CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - 5:00 P.M. UPDATE:
The 5 p.m. update from the National Hurricane Center did not bring any major changes to the forecast track for Irma, but the intensity forecast has been updated.
Irma is now forecast to re-strengthen to a Category 5 Hurricane with winds of 160mph right prior to landfall over the Keys, and then South Florida.
Irma should maintain a Category 4 status the entire time the storm is over Florida, before weakening quickly to a Tropical Storm over Georgia. The track still takes the storm west through Atlanta and then Nashville, meaning we will be spared the very worse rain and wind impacts locally.
ABOUT 195 MI...310 KM E OF CAIBARIEN CUBA
ABOUT 345 MI...555 KM SE OF MIAMI FLORIDA
MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS...155 MPH...250 KM/H
PRESENT MOVEMENT...W OR 280 DEGREES AT 12 MPH...19 KM/H
MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE...925 MB...27.32 INCHES
11:00 A.M. UPDATE:
The 11 AM update from the National Hurricane Center is in. It maintains Irma as a strong Cat 4 hurricane… and maintains its track towards the southern tip of Florida.
While the current path has lowered the potential for a landfalling hurricane along the South Carolina coast… it is too soon for anybody to let their guard down on the coast of the Carolinas or inland for that matter.
The key to the track still remains on when Irma make a turn to the north and heads into Florida. Irma should be monitored closely through the weekend.
ABOUT 270 MI...435 KM E OF CAIBARIEN CUBA
ABOUT 405 MI...655 KM SE OF MIAMI FLORIDA
MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS...150 MPH...240 KM/H
PRESENT MOVEMENT...WNW OR 285 DEGREES AT 14 MPH...22 KM/H
MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE...927 MB...27.38 INCHES
8:30 A.M. UPDATE:
Irma is still a major category 4 hurricane. The impacts to southern and central Florida are still expected to be devastating. Officials in the sunshine state are urging people to evacuate and to finalize their plans over the next 24-hours.
LOCATION: 21.8N 74.7W
ABOUT 80 MI...125 KM NE OF CABO LUCRECIA CUBA
ABOUT 450 MI...720 KM SE OF MIAMI FLORIDA
MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS...150 MPH...240 KM/H
PRESENT MOVEMENT...WNW OR 285 DEGREES AT 16 MPH...26 KM/H
MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE...927 MB...27.37 INCHES
For the Carolina's the forecast has shifted well to the west over the past 24-hours. This is good news for areas extending from Charleston and northwest into the Charlotte area. But this is not a time to let your guard down. The latest morning spaghetti plots have shown a little wider spread… and just a slight jog back to the east.
***Again this is a forecast… and until Irma makes her northward turn and then makes landfall in Florida… there will be fluctuations in the forecast track.***
But if the current forecast holds true, Charlotte and surrounding areas would get a glancing blow from Irma. But even a glancing blow will bring the possibility of some very heavy rains and winds.
Currently, the Charlotte area holds about a 30% to 40% chance for winds greater than 40 mph. The current precipitation modeling would also yield between 2 to 3 inches of rain for Charlotte.
***So again, a forecast adjusted to the east over the coming days would mean a greater impact on our area. Irma must be monitored very closely over the next 48 to 72 hours.****
5 A.M. UPDATE:
Hurricane Irma was downgraded to a category 4 storm as of 5 a.m. Friday, according to the National Hurricane Center.
The dangerous storm will continue to bring life-threatening wind, storm surge and rainfall hazards to the Turks and Caicos Islands and to the Bahamas through Saturday.
Serious hurricane conditions are still expected over portions of the Florida Peninsula and the Florida Keys starting Saturday night. A Storm Surge Warning is in effect for southern Florida and the Florida Keys, NHC says.
The chance remains for a direct impact to portions of Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.
Movement: WNW 16mph
There have been some fairly significant changes to the 5 p.m. update from the National Hurricane Center on Irma's track and intensity forecast.
Basically, the whole track has shifted slightly west, and the current intensity forecast now keeps Irma a Category 1 hurricane through Tuesday morning, right over the mountains of southwestern North Carolina.
This appears to follow the trend of the afternoon computer model guidance and several other ensembles, which have also shifted to the west. So what does this mean for our local impacts?
First off, if this path were to verify, it would be a better scenario for the Carolina coasts, as they would avoid a direct hit/landfall of the center of the (potential major) hurricane. Instead, Irma would stay over Florida, never re-emerging over water, and run right up the Florida peninsula.
With spending more time over land and less over water, this would mean a weaker storm for the Carolinas, with a rapid weakening from a category 4 over Florida to a Category 1 over Georgia.
For the interior Carolinas (the WBTV viewing area) this would also be a better set-up for us as well. We've been telling you how a track just to the west of Charlotte would be a worst-case scenario for us in terms of wind, rain, and tornadoes. But, this is only true to a certain extent. If the center tracks too far to the west (150-200 miles as opposed to say 50) we become further removed from the center of the storm, and in turn the most extreme rain and wind.
Now we caution that the storm is still several days away and, as Al Conklin explains here, the margin of error at day five can be over 200 miles. So instead of getting hung up on the center track line, we'll continue to pay attention to the trends in the models.