Overview: Hurricane Irma continues to be a very strong category 5 storm with winds at 185 mph as of the 5AM advisory. This storm will move northwest as it affects many of the Leeward Islands with hurricane-force winds this morning. It has already made a direct landfall on Barbuda. It will then continue to move in the northwest direction through the next five days, getting very close to South Florida, but that’s when the uncertainty increases. If Irma moves over the island of Hispaniola or Cuba, that will allow for the storm to weaken, but there is nothing else that is going to stop her from intensifying, and it doesn’t look like a track over those islands will happen.
Watches/Warnings: A Hurricane Warning is in effect for Antigua, Barbuda, Anguilla, Montserrat, St. Kitts, Nevis, Saba, St. Eustatius, Sint Maarten, Saint Martin, Saint Barthelemy, British Virgin Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Vieques, Culebra, Dominican Republic from Cabo Engano to the northern border with Haiti, Guadeloupe, Southeastern Bahamas, and the Turks and Caicos Islands. A Hurricane Watch is in effect for Haiti from the northern border with the Dominican Republic to Le Mole St. Nicholas, Cuba from Matanzas province eastward to Guantanamo province, and Central Bahamas. A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for Dominican Republic from south of Cabo Engano westward to the southern border with Haiti. A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for Haiti from south of Le Mole St. Nicholas to Port-Au-Prince.
Intensity: Hurricane Irma will remain as an incredibly strong, category 5 storm through Friday. Then it will “weaken” back to a category 3 or 4 as it gets closer to Florida. Even though it may get back to category 4 status, it will still be a very dangerous and catastrophic hurricane, so don’t focus on how it may weaken a bit because it will still be very strong over the warm ocean waters of the southwest Atlantic.
Track (Short-Term): There is a great deal of certainty in terms of the track of Irma for the next three of four days. Irma will track away from the Leeward Islands Wednesday morning, so hurricane-force winds are likely here. It will then move just north of the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico during the day on Wednesday, bringing heavy rain and gusty winds of at least tropical-storm-force. It will continue its west-northwest trek, moving north of the Dominican Republic and Haiti on Thursday. These countries will likely deal with the outer-rain bands as well as tropical-storm-force winds. Thursday night, the center of Irma will move very close to Turks and Caicos as a category 5 storm. Then on Friday and Saturday, at least the southern islands of the Bahamas will deal with the full ferocity of Irma. If you are in the NHC forecast cone, you need to be prepared.
Track (Long-Term): The uncertainty of Irma increases by day five. At this point, there is the potential Irma makes landfall on South Florida and the Florida Keys. This morning’s model guidance has trended east, however. If it takes this track, which is appearing more likely at this moment, it will make a sharp, right turn and move along the Florida coast and eventually getting into South Carolina. If you recall last year, this is a very similar track as Hurricane Matthew, but this storm may be even stronger. If you are Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas, you need to get prepared now. Even if a landfall is not guaranteed where you are, you may still deal with tropical-storm-force winds and it’s always good to be prepared just in case. There is still the chance Irma takes its sharp-right turn a little later in time and it goes into the eastern Gulf of Mexico, but that chance is low. Also the chances for direct impacts to the Northeast are continuing to decrease. A few of the ensemble members take Irma into the Northeast, but the main focus in the guidance is on the Southeast.
Alert Levels: We have issued “Imminent” Alert Levels for the Leeward Islands, Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. Also, due to the increasing threat to FL, high alert levels have been issued. Please review our key below for recommended actions to take based on the alert level issued for your region.
Conclusion: Hurricane Irma has begun to impact some of the Caribbean Islands and it will continue to do so the rest of this week. Land will remain at risk through the rest of Irma’s life as it track just north of the Caribbean Islands and towards the U.S.
We will have another update on Hurricane Irma as conditions warrant. Thanks for using our service.
-Jackson Dill, Hurricane Tracker App Team