level winds. Maria may encounter some slight cooler waters mid work week off of the Mid Atlantic. However, a further west course closer to the Outer Banks puts Maria over the warm Gulf Stream. The Outer Banks of North Carolina are in the cone of uncertainty Wednesday and Thursday. This in line with a westward shift in some computer models early Saturday. Most models still keep Maria offshore. Interest in the Mid Atlantic region should also keep a watchful eye. Additional upper air soundings start Saturday afternoon and NOAA G-IV mission will assess the environment Sunday. This will help models gain better consensus on any possible U.S. impacts.

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Tropical Storm Lee found new life late this work week. It is a tiny weak tropical storm Saturday morning. Lee may regain hurricane strength over the open central Atlantic this work week. It is no threat to land. Meanwhile the remnants of Jose churn off of New England. It is still breezy in coastal Massachusetts with rough surf from the Mid Atlantic up through the Northeast. Boating remains unfavorable through the work week as Maria lifts north over the western Atlantic.

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Fortunately, we enter a quiet 5-7 day stretch in the Atlantic Basin. Fronts are more active as we approach October. While this enhances upper level winds in the tropics, water temperatures are still quite water in the Gulf of Mexico and western Caribbean. Sea surface temperatures in the western Caribbean, parts of the Gulf of Mexico and even the western Atlantic are running .5-2° C above average. Fronts/troughs can guide tropical systems towards Florida/the U.S.  These are areas we will watch for tropical cyclone formation in the weeks ahead.

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Jose Meanders in the Atlantic; No Immediate U.S. Threats

Hurricane Jose meanders well east of the Bahamas Wednesday. It interacts with some higher shear and is a minimal hurricane at 11 AM. Jose will make a slow clockwise loop the next few days before paralleling the east coast as a tropical storm. It will not impact the U.S for at least the next 5 days, if at all. The long-range Jose steering is quite complex, so keep an eye on it in the Mid Atlantic and Northeast next week. Interest in Bermuda should also monitor the progress of Jose.

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After two back to back U.S. major hurricane landfalls, there are no other areas of immediate concern. The Euro suggests a tropical storm may develop near the Lesser Antilles early next week. Fortunately, wind shear looks to keep this possible future tropical cyclone weak. It’s worth watching.

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It is the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season and the potential for more strong hurricanes exists. There is a secondary peak in October. Fronts are more active during this time and tropical systems can be guided northward towards Florida/the Southeast U.S..

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Irma Loses Tropical Characteristics-Cleanup Far From Over; Jose No Current Threat to the U.S.

Irma lost tropical characteristics Monday evening, but cleanup efforts are only beginning. The massive former category 5 hurricane brought flooding, storm surge, hurricane force winds, isolated tornadoes, and off course millions of power outages to Florida and parts of the Southeast. Impacts were felt well from the center of circulation due to the massive size of Irma. The remnants of Irma bring lingering showers to the south central U.S. Tuesday.

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Here are some of the peak wind gusts across Florida.  Gusts well over hurricane force were felt throughout two-thirds of the state. A max gust of 142 mph was reported in Naples. Winds gusted to near 100 mph at Miami International Airport and to 77 mph in Clearwater.

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Freshwater flooding is ongoing due to tremendous rainfall. In combination with coastal flooding from storm surge, many river levels are at record heights. Fort Pierce, Florida saw nearly 16 inches of rain.  On the east side of the powerful former major hurricane West Melbourne and Jacksonville International Airport saw 11″+ of rain. Flooding also occurred in coastal Georgia and South Carolina Monday. The St Johns River near Downtown Jacksonville rose to a record 5.57 feet. According to the National Weather Service in Jacksonville, storm surge surpassed levels previously set during Hurricane Dora in 1964. Downtown Charleston, South Carolina was under water too. A surge of 9.92 feet was recorded there; it’s the third largest storm surge in the city’s history. Southeast Florida, including Miami, still recovers from coastal flooding too.

