UPDATE: Gordon’s top winds rise as it moves northwest

 

 

Update 9 p.m.: Tropical Storm Gordon is steaming toward the Gulf Coast with top winds increasing to 60 mph, leaving Palm Beach County to deal with lingering rain and dangerous rip currents into Tuesday.

“The direct impact from Gordon is more or less all over for Palm Beach County,” said Arlena Moses, meteorologist for the National Weather Service.
“The main concern over the next day is rip currents. The risk remains high through Tuesday.”

The currents pose a danger to swimmers and small craft. The chance of rain remains at about 50 percent for most of Palm Beach County on Tuesday.

As the storm moves southwest of Tampa at 17 mph, the coasts of Mississippi and Alabama face a hurricane warning.

UPDATE 5 p.m.: Tropical Storm Gordon continues to speed northwest at 17 mph with 50 mph sustained winds.

With Gordon expected to intensify over the Gulf of Mexico, a hurricane warning has been posted for the Alabama and Mississippi coasts, an increase from a hurricane watch issued earlier today.

Gordon is expected to be a hurricane when it makes landfall along the central Gulf Coast, National Hurricane Center forecasters said in their 5 p.m. advisory.

 

Previous story: 

UPDATE 2 p.m.: The center of Tropical Storm Gordon is about 15 miles west-southwest of Marco Island with 50 mph winds.

The storm, which is moving at a swift 16 mph, is expected to strengthen in the Gulf of Mexico before making landfall near the mouth of the Mississippi River on Tuesday or Wednesday. Although the official National Hurricane Center forecast keeps Gordon a strong tropical storm, forecasters said there is a chance it could reach Category 1 strength before hitting the coast.

A hurricane watch is in effect for the areas west of the Florida-Alabama border to the mouth of the Pearl river.

UPDATE 11 a.m.: Hurricane watches have been issued for areas of the Alabama and Mississippi coastlines as Tropical Storm Gordon continues to organize as it moves closer to warm Gulf of Mexico waters.

National Hurricane Center forecasters said it is possible that Gordon could peak as a Category 1 hurricane just before landfall near the mouth of the Mississippi River on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Tropical storm warnings remain in effect for Miami-Dade, Monroe and Collier counties.

BOOKMARK The Palm Beach Post’s storm tracking map here.

UPDATE 10:51 a.m.: A significant weather advisory has been issued for areas from Greenacres through Jupiter as a strong thunderstorm threatens torrential rains and wind gusts up to 45 mph.

UPDATE 10:11 a.m.: The National Weather Service has issued a significant weather advisory for Palm Beach County as gusty showers move through areas including Boca Raton.

The advisory is in effect until 10:45 a.m.

“The main threat continues to be the flooding potential as more rain is expected through the afternoon and early evening hours,” NWS Miami meteorologists said in their morning forecast.

Previous story: Tropical Storm Gordon is moving quickly, expected to pass through southeast Florida by this afternoon, but tropical storm warnings are in effect for areas of Miami-Dade, Collier and Monroe counties as heavy rain continues.

Gordon, the seventh named storm of the season, was expected to form once it reached the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, but spun up a little before the forecast predicted.

BOOKMARK The Palm Beach Post’s storm tracking map here.

Palm Beach County is under a significant weather advisory until 10 a.m. with National Weather Service meteorologists warning of strong thunderstorms east of Lantana bringing wind gusts of up to 55 mph and the possibility of funnel clouds. The storm is moving at 35 mph to the northwest.

A wind gust of 56 mph was recorded at Florida International University in Miami at 8:54 a.m.

Sustained winds this morning at Palm Beach International Airport have been running about 9 to 20 mph, with a 21 mph gust recorded before 2 a.m. Miami International Airport reported gusts of up to 35 mph before 9 a.m.

As of 9 a.m., Gordon was 60 miles southwest of Miami moving west-northwest at about 17 mph with sustained winds of 45 mph. An Air Force hurricane hunter is headed into Gordon this morning.

Gordon is still expected to remain a tropical storm, with winds topping out at 60 mph in the Gulf of Mexico.

Tropical Storm warnings are also in effect for the coasts of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.

Rainfall estimates for the 24 hours preceding 8 a.m. show the heaviest showers hitting Miami-Dade County, according to the South Florida Water Management District. But those numbers will increase as the gauges update this morning.

Rain estimates in the 24 hours preceding 8 a.m.

The Weather Prediction Center is forecasting rain totals as high as 5 inches through Wednesday morning in South Florida.

 

A year ago today, Hurricane Irma was a Category 3 storm about 885 miles east of the Leeward Islands. Florida would be in the cone by Sept. 4 and Irma hit South Florida seven days later as a Cat 4 hurricane.

