Hurricane Irma approaching coast of Florida - | WBTV Charlotte

Hurricane Irma approaching coast of Florida

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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -

9 P.M. UPDATE:

Location - 23.3N 80.8W
About 30 miles...45 kilometers ENE of Varadero Cuba 
About 110 miles...175 kilometers SE of Key West Florida 
Maximum Sustained winds - 120 mph...195 km/h
Present movement - WNW or 290 degrees at 7 mph...11 km/h
Minimum central pressure - 932 MB...27.52 inches

Irma has made the turn… and is now on a northwesterly and headed towards the Florida Keys. A consensus of the models have Irma crossing near Key West early Sunday morning around dawn.

As of 9 PM Saturday, Irma is still a major hurricane. The eye of the storm is moving into the open waters of the Florida Straits. As Irma transits across open water she should regain some force and is expected.

Irma will then continue a northerly track, and it expected to make a second landfall near Fort Myers on Sunday evening with hurricane force winds and torrential rains. Storm surge on the west coast of Florida is also a major concern for Sunday.

Irma will likely spend the entire day Sunday working her way up through the state of Florida. Nearly the entire state will be strafed by Irma’s powerful winds and rains.

The forecast path the last two days has maintained its westerly bent. And the storm continues a forecast track up into Georgia and now just west of Atlanta. While that path has taken the Charlotte area out of the main threat area, we will still see some very windy and rainy conditions Monday night into Tuesday morning. Sustained winds of 40 mph here in Charlotte are still possible Monday evening along with one to two inches of rain. So, Irma still poses a risk to bring down tree limbs and power lines, but the picture is much prettier that it appeared middle of last week.

-Meteorologist Chris Larson 

6 P.M. UPDATE:

Location - 23.4N 80.5W
About 50 miles...80 kilometers SE of Varadero Cuba 
About 115 miles...190 kilometers SE of Key West Florida 
Maximum Sustained winds - 125 mph...205 km/h
Present movement - WNW or 295 degrees at 9 mph...15 km/h
Minimum central pressure - 933 MB...27.55 inches

As of 5 PM Saturday, Irma is still a major hurricane. The eye of the storm is just starting to move back into the open waters of the Florida Straits. As Irma transits across open water she should regain some force and is expected to make landfall early Sunday morning in the Florida Keys near Key West.

Irma will then continue a northerly track, and it expected to make a second landfall near Fort Myers on Sunday evening with hurricane force winds and torrential rains. Storm surge on the west coast of Florida is also a major concern for Sunday.

Irma will likely spend the entire day Sunday working her way up through the state of Florida. Nearly the entire state will be strafed by Irma’s powerful winds and rains.

The forecast track the last two days has maintained its westerly bent. And the storm continues to track up into Georgia and now just west of Atlanta. While that has taken the Charlotte area out of the path of this storm, we will still see some very windy and rainy conditions Monday night into Tuesday morning. Sustained winds of 40 mph here in Charlotte are still possible Monday evening along with one to two inches of rain. So Irma still poses a risk to bring down tree limbs and power lines, but the picture is much prettier that it appeared middle of last week.

-Meteorologist Chris Larson 

12 P.M. UPDATE:

Location - 22.8N 79.8W
About 90 miles...145 kilometers SE of Varadero Cuba 
About 175 miles...285 kilometers SE of Key West Florida 
Maximum Sustained winds - 125 mph...205 km/h
Present movement - West or 280 degrees at 9 mph...15 km/h
Minimum central pressure - 941 MB...27.79 inches

Hurricane Irma weakened a little more than expected overnight due to interaction with the rough terrain of northern Cuba. 

As of noon Saturday, Hurricane Irma is back down to a Category 3 storm with maximum winds of 125 mph. The storm is still expected to move back over warm water and re-strengthen back to a Category 4 by Saturday evening. Irma is expected to have maximum winds of 140 mph prior to landfall over the Florida Keys early Sunday morning. 

While this is an improvement over the Category 5, 160 mph wind forecast for the Florida Keys from Friday evening, this is still a very dire situation for the Keys in particular, and much of south Florida. 

With each slight westward jog in Irma's track, our expected rain and wind impacts here locally keep getting nudged down slightly. With a more realistic expectation of 2-3" of rain, it still appears scattered power outages will be the main threat, with several hours worth of wind gusts around 40-50 mph, beginning midday Monday and lasting through the pre-dawn hours of early Tuesday morning.