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The 2017 Atlantic season is well above average. Two major hurricanes, Harvey and Irma, have made landfall in the U.S. in just two weeks. So far there are 11 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 3 major hurricanes. That is pretty much the average number of storms we typically see in an entire Atlantic season.

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We are down to one named storm, Hurricane Jose in the Atlantic. There is not much to steer Jose in the coming days. Models keep Jose well east of the Florida over the weekend. As it lifts northward, it is likely to stay out to sea, but could bring some swells to the Mid Atlantic by mid-week. We’ll keep an eye on it.

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Irma Brings Hurricane Conditions to Tampa Bay; Area Spared From the Worst

Irma lashed Tampa Bay late Sunday and early Monday. After landfall in Naples as a major hurricane Sunday afternoon, it stayed on a northerly track. In combination with some higher wind shear and a disruption from Cuba, the storm was weaker than anticipated in Central Florida. The eye wall raked Hardee, Desoto and Polk county late Sunday/early Monday damaging structures with wind gusts of 80-100 mph. Populated areas like Sarasota, Tampa and St Pete missed the eye wall, but still saw hurricane force wind gusts.

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Southwest Florida was slammed with major hurricane force wind gusts. A peak gust of 142 mph was recorded in Naples. Fort Desoto in Pinellas saw a wind gust of 91 mph. Winds gusted 60-80 mph+ through most of Tampa Bay, including a gust of 78 mph in Tampa.

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After Irma made landfall, its wind field grew substantially. As of 8 AM Monday the tropical storm wind field is over 400 miles from the center. This includes most of Florida, parts of southeast Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina.

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The center of Irma passed well inland, with eye passing through Hardee and Polk county. The massive storm exits and an early Monday morning high tide has passed. Gusty westerly winds stir up the Gulf of Mexico. While a significant storm surge is unlikely, there could still be some minor coastal flooding as waves moves back in (especially when winds veer southwest). As of 9 AM, wave heights build to 6-10 feet near shore. Higher waves settle in throughout the day. It will stay choppy the next few days.

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Rainfall totals were substantial around the state, but this was not a long lived rain event. Most of the rainfall from Irma fell within 24 hours. Up to 8-10″ fell in Southeast Florida with 4-8″+ in the Tampa Bay area.

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Irma moves into the Southeast the next two days and brings with it gusty winds and steady rain.

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Florida Major Hurricane Drought Broken; Irma Slams the Keys-Takes Aim at Southwest Florida

Irma made landfall in the lower Florida Keys near Cudjoe Key at 9:10 AM Sunday with 140 mph sustained winds. It is the first major hurricane to hit Florida since Wilma in 2005. It is also the first category 4 hurricane to hit the Sunshine State since Charley in 2004. A second landfall was in Marco Island as a category 3 hurricane with 130 mph winds at 3:35 PM. The eye wall hammered the Seven Mile Bridge and storm surge was extreme too. Wind gusts well over hurricane force are felt far from the center, including in 92 mph wind gust Miami at 1 PM. Unfortunately, for Marco Island and the Naples area an extreme storm surge event will occur alongside winds in excess of 115 mph. The massive hurricane will weaken after landfall due to some higher wind shear and interaction with land. The Tampa Bay area will see sustained winds of 70-90 mph, and higher gusts overnight Sunday into Monday. Widespread power outages are felt across the state.

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Storm surge and extreme waves are felt well from the center of Irma. As of 2 PM waves build to 20-30 feet in Southeast Florida. These lift north through central and northeast Florida Sunday night and Monday morning.

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A catastrophic storm surge will felt in Southwest Florida, which coincides with high tide. Storm surge is expected in the Tampa Bay area once Irma passes. This will occur during an early Monday morning high tide cycle.