See the top 15 Hurricane Irma moments here. 

September is the peak of hurricane season, and the National Hurricane Center is also watching Tropical Storm Florence, which is about 895 miles west-northwest of the Cabo Verde Islands with 60 mph winds. The official 5-day forecast for Florence tops it out at 65 mph.

But the track forecast is a little uncertain. Hurricane center experts still expect it to move northwest before it comes anywhere near Florida as it travels around the western edge of an area of high pressure.

“The main source of uncertainty in the track forecast is exactly when and to what extent Florence will make this turn,” NHC hurricane specialist David Zelinsky in his forecast.

UPDATE: Possible tropical system drenches South Florida

Update 8 p.m.: The weak low-pressure area over Florida is interacting with an upper-level low to produce a large but disorganized area of cloudiness and showers extending from the northwestern Caribbean northward through most of the state, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

Environmental conditions appear to be marginally conducive for some additional development before the upper-level winds become unfavorable early next week, according to the center’s 8 p.m. tropical weather outlook. The chance of a tropical system forming over the next five days is 40 percent.

Regardless of development, the system is likely to produce locally heavy rainfall over portions of western Cuba, the Florida Keys, and the Florida peninsula during the next several days while the system moves northwestward to northward, according to the NHC. The next tropical outlook will be issued at 2 a.m.

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In Palm Beach County: Rain likely tonight, Saturday

Showers are likely through the night in Palm Beach County under mostly cloudy skies, according to the National Weather Service forecast. The chance of rain is 70 percent. Expect lows in the mid-70s and southerly winds around 5 to 10 mph.

On Saturday, the forecast calls for partly sunny skies in the morning, then mostly cloudy with a 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms in the afternoon. Look for highs in the upper 80s and southeast winds around 10 to 15 mph.

Continue reading “UPDATE: Possible tropical system drenches South Florida”

Hurricane Maria reaches Category 3 strength

Hurricane Maria is increasing in intensity, with top winds of 120 mph as of 11 a.m. about  60 miles east of Martinique.



For updated information on this storm, click here.

5 a.m. UPDATE: Hurricane Maria still Cat 5 strength as it heads toward Puerto Rico

5 a.m. update: Hurricane Maria is headed toward the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico as a Category 5 hurricane.

Maria has sustained top winds of 155 mph, and is moving west northwest at 9 mph.

11 p.m. Monday update: Hurricane Maria is moving over Dominica as it holds its status as a Category 5 hurricane.

Maria has sustained top winds of 160 mph, and is moving west northwest at 9 mph.

The eye is expected to move over the northeastern Caribbean Sea on Tuesday and approach the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico Tuesday night and Wednesday, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The storm is forecast remain a major hurricane into the weekend.

8 p.m. update: Air Force Reserve hurricane hunter aircraft data indicate Hurricane Maria has intensified into an “extremely dangerous” Category 5 hurricane with top winds of 160 mph.

Some gusts are even higher. The storm has moved within about 15 miles southeast of Dominica.

It is still traveling about 9 mph northwest.

“The potential for a life-threatening storm surge, accompanied by large and destructive waves, has increased for the Leeward Islands, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico,” an 8 p.m. advisory from the National Weather Service said.

5 p.m. update: Hurricane Maria has become a Category 4 storm with top winds of 130 mph, threatening islands already pounded by Hurricane Irma and leaving exhausted Floridians hoping projections hold up that it will turn north into the Atlantic Ocean.

 

By late Tuesday, the National Hurricane Center expects sustained winds to reach 155 mph  within shouting distance of Category 5 strength of at least 157 mph.

“Atmospheric and oceanic conditions appear favorable for additional rapid strengthening for the next 24 hours and possibly longer,” forecasters said in a 5 p.m. advisory. They noted “it is possible that the hurricane could reach category 5 status.”

Some weakening is possible after that, but a big issue for Florida will be the storm’s track.

It is traveling about 9 mph west and north, about 45 miles east and south of Dominica.

The official forecast track extends less than a week. Most projections beyond that see it missing Florida.

Still,  Irma forced forecasters to keep revising their maps before it ultimately hit the state. Understandably, nerves remain a bit on edge. It is too soon to forecast that far out with much accuracy. “Spaghetti” models like the one below from weathernerds.org manage to throw a few noodles into the discomfort zone.

 

 

2 p.m. UPDATE: Hurricane Maria’s strongest sustained winds have increased to 125 mph and its eye is expected to move through the Leeward Islands late this afternoon or evening, the National Hurricane Center said.

Maria remains a Category 3 storm, with top winds increasing about 5 mph since the last update. The track currently steers it northwest and  potentially into the Atlantic Ocean, short of Florida. It is moving northwest at 10 mph, about 45 miles northeast of Martinique.

