Hurricane Irma is hitting the northern Leeward Islands as one of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes ever recorded, and Florida is preparing for the worst, hoping for the best.

11:06 p.m.

Hurricane Hunters found the pressure lower tonight inside Hurricane Irma, which corresponds with an intense category 5 hurricane. This storm is now in the top five of strongest storms in the Atlantic based on low pressure. 

Wilma (2005), Gilbert (1988), and Florida Keys (1935) had lower pressure, but you get the point. This storm is now in the history books as one of the strongest storms.

Maximum sustained winds remain at 185 mph.

The most reliable track guidance shifted a little west today, with putting South Florida as a possible impact zone this weekend. However, there is another set of models that are coming into the east and going up the east coast of Florida.

We’ve been talking about this on Bay News 9 and describing how the high pressure to the north of the storm will slowly shift east, allowing Irma to eventually make a northward movement. 

But the timing is in question right now as just a small difference of only 50 miles could make a huge difference on which side of the state the storm goes. 

Also of importance is the "angle of approach."  If it goes just to the south of Florida this weekend as expected and ends up near Cuba, it could move due north which would then mean it could easily make landfall in a number of spots as it could be paralleling our state at that time. 

We’re very confident in the track forecast for the next 3 days, but this weekend onward is still in question. 

Keep in mind that Irma will not have any impact to our weather the next few days. It’s not until this weekend that the storm will be getting close to our state.

9:50 p.m.

Tampa Parks and Recreation reports it provided a grand total of 16,650 sandbags on Sept. 5.

8:13 p.m.

Parts of Cuba are now under a hurricane watch as Irma nears the northern Leeward Islands as a powerful category 5 storm.

As of 8 p.m., the storm continues on a westward track toward the Leeward Islands at 15 mph. The minimum pressure is now 916 mb.

Maximum sustained winds remain at 185 mph.

7:44 p.m.

Hernando County School District has canceled classes on Thursday and Friday:

6:30 p.m. update: Gov. Scott said he has talked with school leaders, emergency officials and others as Irma preparations continue.

He said nearly 7,000 National Guard members will report for duty Friday morning.

"We're preparing for Irma to directly impact our state," he said.

Urging people to evacuate if ordered, he said, "We can rebuild your home, we cannot rebuild your life."

The governor said he is working with local governments on evacuation plans before making state plans. He said the Florida Keys are doing the right thing by evacuating residents.

5:20 p.m. update: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers game at the Miami Dolphins won't be played Sunday as scheduled. The NFL will announce a new location, a new date, or both.

5:15 p.m. update: Gov. Rick Scott has directed the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to suspend tolls across the entire State of Florida in preparation for Hurricane Irma. The change is now in effect.

5:10 p.m. update: Hurricane Irma continues to be about as strong as hurricanes get this evening. Irma is only the fifth hurricane in the Atlantic Basic with winds this high.

Due to an eyewall replacement cycle, there will likely be changes in intensity as the inner-core structure changes over the next couple of days.

A strong ridge of high pressure in the central Atlantic is expected to steer Irma WNW over the next few days. A large upper level trough over the Eastern U.S. is forecast to lift away allowing the ridge to build in westward. Over the weekend, a trough diving into the East-Central U.S. is expected to weaken the western portion of the ridge. This will turn Irma northward with increasing speed.

A reminder not to focus on the exact track, especially at the longer ranges since the average error is about 200-225 miles at days 4 and 5.

The chance of direct impacts to Florida continue to increase. However, it is too soon to specify the timing and magnitude of the impacts.

Make sure to watch our Tropical Updates each hour at :49

What exactly are the spaghetti plots?
Information You Need | Supply Checklist

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.

    Interactive Storm Tracker