Here is the official storm surge forecast:

Cape Sable to Captiva:10 to 15 ft
Captiva to Ana Maria Island:6 to 10 ft
Card Sound Bridge through Cape Sable, including the Florida Keys: 5 to 10 ft
Ana Maria Island to Clearwater Beach, including Tampa Bay: 5 to 8 ft
North Miami Beach to Card Sound Bridge, including Biscayne Bay: 3 to 5 ft
South Santee River to Fernandina Beach:4 to 6 ft
Clearwater Beach to Ochlockonee River:4 to 6 ft
Fernandina Beach to Jupiter Inlet:2 to 4 ft
North of North Miami Beach to Jupiter Inlet:1 to 2 ft

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Here is the 11 AM Irma track. Irma will rake the Tampa Bay area overnight Sunday into Monday. It will steadily weaken over land. Irma moves into southeast Georgia by Monday night.

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While Irma is a 24 hour rain event for most across the Sunshine State, hefty rainfall totals are likely. 10-15″ are likely from Southwest Florida up through Tampa Bay. Flooding is likely, especially in combination of storm surge.

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Category 5 Irma Brings Destructive Winds and Storm Surge to the Northeast Caribbean; Approaches Florida This Weekend

Irma is a beast. After raking the Northern Leeward Islands it slams the British and U.S. Virgin Islands Wednesday afternoon. According to the NHC an unofficial gust of 111 mph was reported on Culebra. The massive category 5 hurricane passes near Puerto Rico early Wednesday evening. The core of hurricane force winds will just skirt the northern part of the island. As of 5 PM it maintains category 5 strength with 185 mph winds as it moves west-northwest at 15 mph. What’s incredible is Irma maintains 185 mph winds for 24 hours+. With the exception of Haiyan in the western Pacific, it is the only Atlantic and Pacific tropical cyclone to stay this strong for this long (according to Eric Blake of NOAA and Dr. Klotzback of Colorado State University). Wave heights build to 30-40 feet just north of the Virgin Islands Wednesday evening. Storm surge batters the eastern Caribbean with a peak surge of 7-11 feet over the Virgin Islands. Impressive waves plow through the Turks and Caicos and the Southeast Bahamas by Friday. A destructive surge of 15-20 feet is possible.

The only thing to really weaken Irma or disrupt it some would be interaction with Hispaniola or Cuba. Even then, the storm would likely still be a dangerous high end major hurricane before possible catastrophic impacts in south and east Florida Sunday and Monday. While the center line from the NHC a little further east at 5 PM, the track error 4 and 5 days out remains the same. 4 and 5 day error is 175 miles to 225 miles respectively. Beyond Florida, it is increasingly likely that coastal Georgia and South Carolina will see impacts too. Impacts are pending on when Irma makes the turn north. At this point, it will be on late Saturday. A slower turn north would mean more impacts a bit further west across the Sunshine State.

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Here’s a glance at some of the model consistency Wednesday afternoon. Notice the cluster of models near southeast and east Florida. This track is northward towards southeast Georgia and South Carolina Monday afternoon. Both the GFS and especially the Euro bring the core of major hurricane force winds near or just over southeast Florida Sunday. A wobble west or east, would make all the difference in widespread destruction or tropical storm winds. Keep in mind as large is Irma is, the structure may not be as symmetrical this weekend. As of 5 PM hurricane force winds extend out 50 miles from the center. The strongest winds are in the surrounding eye wall. Tropical storm force winds extend out up to 185 miles from the center.

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Ridiculous wave heights in the Caribbean move on to Florida by late this weekend. The worst surge, is highly dependent on the track. Here is an early wave height estimate in southeast Florida by Sunday afternoon from Wave Watch III model. Those shades of pink are 25-40 foot waves. Please heed any evacuations and warnings. Stay informed as we gain more model confidence in the days ahead.

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Also of note, both Jose in the east central Atlantic and Katia in the southern Gulf become a hurricane at 5 PM. Jose could clip the Leeward Islands, but should generally stay over the open Atlantic over the next 5-6 days+. Katia will run into mountainous east Mexico this weekend. It will stay well south of Texas.