Meanwhile, Jose is sustaining Category 1 hurricane status. bringing swells and three to five inches of rain to the U.S. east coast. Far to the east, Lee is hanging on as a tropical depression but is expected to lose strength.

 

11 a.m. UPDATE: Maria now a major hurricane; northeastern U.S. braces for Jose

As forecast tracks continued to steer Maria – now a major hurricane – away from a potential collision with Florida, the northeastern United States began to brace for a sideswipe from Jose.

At 11 a.m. top sustained winds for Maria – which became a tropical storm Saturday and a hurricane Sunday – had now reached 120 mph, making it a Category 3 on the Saffir-Simpson scale.

At 11 a.m., it was about 60 miles east of Martinique, and its eye was expected to move through the Leeward Islands late either in the late afternoon or early evening Monday.

A hurricane warning was posted at 11 a.m. for the U. S. and British Virgin Islands and a tropical-storm warning for Anguilla. Watches and warnings already were up for most of the islands of the eastern Caribbean, all places smashed by Hurricane Irma several days ago.

“Additional rapid strengthening is forecast during the next 48 hours, and Maria is expected to be a dangerous major hurricane as it moves through the Leeward Islands and the northeastern Caribbean Sea,” the 11 a.m. advisory said.

Robert Molleda, forecaster at the National Weather Service’s Miami office, said Monday morning that the “most probable track stays east of Florida through 5 days. Continue close watch this week.”

At 11 a.m., a tropical-storm warning for Jose was posted for the Northeast coastline from Watch Hill, R.I., to Hull, Mass., including Block Island, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket. Tropical-storm watches and warnings already were in effect for much of the East Coast, stretching from Delaware to New England.

Jose was about 265 miles east-southeast of Cape Hatteras in North Carolina and was crawling north at 9 mph. It had top sustained winds of 75 mph, just under the threshold of hurricane status.

“The center of Jose is forecast to pass well offshore of the Outer Banks of North Carolina today, pass well east of the Delmarva Peninsula tonight and Tuesday, and pass well to the east of the New Jersey coast on Wednesday,” an advisory said. It forecast “little change in strength” through Wednesday.

Lee, meanwhile, was barely hanging on a tropical depression, far out in the Atlantic. It was forecast to degenerate into a remnant low on Tuesday.

8 a.m. UPDATE: Hurricane Maria nearing down on Martinique

At 8 a.m Monday, Hurricane Maria was just 85 miles east of Martinique and was moving west-northwest at 12 mph. It had top sustained winds of 110 mph and is now a Category 2 hurricane.

A hurricane warning was added for St. Lucia and a tropical storm warning for St. Maarten.

An 8 a.m. National Hurricane center discussion said the storm was expected to slow through Tuesday night.

SOURCE: Weather Underground

 

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***

5 a.m. UPDATE:

Hurricane Maria is expected to undergo “significant strengthening” in the next 48 hours and be a major storm by the time it reaches the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean on Tuesday, the National Hurricane Center said in its 5 a.m. update Monday.

The storm, declared a hurricane one week after Hurricane Irma swept through Florida, was 100 miles east of the island of Martinique and 130 miles east-southeast of Dominica with maximum sustained winds of 90 mph. It was moving west-northwest at 13 mph, but was expected to slow over the next day or two.

Read The Post’s complete coverage of Hurricane Irma

The storm remains about 2,000 miles from Florida’s east coast, and the forecast does not discuss landfall with the United States. The eastern end of Cuba and the Bahamas could feel tropical-storm force winds as early as Thursday and Friday if Maria stays on its present path, forecasters said.

A five-day forecast cone provided with the 5 a.m. update suggests the storm will turn north east of the Bahamas between Thursday and Saturday.

SOURCE: Weather Underground

As of 5 a.m. Monday, hurricane warnings were in effect for Guadeloupe, Dominica, St. Kitts, Nevis, Montserrat and Martinique, forecasters said. Tropical-storm warnings were in place for Antigua, Barbuda, Saba, St. Eustatius and St. Lucia. Puerto Rico was under a hurricane watch, along with both the U.S. and British Virgin Islands. Many sustained significant damage during Irma.

Hurricane-force winds extended 15 miles from Maria’s center, and tropical-storm force winds 105 miles, the 5 a.m. update said.

Storm surge of 5 to 7 inches was possible in the Leeward Islands, along with 6 to 12 inches of rainfall.

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Hurricane Irma hits northwestern coast, weakens; tropical storm warning canceled for S. Fla.

Update, 5:45 a.m.: The National Weather Service has dropped the tropical storm warning for South Florida.