- Meteorologist Lyndsay Tapases 

8 A.M. UPDATE:

Major Hurricane Irma is located nearly 200 miles south of Miami, and is moving W-NW at about 12 mph. Hurricane Irma is a category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph (higher gusts).

Much of south Florida is already experiencing heavy downpours and tropical storm force winds (39 mph or greater).

Hurricane Irma is expected to make an initial landfall in the extreme lower Keys area (not far from Key West) early Sunday morning. The storm is then expected to track up the SW Florida coast, making a second landfall "somewhere" near the Fort Myers/Cape Coral/Port Charlotte area. I know this area well, since I worked at WINK in Fort Myers for two years in the early 1990s. I then moved over to WTVJ in Miami two days before Hurricane Andrew slammed South Dade. Talk about bad timing!

The storm is expected to move north to northwest along the Florida west coast Sunday and into Monday morning. The storm will finally weaken to a tropical storm in Georgia Tuesday and then die out over the middle of Tennessee Wednesday.

On a track such as this, the WBTV viewing area would remain outside of the cone of worst weather. That said, with Hurricane Irma being such a massive storm, the reach of wind, rain and severe weather will be far-reaching (especially to the east of the center) and so we need to be prepared for a glancing blow.

Wind gusts (not sustained) of 30-40 mph can be expected (locally higher in the mountains) along with heavy downpours for Monday. A general storm total of two to four inches of rain can be expected (again, locally higher, especially in the mountains) which could produce localized flash flooding.

The soil across our part of the Carolinas is fairly wet after recent rains, so it may not take much to prompt flooding. There is also a chance for tornadoes to form during the daytime hours on Monday and into the evening hours, so we have to be on guard for that possibility.

Though the storm will be well away from us, much like last Friday when Harvey was in Tennessee and Kentucky, the decaying circulation - though hundreds of miles distant - still spawned twisters, so we need to remain open to that possibility.

With the above in mind, now would be a great time - before any bad weather comes our way - to download the free WBTV Weather App onto your mobile device. The app allows you to track Irma (and all tropical storms and hurricanes) as well as local radar - down to your neighborhood - and provides up-to-the-minute alerts on severe weather, lightning and heavy rain. How handy is that? 

As the remnants of Hurricane Irma pull away and head into Tennessee midweek, our weather should improve quickly as Tuesday unfolds and hold decent through at least Thursday.

Enjoy the beautiful weekend with sunshine and the temperature in 70s, but be mindful that the start of the workweek will bring wet and windy weather to much of the WBTV area!

We'll keep you posted. In the meantime, have a great weekend!

- Meteorologist Al Conklin

5 A.M. UPDATE: 

Strength  -  Category 4 Maximum sustained winds 155mph
Location  -  245 Miles SSE of Miami, FL
Movement  -  West 12mph

With such a beautiful weekend in store, it's hard to fathom the intense storm that is moving toward the U.S. as we speak. Hurricane Irma is still on track to hit the Florida coast Sunday morning and move north from there.

What does that mean for us in the WBTV viewing area?

The weekend is expected to be beautiful – so enjoy it! We will be mainly sunny with highs in the mid 70s for Saturday. Sunday will be partly cloudy with similar temperatures. (Keep in mind the average high is 83!) During the day on Sunday, you will feel the wind start to pick up, which might be around 10-20 mph. Those winds will be noticeable but hardly damaging.

As we move into Sunday night and Monday, that breeze will turn into a gusty wind.  Even though Irma is trending farther to the west (good news for us), it doesn’t mean we will escape her wrath completely. We can still expect wind gusts to be around 45 or 55 mph for Monday afternoon into the evening hours. Rainfall amounts look to be in the 2-3” range. That means we still have the possibility of trees and power lines coming down and the possibility of power outages can’t be ruled out.

So, keep a close eye on this fluid forecast as it will continue to evolve and we will doing everything possible to provide you with the best information to help you plan for the impacts from this storm.  

As always you can find us on WBTV News, our WBTV Weather App, our Facebook pages and of course continuing updates right here on WBTV.com. 

Stay tuned and keep track of everything Irma at our Full Coverage Hurricane page here.

- Meteorologist Leigh Brock

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