FIRST ALERT: Irma now category 5, strongest storm in a decade

(WBTV) - Watching Hurricane Irma blossom Tuesday morning to a category 5 storm – top of the charts – was something to behold.  Deadly as the storm is likely to be once making a landfall – wherever that may be in time – the storm is perfectly symmetrical and the National Hurricane Center used the term "spectacular" when describing its appearance via satellite data.

Based on Hurricane Hunter data from the US Air Force Reconnaissance plane, at 8 am Tuesday Irma was upgraded to 175 mph sustained winds, thus becoming the strongest storm in the Atlantic basin since Hurricane Felix in 2007.

Irma is over water that's roughly 86-88°F, and in a low-shear environment, so it is very likely to (at least) maintain its current intensity, and that's probably going to be the case for at least a couple days. The only way that forecast does not hold true is if Irma tracks farther south, directly interacting with rough terrains, such as Hispaniola, where mountains of 10,000 ft elevation exist.

The latest track keeps pushing Irma westward late in the week, arriving somewhere in the south Florida / Cuba neighborhood over the weekend.

Where the storm goes from there is still questionable, but there is gathering model guidance that strongly suggests a turn up into Florida appears likely and then – perhaps – up north into the Carolinas.

Beyond the weekend, there a lot of uncertainty, so at this point, WBTV viewers need not panic or worry, but stay mindful of Irma's changing path and start thinking about how best to prepare for an impact here, should that come to fruition.

In short, now would be the time – just in case – to make sure your medications are filled, that you have cash on hand, your cell phone charged and have enough food and water to provide for your family for a three-day minimum.

Lastly, do yourself a favor and download the free WBTV Weather App from the app store.  If and when severe weather threatens, you'll have everything you need right at your fingertips.

Again, just in case.

- Meteorologist Al Conklin

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