Update 5 a.m.: Hurricane Irma continues to move across Florida’s northwestern coast, weakening as it goes.

Currently it is 55 miles east-southeast of Cedar Key and about 100 miles north of Tampa. Irma is still a Category 1, but barely, with 75-mile-an-hour winds.

Irma is expected to become a tropical storm as it crosses into Georgia.

Update 2 a.m.: Hurricane Irma has weakened to a Category 1 hurricane with top winds up  to 85 mph  as it moves 25 miles northeast  of Tampa. Irma is projected to become a tropical storm later today as it moves toward the Georgia border.

It is moving northwest at 15 mph, and  can’t get out of Florida fast enough to suit most residents.

“Irma has a very large wind field,” a 2 a.m. advisory from the  National Weather Service noted. Residents of Palm Beach County probably do not need to be told that, as gusts pounded southeast Florida for hours on end. Winds are expected to ease to below 40 mph in the county by daybreak.

Daylight brings a chance to assess the damage across the state.

Update 1 a.m.: Hurricane Irma sustains Category 2 hurricane winds of 100 mph as its center moves 15 miles southwest of Lakeland.

It is still moving north at 14 mph.

Clearwater Beach measured a gust of 96 mph, bu high winds persisted much farther away and forecasters warned against venturing out because of a variety of hazards.

“Flooding is occurring across Florida with Hurricane Irma, ” the National Weather Service tweeted. “At night it can be impossible to see. Stay indoors!”

The intracoastal waterway splashes over the sea wall in West Palm Beach as Hurricane Irma moves through Florida Sunday.. (Greg Lovett / The Palm Beach Post)

 

Midnight: The  center of Hurricane Irma moved 25 miles south of Lakeland by midnight with 100 mph top winds, but it sent relentless gusts and rain for more than 400 miles from its center and refused to go quietly across South Florida including Palm Beach County.

The storm was moving 14 mph north, but forecasters left a tropical storm warning in place from Jupiter Inlet south as Sunday came to a close.

Irma’s not over: Tropical storm warning affects Jupiter Inlet south

Update 11 p.m.: It’s not over for Palm Beach County.  Hurricane Irma has pushed within 50 miles southeast of Tampa with Category 2  hurricane winds up to 100 mph, but  a tropical storm warning is in effect for Jupiter Inlet southward around the Florida peninsula to Bonita Beach.

The storm is moving north at 14 mph, though its track is expected to bend to the northwest in coming hours.

Tropical-storm-force winds, meaning 39 mph or more, extend outward up to 415 miles. That is double the reach the  storm had at earlier stages.

Gusts of more than 7o mph have been reported at Palm Beach International Airport.

Update 10 p.m.: As Hurricane Irma climbs up the state’s western and central spine,  its long arms have raked the east side longer than many expected.

The Juno Beach pier was blasted with an 83 mph gust, the National Weather Service noted in a 10 p.m. update.

A storage shed falls apart at a Jupiter Beach Resort as the outer bands of hurricane Irma hit Jupiter Sunday. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

That was stronger than a 78 mph gust in Tampa Bay, closer to the storm’s approaching center.

“Winds are still sustained tropical storm force with winds gusting 50-70 mph,” the NWS office in Miami tweeted earlier. “These wind gust can bring down trees, power lines.”

Sustained winds are expected to subside below 4o mph by 5 a.m. Monday in Palm Beach County, but for many, the storm is far from over.

Irma’s center moved 50 miles northeast of Fort Myers, maintaining top winds of 105 mph and moving north at 14 mph.

Update 9 p.m.:  Hurricane Irma has pushed 35 miles northeast of Fort Myers with top sustained winds at 105 mph, maintaining a 14 mph pace on a northerly track.

It is expected to take a northwesterly turn overnight, reaching the Georgia border by Monday afternoon. Before then, it steams through the I-4 corridor with population centers Tampa and Orlando and into the Panhandle.

Update 8 p.m.: Hurricane Irma’s top winds slowed slightly to 105 mph, or Category 2 strength, with its center about 15 miles northeast of Fort Myers. It is moving north at about 14 mph.

Strong winds continue to blow across the state including Palm Beach County. A storm surge warning remains in effect from the South Santee River southward to Jupiter Inlet.

 

A National Weather Service update about 6 p.m. cautioned gusts from 80 mph to 100 mph were possible in Palm Beach County through midnight, though sustained winds are expected to diminish over time and below 40 mph by 5 a.m. Monday.

Update 7 p..m.: Irma’s eyewall is “hammering Fort Myers,” a National Hurricane Center advisory says.

The storm’s center is about 15 miles east and north of Fort Myers, traveling north at 14 mph with top sustained winds at 110 mph.

