As expected, the Hurricane Warnings have gone up for southern Florida.
A Hurricane Watch, meanwhile, has been extended northward to include Manatee County It will likely keep being extended northward so that almost all of Florida eventually has hurricane warnings.
- MANATEE COUNTY: Voluntary evacuations issued for residents beginning at 7 a.m. Friday
- TRACK THE TROPICS: Storm positions, forecast models, formation potential
- CLOSINGS: Latest school, college closings | Travel closures
- SANDBAG LOCATIONS: Tampa area sandbags
- EVACUATION MAPS: County-by-county evacuation maps, info
- PDF: Pinellas County evacuation map
- CHECKLIST: Hurricane preparedness checklist
- SEE BELOW: Use the interactive storm tracker ▼
- ALSO BELOW: Timestamped updates on Irma
The models shifted a little east yesterday, but today they shifted back west. We’ve been saying for the past week that the variables in the atmosphere are constantly changing and evolving, and as they change and evolve our computer models would also fluctuate.
The farther Irma stays east, the better our weather will be. Since it’s coming near us, the smallest details will matter a lot when it decides to move north. Even a small difference of 30 miles will make a huge difference later on.
If the track keeps trending farther west, we’ll have to adjust the forecast to heavier rain squalls and hurricane force winds possible in part of our area.
The one small positive: if Irma comes up through Florida across Alligator Alley it would be weakening along that path, since it would be over land instead of water. If it stays on the east coast of Florida, however, it would stay stronger the entire trip northward up that side of the state.
Gov. Scott: "If you're in that cone ... the storm can move west. Everybody has to listen to evacuation orders." #IRMA— Bay News 9 (@BN9) September 7, 2017
11 p.m. update: As of 11:35 p.m. Irma is located about 55 miles east northeast of Great Inagua Island, and about 585 miles east southeast of Miami, Florida.
Maximum sustained winds have been measured at 165 miles per hour. The storm is moving west northwest at 16 miles per hour.
8:37 p.m. update: Governor Rick Scott has ordered all public K-12 schools, state colleges, state universities and state offices to close Friday, Sept. 8 through Monday, Sept. 11.
"Today, I am directing the closure of all public schools, state colleges, state universities and state offices for their normal activities effective Friday through Monday, to ensure we have every space available for sheltering and staging," Scott said in a statement released from his office late Thursday. "Floridians are facing a life-threatening storm in Hurricane Irma, and every family must prepare to evacuate. Our state’s public schools serve a vital role in our communities as shelters for displaced residents and staging areas for hurricane recovery efforts. Closing public schools, state colleges, state universities and state offices will provide local and state emergency officials the flexibility necessary to support shelter and emergency response efforts.”
8 p.m. update: Irma is currently located about 55 miles west southwest of Grand Turk Island and about 90 miles east of Great Inagua Island. Maximum sustained winds are at 175 miles per hour.
The storm is moving west northwest at 16 miles per hour.
7 p.m. update: University of Florida has canceled its football game against Northern Colorado in Gainesville Saturday because of Hurricane Irma.
"We have been in constant communication this week with University and government officials," said Florida Athletics Director Scott Stricklin. "As the Hurricane's track has approached the state of Florida, it's become obvious that playing a football game is not the right thing to do. The focus of our state and region needs to be on evacuations and relief efforts. There is a tremendous amount of stress currently on the roads of this state, and the availability of gas, water and other supplies are at critical levels. Playing a college football game Saturday would only add to that stress.
"Gainesville is also close to some of Florida's heaviest traffic points this week, specifically Interstate 75, which is a key statewide evacuation route."
Since the schools do not have a common open date, the game will not be rescheduled.
If you had tickets to the game, UF will send you information on refunds.
6 p.m. update: Florida Attorney General addressed assembled media at her Tampa office to update the public on her office's ongoing efforts to curb price gouging by retailers providing supplies to residents ahead of Hurricane Irma.
⚡️ “Florida AG Pam Bondi with update on price gouging ahead of Irma”https://t.co/SQysvPM9Ao— Bay News 9 (@BN9) September 7, 2017
4 p.m. update: Evacuations will begin at 8 a.m. Friday in Hillsborough County. It's for those registered with the county as special needs residents who live in Zone A. There are two shelters for those residents: USF Sundome and Strawberry Crest.
3:30 p.m. update: More closings announced, including St. Pete-Clearwater Airport.
3 p.m. update: Florida Gov. Rick Scott will speak again about Irma at 6 p.m. Watch LIVE on Bay News 9.
12:15 p.m. update: Based on an abundance of caution, Pinellas County commission approves mandatory evacuation for Zone A residents starting Friday at 6 a.m.
Decisions about further evacuations will be made by officials tomorrow.
Mandatory evacuation orders start at 6 a.m. Friday; shelters to open at noon. The evacuation includes:
All mobile home parks (countywide) included
Level A special needs transportation begins at noon
Additional evacuations up to Level C may be ordered to start on Saturday.
Levels B and C may leave at residents' choice prior to the order.
"A storm going up the Atlantic Coast will not cause any major storm surge to the Tampa Bay area," said Bay News 9 Meteorologist Diane Kacmarik. "There are no watches or warnings issued for the Tampa Bay area, either."
The City of Gulfport has issued a special needs level A mandatory evacuation order starting at 6 a.m. Friday. It's for people in mobile homes, with special needs and in a level A evacuation zone.
Hurricane Irma has killed at least 10 people and injured 23 in French Caribbean island territories as the dangerous Category 5 storm roared over the Caribbean, France's interior minister said.
Speaking on French radio France Info, French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said the death toll in Saint-Martin and Saint-Barthelemy could be higher because rescue teams have yet to finish their inspection of the islands.
"It's a tragedy, we'll need to rebuild both islands," he said. "Most of the schools have been destroyed."
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.
More Irma updates
9:45 a.m. - As Category 5 Hurricane Irma continues to threaten Florida over the weekend, and with 9-foot storm surges expected along the Gulf coast, Manatee County officials today issued a voluntary evacuation for many Manatee County residents beginning 7 a.m. tomorrow, Friday Sept. 8.
8:45 a.m. - At 8 a.m., there have been no changes to the winds or movement of Hurricane Irma and no changes to the watches and warnings.
8:30 a.m. - Hillsborough, Polk counties expecting additional shipments of sandbags today. Supplies running low.
7:15 a.m. - Hillsborough County has resumed activation of its Emergency Operations Center in response to Hurricane Irma.
5 a.m. - At 5 a.m., maximum sustained winds are 180 mph. This morning it is moving WNW at 17 mph and the center of Irma is forecast to stay just north of Hispaniola today.
Gov. Scott: If you're concerned you can't evacuate because of fuel issues, call 1-800-955-5504 #IRMA— Bay News 9 (@BN9) September 7, 2017
There are two other named hurricanes in the tropics. A Hurricane Watch has been issued for the same islands that were hit by Irma a few days ago including Barbuda. Jose is now forecast to become a category 4 and threaten the northern Leeward Islands.
Hurricane Katia poses no threat to the U.S. Katia is forecast to strengthen to a Category 2 hurricane and move southwest into Mexico sometime late Friday or early Saturday. A hurricane warning has been issued Thursday morning for parts of Mexico, including the state of Veracruz.
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.