Hurricane Irma, as of the 8:00 PM EST update, is a category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph with higher gusts. Minimum pressure is holding still at 925 mb. However, as you can see from the image above, there is a layer of deep convection starting to wrap around the eyewall. This process is the result of an eyewall replacement cycle and is also a sign of a rapid intensification. Irma is likely to make landfall in southern Florida as a powerful category 5 hurricane early Sunday morning. Officials are urging people to evacuate and head for safety. Even though the forecasted track keeps changing, understand that the storm, itself, is larger than the peninsula. No matter what side of the state you are on, you will be impacted by Irma. Storm surge is forecasted to be at least 10 feet in some areas with additional heavy rainfall. All schools, colleges and universities have been closed in preparation of Irma, and some universities will be used for shelters. The last airliner out of Fort Lauderdale International has left the area, and the airport has since closed. The National Weather Service in Key West sent out a powerful message, “This is as real as it gets. Nowhere in the Florida Keys will be safe.” Mandatory evacuations for all of the Keys, all of the southern coast of Florida, parts of the western coast including Tampa, and parts of the eastern coast including Miami and Fort Lauderdale have been set and continue to change.
All of the southeastern United States need to be watching Irma very closely. Irma is forecasted to come inland as far as the Tennessee Valley which brings other hazards. Heavy rainfall, flooding and isolated tornadoes are the main threats once Irma has made it on land. As of 10:00 PM EST, Irma can already be seen in the Miami radar. Preparations need to be finished today because tomorrow will be the last chance to evacuate. Once Irma hits, responders will not likely be able to help during the storm and you will have to wait it out if you are trapped.
Stay tuned for the 11:00 PM EST tropical updatehere!
ⓒ 2017 Meteorologist Brandie Cantrell