TROPICS: Hurricane Irma is Category 5, 185 mph winds

By Josh Linker and Brian McClure, Bay News 9 Meteorologists
Last Updated: Tuesday, September 05, 2017, 10:27 PM EDT

Hurricane Irma is a very dangerous category 5 hurricane with winds of 185 mph.

It is still a few hundred miles east of the Lesser Antilles, islands in the far eastern Caribbean Sea. Irma continues to move toward the W at around 14 mph.

However, Irma is expected to fluctuate in intensity this week, but is forecast to be a Category 5 or 4 hurricane during the next couple of days.

8 p.m. coordinates:

LOCATION...17.2 N 60.5W
ABOUT 85 MI E OF ANTIGUA
ABOUT 90 MI ESE OF BARBUDA
MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS...185 MPH
PRESENT MOVEMENT...W AT 15 MPH
MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE...916 MB...27.05 INCHES

Irma quick facts:

  • Lowest pressure (916 mb) since Hurricane Dean in 2007
  • First Category 5 hurricane east of the Caribbean since Hugo in 1989
  • One of the strongest hurricanes ever based on wind speed - Allen in 1980 was stronger. Irma has similar intensity to Wilma (2005, Gilbert (1988) and the Florida Keys storm (1935)
  • Strongest storm to make direct contact with the Leeward Islands since records began

In the short term, the computer models remain in good agreement with a west to a WNW heading through about Friday night. At that point, Irma could be very near the eastern third of Cuba. (Any wobble or fluctuation in track north or south makes a huge difference.)

After that is where we still have significant forecast challenges. As has been advertised for the last several days, there are strong indications that Irma is eventually going to make a turn to the north. There is still quite a spread in plausible solutions as to where and when this will occur.

Possibilities include east of Florida, over Florida, along the West Coast of Florida, or farther out into the Gulf. Of course, each of these solutions pose different actual sensible weather scenarios to a wide range of locations.

We often talk about the various computer models, specifically the GFS (American model) and the European model. The operational output of those models are close to each other, but built within the model are ensembles. Meaning the model is, for a lack of better words, run many times with some different variables.

We are now about a half a day of very good upper air data being input into the computer models, so over the next day or two, condifence should increase significantly in the forecast solution. At this point, unfortunately still too early to tell, however, it is never too early to prepare.

On Tuesday, Gov. Rick Scott activated 100 members of the Florida Air and Army National Guard to support with planning, logistics and operations in preparation for potential impacts from Hurricane Irma. These 100 members will be stationed across the state, and will advise the governor on available and needed resources to ensure communities are fully prepared for the storm.

In the meantime, Tropical Storm Jose has formed over the open Atlantic. It is the 10th tropical storm of the season.

A hurricane warning is in effect for: 

  • Antigua, Barbuda, Anguilla, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis
  • Saba, St. Eustatius and Sint Maarten
  • Saint Martin and Saint Barthelemy
  • British Virgin Islands
  • U.S. Virgin Islands
  • Puerto Rico, Vieques and Culebra
A hurricane watch is in effect for: 
  • Guadeloupe
  • Turks and Caicos, and southeast Bahamas

A tropical storm watch is in effect for:

  • Guadeloupe
  • Dominica

• What exactly are the spaghetti plots?
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Remember that the spaghetti model plot does not indicate the strength of a system or even development at all. It only predicts where this broad area of low pressure is expected to go.

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