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Category 5 Irma Slams the Northeast Caribbean; Models Shift East

Irma is tied for the second strongest hurricane on record in the Atlantic Basin. It is just behind Hurricane Allen, which peaked at 190 mph winds. The Northern Leeward Islands took a direct hit Wednesday morning. Relentless category 5 Irma slams Barbuda, Saint Martin, and Anguila early Wednesday with 185 mph. A NOAA National Ocean Service on the island of Barbuda recorded a gust of 155 mph before it was knocked out. Images from these islands show catastrophic wind damage. Next in the path of Irma are the U.S. and British Virgin Islands Wednesday afternoon followed a close call with Puerto Rico Wednesday night. The storm is massive, its about 500 miles wide, (estimated on GOES 16 enhanced satellite imagery) and impacts are felt well from the center of circulation. Tremendous rainfall and pounding storm surge will batter the northern portions of these islands. 8-12 inches of rain, with isolated amounts up to 20 inches is likely from the Northern Leeward Islands, Northeast Puerto Rico and the British and U.S. Virgin Islands. A catastrophic storm surge of 7-11 feet is expected in these islands too (while north Puerto Rico will see a 4-6 foot surge). Wave heights build to a remarkable 40 feet+ as of late morning Wednesday. Storm surge will be even worse for Turks and Caicos and the Southeast Bahamas as Irma gains latitude later this work week. The concern for Florida and the Southeast U.S. is that these waves lift northward this weekend and early next week. Due to the size and massive flow around Irma, storm surge will be a major issue on the north and east side of the storm. The Keys will get a double whammy as Irma approaches Saturday and then lifts north.

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As of 11 AM max sustained winds are at 185 mph and pressure climbs some to 918 mb. Irma now moves WNW at 16 mph under the perimeter of the Bermuda High. The extent of hurricane force winds will fluctuate some as the storm contracts and goes through eye wall replacement cycles. As of 11 AM hurricane force winds extend out 50 miles from the center. The shield of tropical storm force winds is much larger; these go out 185 miles. Irma will remain a very dangerous category 4 or 5 hurricane over the next 4 or 5 days. Water temperatures are warm and wind shear remains low for at least the next 3 to 4 days. There is a noticeable east shift in the 11 AM advisory. This is in line with an eastward trend in computer models. South/southeast Florida is still very much on track for possible major hurricane force winds, horrible storm surge, spin up tornadoes and heavy rain by early Sunday. This advisory shows the anticipated turn north further east and a bit quicker. The entire state of Florida up through the Carolinas need to stay on high alert for any forecast changes. While the track has shifted east, it is still pretty likely Irma will make landfall in the U.S..

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06Z computer models clearly show an east shift under the influence of a weakness in the Atlantic ridge. While many models keep the center of Irma east of the state, numerous ensemble models still bring this dangerous hurricane up through south and southeast Florida Sunday. If this trend continues, South Carolina could see more impacts by Monday. This trend is a favorable one for the Tampa Bay area. If this holds, storm surge will be a non issue, but heavy rain and tropical storm force winds will still be felt across the area, mainly Sunday and early Monday. Remember the 5 day cone error is more than 200 miles. Things can change. Stay prepared and stay informed.

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Caribbean and Florida on High Alert As Category 5 Irma Moves West

Irma is among the strongest hurricanes on record in the entire Atlantic Basin. Only 5 other hurricanes, including Wilma, have seen winds over 184 mph. It became the strongest hurricane in the Atlantic Basin outside of the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico Tuesday morning. As of 5 PM the powerhouse storm maintains intensity as a strong category 5 with max sustained winds of 185 mph. Pressure is down to 926 mb as it barrels towards the northern Leeward Islands as it moves west at 15 mph. The wind field of the massive hurricane (more than 400 miles across) continues to grow in size. While hurricane force winds still extend out 60 miles from the center, tropical storm force winds now extend out 170 miles.