Update 6 p.m.:   As Hurricane Irma’s  center plows into southwest Florida, Palm Beach County residents can expect periodic wind gusts from 80 mph to 100 mph,  continuing through about midnight, a National Weather Service update said.

Flagler Drive is raked by wind, rain and water from the Intracoastal Waterway in West Palm Beach Sunday afternoon, as winds from Hurricane Irma rake the county. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

But there’s some relief on the horizon:  Sustained winds are expected to subside below  tropical force, meaning below 39 mph, by 5 a.m. Monday, forecasters said.

“The worst of the winds are basically winding down,”  said NWS meteorologist Chris Fisher in Miami.  “But it’s still going to remain gusty through the evening and tomorrow morning, with a lot of power outages.  It’s probably not a good idea to venture out tonight.”

Irma’s center is about 25 miles southeast of Fort Myers. It is moving north at 14 mph, with top winds of 110 mph.

Update 5 p.m.: Hurricane Irma’s center moved past Naples with top sustained winds of 110 mph, but the storm’s winds may slow down if its stays on land, forecasters said.

“The eye just passed over Naples, ” a 5 p.m. advisory from the National Hurricane Center said.  Interaction with land and  countervailing wind forces pushing against it “should cause
significant weakening, but Irma’s large and powerful circulation will likely maintain hurricane strength until Monday morning at the earliest,” the advisory said.

The  latest predictions show top sustained winds slowing  to 85 mph in 12 hours and 65 mph in 24 hours, which would make it still dangerous and damaging but no longer a hurricane.

Meanwhile, the threat of a storm surges still poses a big  danger for southwest Florida.

“The threat of catastrophic storm surge flooding is highest along the southwest coast of Florida, where 10 to 15 feet of inundation above ground level is expected,” officials said. “This is a life-threatening situation.”

Update 4 p.m.: The center of Hurricane Irma has moved inland about 10 miles southeast of Naples, the National Hurricane Center said.

It is moving north at 12 mph. Maximum sustained winds are 115 mph, making it a Category 3 storm.

Naples is the home of Florida Gov. Rick Scott.

“It’s clear that the entire country is standing with Florida as Hurricane Irma batters our state right now, ” Scott said in a statement. “I have heard from people all across the world that want to help and support Florida. It’s encouraging, and on behalf of all Floridians – we appreciate the support and constant collaboration.”

President Donald Trump approved a major disaster declaration, Scott’s office said. The declaration authorizes federal funding to flow directly to Floridians impacted by Hurricane Irma and reimburses local communities and the state government to aid in response and recovery from Hurricane Irma.

A wind gust of 142 mph was reported at the Naples airport. A flash flood warning has been issued for the area.

Irma’s center moves inland near Naples but its winds are felt statewide. A large flag at a Tequesta wharehouse on Old Dixie blows with the surging winds Sunday morning. (Melanie Bell / The Palm Beach Post)

 

Update 3:35 p.m.: Hurricane Irma has made landfall at Marco Island. the National Hurricane Center said.

A 130 mph wind gust was  reported by the Marco Island Police Department.

 

 

UPDATE, 2 p.m.: Hurricane Irma, located about 35 miles south of Naples, has top winds at 120 mph as it picks up speed heading toward southwest Florida.

The National Hurricane Center reported a sustained wind of 62 mph at Miami International Airport, with a 99 mph gust. An 81 mph gust was recorded at the NHC office in Miami.

The storm, now with Category 3 winds, is moving north at about 12 mph, with a turn to the north-northwest and an increase in speed expected to start later today and continue through Monday, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Forecasters expect Irma to continue weakening some but, with its massive wind field, will remain powerful while it traces the west coast of Florida.

Storm surge remains a major hazard with the storm along the west coast of Florida. The current forecast calls for water reaching 10-15 feet above ground from Cape Saple to Captiva if the peak surge happens at high tide.

Hurricane-force winds extend nearly 80 miles from the center, with tropical storm-force winds out to 220 miles from the eye.

 

Update 12:05 p.m.: Hurricane Irma is 65 miles south-southeast of Naples with maximum sustained windsd of 130 mph and moving north at 9 mph.

Update 11 a.m.:  Hurricane Irma is still a Category 4 storm with 130 mph winds moving north at 9 mph.

That means a second landfall is likely in Naples or Fort Myers today.

Irma’s center wobbled north over the past few hours as it embeds with in a broad mild-level gyre over the Gulf of Mexico.

Update: 10:06 a.m.: Irma’s eye is beginning to move away from the lower Florida Keys. A 93 mph gust was recently measured at Carysfort Reef Light near Key Largo. A National Ocean Service station in Key West just reported a sustained wind of 67 mph and a gust to 89 mph.

