The eye of Hurricane Irma recently passed directly over St. Maarten, after passing over Barbuda last night, and Irma is beginning to impact the U.S. and British Virgin Islands. It currently appears that Irma will pass just to the north of Puerto Rico as forecast, sparing them the worst, but close enough to be dangerous.
If there’s any good news this morning, it’s that the mid-level shear mentioned yesterday seems to have started impacting Irma, as the storm’s core is now asymmetric. This has resulted in a pressure rise of 9 mb in the past 6 hours according to recon data. However, winds seem to remain as strong as ever, with the plane this morning estimating surface winds of ~175 mph in the northern eyewall. Irma is expected to remain a very powerful hurricane for the foreseeable future.
Hurricane warnings now extend into the Turks and Caicos and SE Bahamas, as Irma is still expected to track through there on Friday, and Hurricane Watches are up in portions of Cuba. As far as the U.S. goes, model guidance indicates that a potential track into the Gulf of Mexico on the west side of Florida is becoming less likely, but still cannot be ruled out. The threat to the Florida Peninsula remains high, and a track just to the east of Florida up into the GA/SC/NC area is also very possible. A track directly over Cuba is also becoming less likely, though can’t be ruled out. If Irma does not pass over Cuba, the hurricane is unlikely to weaken dramatically on approach to Florida. Exactly how strong Irma will be near Florida is hard to say, but the storm is likely to be a very powerful and dangerous hurricane.
Given the continuing uncertainties in exactly where Irma will track near the United States, it’s important that everyone in Florida and the SE U.S. get prepared just in case the hurricane comes your way. The good news is that if you prepare properly and have a plan of action in case of a direct hit, you will be alright. Heed the instructions and advice of your local officials, and look to hurricanes.gov and your local National Weather Service office for the latest, correct information. Stay safe everyone. A new video will likely come this evening.