Hurricane Irma is making a big impact in the Caribbean, but the extremely strong storm is also projected to cause major trouble in the United States. Take a look at the latest projections of what is coming.
Satellite imagery of Hurricane Irma on Sept. 6, 2017, show Saint-Martin and Anguilla taking a direct hit by the category 5 hurricane.
Hurricane Irma crashed into the northern Leeward Islands early Wednesday morning. The storm's center passed over Barbuda and St. Martin, bringing damaging winds well over 100 mph to the islands.
Take a look at the morning observations for Irma. Winds were still sustained at 185 mph, making it a strong Category 5 hurricane. The deep reds on the image indicate the very cold, very tall cloud structures that build the dangerous eye-wall.
There are hurricane watches and warnings in place over much of the northern Caribbean Islands. Notice the areas in red are under a warning (hurricane conditions are likely) and those in pink are under a watch (hurricane conditions are possible.)
Looking specifically at the next major land area under threat — Puerto Rico — notice the wind projection map for late Wednesday includes AT LEAST upper-end tropical storm force winds to the island. It is possible hurricane force winds (winds above 74 mph) will impact the land.
As of Wednesday morning, the National Hurricane Center had adjusted Irma’s official projected track slightly east. This keeps the eye of the storm just to the north of islands like Puerto Rico, Haiti, Dominican Republic and Cuba. Smaller islands like Turks and Caicos, or the Virgin Islands, may see direct impact. As for the timing, Puerto Rico will feel the effects of Irma throughout Wednesday and into early Thursday before she continues westward. The storm approaches Hispaniola by Thursday through Friday.
As it continues into the weekend, the National Hurricane Center pushes Irma’s path north more quickly than before. As a result, landfall is expected (at this point) directly over South Florida, and barely west of Miami. More important, though, with 5 days left for the possible landfall, is the cone you see surrounding the red track line. Models maintain Irma may waver along the western or eastern coast of Florida as a Category 4 storm. Let’s talk about why.
This is the Sunday computer model projection for Irma from the American computer model known as the GFS. It indicates Irma will squeeze along the Florida coastline, bringing strong winds and heavy rain to both Florida and the Bahamas.
The model then brings Irma up for official landfall over the Georgia-South Carolina coast Monday. This could bring devastating winds and storm surge to the area.
Now look at the European model ECMWF. The latest updates to the computer run agree very closely with the American model. Irma approaches the eastern Florida coastline (similar to Hurricane Matthew last year) by Sunday.
Again, the European and American agree as Irma’s path projects along the coast and runs into the Georgia-South Carolina border by Monday. If the next couple updates to the European and American models continue to agree on this trend east, it’s likely the National Hurricane Center will shift the cone farther east, too. The entire track of Irma is fairly dependent on an upper level low that has brought the jet stream south. As the jet pulls north, Irma will likely follow. Regardless of where EXACTLY Irma makes landfall (or if she officially does at all), the storm will still bring dangerous conditions to the southeastern coast, especially Florida, by late this weekend.
Irma is not the only tropical system to track. Tropical Storm Jose and Tropical Storm Katia have developed as well. Katia sits in the Gulf of Mexico and is likely to track over Mexico. However, Jose appears to be following Irma’s path. It is not as strong of a storm and is much more likely to curve out to sea before becoming a threat to the U.S. However, some of the Leeward Islands could see impacts from Jose (following Irma) and should continue to watch for updates.