In West Palm Beach, winds are gusting to 62 mph at the Palm Beach International Airport with sustained winds of 43 mph.

Update 9:44 a.m.: The National Hurricane Center reports that Hurricane Irma made landfall at Cudjoe Key at 9:10 a.m.

A second Florida landfall is possible near Naples or Fort Myers.

Irma landfall is 1st Cat 4 in the Florida Keys since 1960’s Donna.

Update 9 a.m.: The lower Florida Keys is in the eye of Hurricane Irma, which is maintaining strength  as a 130 mph Category 4 hurricane.

A weather station in Key West just measured sustained winds of 71 mph with a gust to 91 mph.

Irma is moving north-northwest at 8 mph.

“Regardless of its peak winds at landfall, Irma poses an extremely serious storm-surge threat to the highly populated, surge-vulnerable stretch of coastline from Fort Myers to Tampa,” wrote Bob Henson, a meteorologist and blogger for Weather Underground. “The westward-trending track also raises concerns for the eastern Florida Panhandle, where a direct hurricane landfall would be possible if Irma stayed just off the state’s northwest coast.”

Update 8 a.m.: The center of Category 4 Hurricane Irma is about to make landfall in lower Florida Keys.

As of the 8 a.m. advisory from the National Hurricane Center, the 130-mph hurricane was 20 miles east-southeast of Key west and about 110 miles south of Naples. It is moving north-northwest at 8 mph.

A wind gust of 91 mph was measured at the Key West National Weather Service office at 7:55 a.m.

An increase in forward speed is expected later today and should continue through Monday.

On the current track, Irma should move up the west coast of Florida today through tonight and inland over northern Florida and southwestern Georgia Monday afternoon.

Update 7 a.m.: The northern eyewall of Hurricane Irma has reached the lower Florida Keys.

The Category 4 storm with winds of 130 mph is moving northwest at 8 mph after making the long-awaited turn around the western edge of the Bermuda High.

The National Weather Service office in Key West is experiencing gusts to 89 mph.  Key West International Airport is measuring sustained winds of 50 mph with gusts to 70 mph.

Update 5 a.m.: Hurricane Irma was 40 miles south-southeast of Key West at 5 a.m. with sustained winds of 130 mph.

It is a Category 4 hurricane moving at a crawling 8 mph. Hurricane force-winds extend 80 miles from Irma’s center with tropical storm force winds extending an incredible 220 miles.

Irma is triggering tornado warnings in Palm Beach County, and a wind gust of 66 mph was recorded at Palm Beach International Airport with a recent squall.

While some intensification of Irma could occur over the next several hours, the National Hurricane Center said increasing wind shear should keep it to a minimum or even begin to weaken the storm as it encounters land.

Check The Palm Beach Post radar map.

“The new intensity forecast is slightly lower than that of the previous advisory at those times, but it still calls for Irma to be a major hurricane at its closest approach to the Tampa Bay area,” forecasters wrote.

That is not good news to the storm vulnerable Gulf Coast.

 

“This is probably one of the worst tracks you can get for the west coast of Florida,” said Ken Clark, an expert meteorologist with AccuWeather. “It’s going to be bad.”

At its 11 p.m. advisory, the National Hurricane Center said Irma’s scrape of the Cuban coastline affected its intensity, dropping its winds to 120 mph temporarily.

Hurricane hunters reported a double eye wall, meaning a eye wall replacement cycle may have been underway – process that can weaken a storm.

Forecasters did not expect it to rebound so quickly, putting its max sustained winds at 125 mph before reaching land.

Although it’s likely Irma will move through or over the lower Keys this morning, the angle of approach makes it difficult to pinpoint exactly where Hurricane Irma will cross the Florida Gulf coast.

 

At Key West International Airport, a sustained wind speed of 43 mph with a gust to 73 mph was recorded this morning, while sustained winds of 66 mph were measured on Molasses Reef.

At Palm Beach International Airport, winds were gusting to 38 mph overnight with sustained winds measured at 29 mph.

Robert Molleda, warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Miami, ,said squally storms in Irma’s outer bands could send 90-mph gusts into West Palm Beach that would topple trees, tear up patio awnings, down fences and wreck mobile homes.

“No part of South Florida is going to skate by this without significant impacts,” Molleda said Saturday. “We are going to have strong damaging wind gusts at the very least and that’s what we should be preparing for.”

Irma’s hurricane force-winds extended 70 miles from its center Saturday, with tropical storm-force winds reaching a whopping 195 miles from the core of the storm. That means Irma will easily touch most of Florida’s peninsula and into the eastern part of the Big Bend area.

Tornado warning for WPB, Boynton and Delray until 4:15 p.m.