The northern Leeward Antilles will experience a direct hit Tuesday night and early Wednesday. Below is composite radar from BarbadosWeather.org. Notice a defined eye and impressive eye wall. Hurricane Hunters have been out there basically around the clock since Tuesday morning. The storm may weaken a little Tuesday night during a pending eye wall replacement cycle. Up next are the British and U.S. Virgin Islands followed by a close call for Puerto Rico late Wednesday into Thursday. The strongest damaging winds are east of the center of circulation. As Irma moves northwest the flow around the storm will bring a significant storm surge to the British and Virgin Islands and the northern coast of Puerto Rico. Storm surge will be even higher for Turks and Caicos and the southeast Bahamas. Up to a 15-20 foot surge is possible in these areas. Hispaniola and Cuba may disrupt the very dangerous hurricane and lead to some weakening. A category 4 hurricane takes aim at the Florida Keys and South Florida late Saturday and Sunday. Irma will likely be the strongest hurricane to strike these areas since Andrew in 1992. The 5 PM track from the National Hurricane Center has not changed much since early Tuesday.

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All eyes are on Florida and the timing of a turn north early the weekend. Unfortunately, there are still some discrepancies in our two most reliable models. The 12Z GFS is still further east and a bit quicker. The 12Z European model is slower to turn north and is further west. Both models bring an intense major hurricane northward through the state through Monday. It is still too early to talk specific rainfall, wind, storm surge etc as Irma is still 5 days out from any impacts. That 5 day error is 225 miles. There is still a possibility the long-range track shifts further east or west.

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Florida is likely to see major hurricane impacts this weekend and Monday. The question remains, if it heads further west, due north over the state, or further east. As a trough lifts out of the Northeast later this week the Bermuda High shifts east. That high then builds back in across the Atlantic. At the same time an upper level disturbance moves through the south central U.S.. Irma will lift north due to a weakness between these two features. The strength of both of those features is still up in the air.  Stay tuned and be prepared.

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Dangerous Category 5 Irma Closes In On the Caribbean; Eyes Florida This Weekend

As of 11 AM Hurricane Irma is the strongest hurricane on record in the Atlantic Basin outside of the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico with 180 mph winds (according to the NHC). Hurricane Hunters discovered the very dangerous hurricane ramped up to impressive strong category 5 strength at 8 AM. The strongest winds are in the outer eye wall north and east of its center. Irma is the strongest category 5 storm since Felix in 2007. It is a monster of a storm. The structure is of a textbook annular hurricane with a wall of intense convection surrounding a solid eye. It has completed shut out any surrounding dry air. This is bad news for the islands in its path as nothing holds Irma back from strengthening, or at least maintaining intensity. It will remain a very dangerous category 4 or 5 hurricane for the next several days. Irma is enormous and getting bigger. The catastrophic major hurricane force wind field grows to 60 miles from its center. Tropical storm force winds extend 160 miles from the center.

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As of 11 AM max sustained winds are up to 180 mph and it heads west at 14 mph. At this pace tropical storm force winds reach the northern Lesser Antilles by early Tuesday evening with major hurricane force winds late tonight and overnight. Irma will plow through the U.S and British Virgin Islands early Wednesday as a category 5 hurricane. Next, enormous Irma will pass north of Puerto Rico, but the wind field is large enough for them to experience at least high end tropical storm force winds. Rainfall totals could peak up to a foot and a half across the northern Leeward Islands. The British and U.S. Virgin Islands, and northeast Puerto Rico could see 8 to 12 inches. Storm surge on the northern side of these islands will also be extreme, especially for the British and U.S. Virgin Islands.  A storm surge of 7-11 feet is possible for the British and U.S. Virgin Islands, except St. Croix. The northern coast of Puerto Rico will see a storm surge of 3 to 5 feet. The southern coast of Puerto Rico and St. Croix will see a 1 to 2 foot storm surge. Thursday Irma could get disrupted by Hispaniola and by Friday it is near Turks and Caicos. The south Bahamas count experience a major hurricane Friday and early Saturday. South Florida and the Florida Keys are under the gun for major hurricane conditions by late Saturday and early Sunday. Irma is large enough to affect Cuba too. The mountainous island could also disrupt the storm and weaken it some.

