IRMA: Major cat 5 storm slightly weaker, max sustained winds sti - | WBTV Charlotte

IRMA: Major cat 5 storm slightly weaker, max sustained winds still at 180 mph

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -

Thursday 6:15 a.m.

The 5 a.m. update from the National Hurricane Center shows that Irma has decreased ever so slightly over the last few hours. Still, maximum sustained winds are 180 mph as it rolls through the Bahamas. Irma is still a very dangerous storm.

Here are the latest numbers if you are tracking at home:

  • LOCATION...20.0N 68.3W
  • ABOUT 95 MI...155 KM N OF PUNTA CANA DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
  • ABOUT 210 MI...335 KM ESE OF GRAND TURK ISLAND
  • MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS...180 MPH...285 KM/H
  • PRESENT MOVEMENT...WNW OR 290 DEGREES AT 17 MPH...28 KM/H
  • MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE...921 MB...27.20 INCHES

As of Thursday morning, the official track takes Irma into the southern tip of Florida near Miami. Beyond that… the official track brings Irma up the eastern coast of Florida and then into the South Carolina coast between Hilton Head and Charleston sometime Monday.  ***There is still a large degree of uncertainty on Irma’s exact path!***

Until Irma makes an expected turn to the North over the next 48-hours… the forecast for the Carolinas is tenuous at best.

Wednesday, 11:30 a.m.

The National Hurricane Center’s Hurricane Irma forecast made a rather dramatic shift to the east this morning, this as a result of model data doing the same.

At this point, the official forecast calls for a South Florida landfall early Sunday. That may in fact be the case, but the trend suggests otherwise.  Understandably, the NHC prefers to adjust forecasts only incrementally, for fear the data swings back the other direction causing a mixed message by way of a waffling forecast.

So, at this point – still about 4 days out from a potential Florida strike – all options need to be left on the table, thus the large cone of uncertainty. There’s even a possibility that the storm stays completely offshore of the United States, but most model data suggest otherwise.

Regarding the intensity, Irma is still a category 5 storm, with maximum sustained winds of 185 mph. The forecast only very gradually weakens the storm over time, and folks in Florida and the Bahamas are rightfully preparing for a major hurricane impact this weekend.

RELATED: Hurricane Irma slams Caribbean islands as Category 5 storm

Looking farther up the line, anyone along the GA-SC-NC coast needs to pay attention to swings in the forecast track and be prepared for what could be a big blow early next week. If Irma does resemble something along the lines of last year’s Hurricane Matthew - a coastal plain disaster - Charlotte and the WBTV viewing area might not be impacted too badly, as we’d be on the western flank. 

While that scenario is an option, it could also just be wishful thinking. There is a plethora of data that suggest Irma could be a powerful hurricane making a South Carolina low-country landfall early next week, then track inland and north toward the Charlotte region. If that were to be the case, Irma would pose a real problem for us.

So, at this point, the data is clustering on a more consistent solution, but we are still days away from any potential U.S. landfall and all forecast solutions need to be considered and respected. 

A lot can – and will – change over time, so I would simply urge you to check back with us frequently for forecast updates and start to think about what you would have to do this weekend to prepare and protect your family and property should Irma decide to pay us an unwelcome visit.

- Meteorologist Al Conklin

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