Update 3:52 pm.: A tornado warning has been issued for parts of Palm  Beach County including West Palm Beach, Boynton Beach and Delray Beach until 4:15 p.m.

 

UPDATE, 2:40 p.m.: The National Weather Service has issued a tornado warning for central Palm Beach County, including Wellington, Royal Palm Beach and Loxahatchee Groves, until 3 p.m.

The storm is moving northwest at 80 mph.

UPDATE, 2:27 p.m.: The National Weather Service has issued a tornado warning for southeastern Palm Beach County, including Boca Raton, Boynton Beach and Delray Beach, until 2:45 p.m.

The storm is moving northwest at 90 mph.

UPDATE, 1:50 p.m.: The National Weather Service has issued a tornado warning for eastern Broward County and parts of southeastern Palm Beach County, effective until 2:15 p.m.

A severe thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado was located 8 miles east of Surfside and moving northwest at 90 mph.

Boca Raton and other cities were included in this warning.

Update 3:45 a.m.: The National Weather Service has issued a tornado warning for southern Palm Beach County through 4:15 a.m.

Affected communities include Boca Raton, Delray Beach and Boynton Beach.

NWS radar detected a band of powerful thunderstorms moving northwest at 30 mph.

Update 3 a.m.: Hurricane Irma, a Category 4 storm still packing 130 mph winds, inched closer to Key West, now just 65 miles southeast.

In addition, the National Hurricane Center showed that the National Ocean Service’s station on Pulaski Shoals Light — near the Dry Tortugas — experienced a sustained wind of 62 mph and a gust to 76 mph.

Update 2 a.m.:  Hurricane Irma’s top winds have increased to 130 mph, making it a Category 4 storm as it moves within 70 miles of Key West.

“On the forecast track, the center of Irma is expected to cross the Lower Florida Keys during the next several hours, and then move near or along the west coast of Florida this afternoon through Monday morning,” a 2 a.m. National Hurricane Center advisory said.  “Irma should then move inland over the Florida panhandle and southwestern Georgia Monday afternoon.”

The storm is still moving northwest at 6 mph, but is expected to pick up speed in coming hours, forecasters said. Despite earlier projections it might remain a Category 3 storm,  it has gained strength again as it nears Florida.

“Irma is forecast to restrengthen a little more while it moves through the Straits of Florida and remain a powerful hurricane as it approaches the Florida Keys and the west coast of Florida,” the advisory said.

The storm’s reach has widened, with tropical storm-force winds of 39 mph or more now extending 205 miles.

Update 1 a.m.:  Hurricane Irma is “slowly tracking toward the western Florida Keys,” a National Hurricane Center update says, with top wind speeds of 120 mph.

The Category 3 storm is moving about 6 mph northwest, about 80 miles to the  southeast  of Key West. Sluggish progress  leaves the west coast and Panhandle of Florida wondering where it will make landfall, while southeast Florida sweats out thunderstorms and tornado threats.  A slower pace also means more time to dump a potential 10 trillion gallons of rain on the state.  Parts of Palm Beach County could see more than 10 inches of rain.

More than 200,000 people in southeast Florida have lost power, including more than 28,000 in Palm Beach County.

 

 

Hurricane Irma has advanced within 80 miles of Key West, producing gusts up 68 mph there, but a westward drift has removed Jupiter inlet and areas south of it from a storm surge warning.

The storm remain a Category 3 hurricane, moving slowly northwest at 6 mph with top winds of 120 mph in a midnight update from the National Hurricane Center.

 

Business owners in Palm Beach County had a message for Hurricane Irma. (Greg Lovett/Palm Beach Post)

A wobble one way or the other in the next few hours has huge consequences for Florida’s west coast and potentially the Panhandle, and  the storm’s bands continue to send thunderstorms, high winds, rain and the threat of tornadoes to southeast Florida.

Advancing over warm open water opens the possibility Irma will strengthen, but the latest projections from the National Hurricane Center suggest it will remain a Category 3 storm in the next 24 hours. That makes it still a very dangerous storm, but the risks to Palm Beach County and the Treasure appear to be easing. West Palm Beach still has a 59 percent of  receiving tropical storm-force winds of 39 mph or more in the next 12 hours, but the risk of sustained hurricane winds, 74 mph or more, is down to about 1 percent.

 

 

 

 

Tornado warning issued for St. Lucie County until 10 p.m.

Update 9:38 p.m.: Hurricane Irma’s outer bands continue to pound the state. A tornado warning  has been issued for northeastern St. Lucie County until 10 p.m.
At 9:33 pm.,  a severe thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado was located near Fort Pierce Inlet, moving west at 25 mph, officials said.

Update 7:51 pm: A tornado watch remains in effect for parts of western Palm Beach Co.