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All eyes are on when Irma makes its northern turn, which could be a sharp one. As of Tuesday morning, models anticipate the northern turn at some point Saturday. The timing is key for Florida. It looks increasingly likely that Irma makes landfall in South Florida. The complicated upper level pattern could change in the upcoming days. This is the flow that steers Irma. As of early Tuesday the Bermuda will likely steer the powerhouse storm over the next  7 days. A strong trough sits over the east coast mid to late week.  It looks to lift out and open the door for the Atlantic Ridge to build back in. This guides Irma  northward near, or directly over the Sunshine State. While model consensus is not in Florida’s favor, a few more models are shifting slightly further east. Keep in mind the 4 and 5 day track record is 175 miles and 225 miles, respectively. If you haven’t done so already, make preparations for a possible major hurricane if you live in South Florida. It still too early to talk specific wind, rain and, storm surge impacts. We should have a better idea by Thursday. Hurricane Hunters are out there around the cloud. Their data will help computer models gain clarity on the long-range track. Additional upper air soundings across the central U.S. will also help models get a handle too.

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Elsewhere, Tropical Storm Jose forms at 11 AM in the central Atlantic. It is the 10th named storm of the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season. This is more than a month ahead of schedule. On average, the 10th named storm of the Atlantic season forms on October 19th. It will likely become a hurricane well east of the Lesser Antilles Thursday or Friday.

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Hurricane Irma Strengthens; Caribbean & Possible U.S. Impacts Increasing

Hurricane Hunter information is essential to fine tuning the future intensity of Irma later this week/this weekend. In Monday morning’s P3 mission the data shows Irma gains strength as it moves west-southwest at 14 mph.  At this pace it will move over, or just north of portions of the northern Leeward Islands early Wednesday. A Hurricane Warning is in effect for Antigua, Barbuda, Anguilla, Montserrat, St. Kitts, and Nevis, Saba, St. Eustatius, and Sint Maarten, Saint Martin and Saint Barthelemy . Pressure steadily drops Monday morning as the major hurricane intensifies. As of 11 AM pressure is down to 944 mb and winds are at 120 mph. As Irma continues to strengthen over a favorable environment its wind field expands in size too. The core of major hurricane force winds extend of 35 miles from its center. The tropical storm wind field now expands 140 miles from the center.

The strong Bermuda high guides Irma west late Monday and Tuesday. If Irma doesn’t gain latitude soon it will track further south and west down the road. The NHC and computer models have trended significantly further south and west since this weekend. Time has slowed a little too. That puts portions of Hispaniola. Cuba, The Bahamas, and eventually Florida in the cone of error. The worst of the storm could pass just north of Puerto, but close by Wednesday and Thursday. A Hurricane Watch is in effect for Guadeloupe, the British Virgin Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Vieques, and Culebra. A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for Dominica.  Land interaction, especially with mountainous Cuba and Hispaniola, could disrupt the growing, major hurricane. Keep in mind there a large track error on Day 4 and 5. This is 175 miles on day 4 and 225 miles in day 5. Things can and will change in the coming days. Now is the time be not panic, but stay informed and be prepared.

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Here’s a look at a significant shift west in early Monday computer models. If this trend continues, South Florida needs to prepare for possible major hurricane conditions Sunday and Monday. Notice the sharp track northward near and eventually over the Sunshine State. While there will be a sharp trough over the East coast, it now appears it may lift out and possibly miss Irma. Instead of the storm heading up possibly out the sea, high pressure may build back in and guide Irma into Florida or somewhere on the Southeast coast. This is a complex upper level setup and small changes will make a big difference in the track. The GFS has jumped on the furthest westward shift. The 06Z has the large major hurricane riding the spine of the Sunshine State. The Euro is west too with a path near southeast Florida and then up into the Carolinas. Stay tuned.

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Also of note is a tropical wave on the heels of Irma. It now has a 70% chance of developing over the next 5 days. An area of low pressure is worth watching in the southern Gulf of Mexico. While there is a 40% chance of development the next 5 days, it looks to stay south of flooded coastal Texas.

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