Hint of lean west as Hurricane Irma churns 90 miles from Key West

Update 11 p.m.:  Hurricane Irma is “taking its time moving away from Cuba,” slowing its northwesterly track to 6 mph with top winds remaining at 120 mph as Key West awaits 90 miles away, forecasters said.

The track has moved slightly west, removing the  Jupiter inlet and areas south of it from a storm surge warning, the  National Hurricane Center said.

“Because of Irma’s hesitation to move northwestward, the new track guidance has shifted ever so slightly westward, and the new NHC track is just a little left of the previous one,” an 11 p.m. advisory said. “Although it is likely that the eye will move near or over the Lower Keys Sunday morning, the hurricane’s angle of approach to the west coast of Florida makes it very difficult to pinpoint exactly where Irma will cross the Florida Gulf coast.”

Top winds are now forecast at 125 mph in 12 hours and 120 mph in 24 hours, meaning it could remain as a Category 3 hurricane. That remains a dangerous storm, but a westward drift and the chance it will not  fulfill earlier predictions it will regain Category 4 strength  could have big implications for the impact on Florida’s most populated areas.

The Storm Surge Warning has been discontinued north of North Miami Beach to Jupiter Inlet.

Update 10 p.m.: Hurricane Irma has advanced within 95 miles of Key West, with top winds near the center gearing back to 120 mph but the storm’s outer bands continuing to pose threats with a tornado warning in St. Lucie County.

A tornado warning over Wellington, Florida was issued at 7:30 Saturday night as feeder bands from hurricane Irma pass over central Palm Beach County. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Its speed  on a track heading west and northwest has slowed again to 7 mph, but it it still expected to strengthen from a Category 3 storm to a Category 4.

Update 9 p.m.:  The top winds of Hurricane Irma strengthened to 125 mph as it moved 105 miles southeast of Key West, forecasters said.

The storm is moving west and northwest at 9 mph, picking up the pace a bit since the last update.

Marathon Key reported a gust of 71 mph.

Update 8 p.m.: Hurricane Irma’s top winds slowed slightly to 120 mph as it disentangled with Cuba and began an expected approach to the Florida Keys, but its long reach is already producing thunderstorms and tornado threats across South Florida including Palm Beach County.

Its movement west and northwest has slowed somewhat  to 7 mph, about 110 miles southeast of Key West. It is a Category 3 storm for now, but is expected to regain strength over warm waters, forecasters said.

“Irma is forecast to restrengthen once it moves away from Cuba and remain a powerful hurricane as it approaches Florida,” the National Hurricane Center’s 8 p.m. update said.

Update 7:19 p.m.: A tornado warning has been issued until 8 p.m. for parts of Palm Beach County including West Palm Beach, Boynton Beach and Wellington, the National Weather Service said

Palm Beach County emergency officials said a severe thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado was located near Wellington moving west at 35 mph, radar showed. It was expected to be near Lion Country Safari by 7:40 p.m. and possibly threatening Belle Glade by 8 p.m.
Full Tornado Warning:
PALM BEACH FL- 726 PM EDT SAT SEP 9 2017
…A TORNADO WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 800 PM EDT FOR CENTRAL PALM BEACH COUNTY… AT 726 PM EDT, A
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO WAS LOCATED NEAR WELLINGTON, MOVING WEST AT 35 MPH.
HAZARD…TORNADO.
SOURCE…RADAR INDICATED ROTATION.
IMPACT…FLYING DEBRIS WILL BE DANGEROUS TO THOSE CAUGHT WITHOUT SHELTER. MOBILE HOMES WILL BE DAMAGED OR
DESTROYED. DAMAGE TO ROOFS, WINDOWS, AND VEHICLES WILL OCCUR. TREE DAMAGE IS LIKELY.
THIS DANGEROUS STORM WILL BE NEAR… LION COUNTRY SAFARI PARK AROUND 740 PM EDT. BELLE GLADE AND BELLE GLADE
CAMP AROUND 800 PM EDT.
PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS…
TAKE COVER NOW! MOVE TO A BASEMENT OR AN INTERIOR ROOM ON THE LOWEST FLOOR OF A STURDY BUILDING. AVOID
WINDOWS. IF YOU ARE OUTDOORS, IN A MOBILE HOME, OR IN A VEHICLE, MOVE TO THE CLOSEST SUBSTANTIAL SHELTER AND
PROTECT YOURSELF FROM FLYING DEBRIS.
HEAVY RAINFALL MAY HIDE THIS TORNADO. DO NOT WAIT TO SEE OR HEAR THE TORNADO

 

Update 6:45 p.m.: Hurricane Irma is now 110 miles southeast of Key West, with top winds of 125 mph expected to grow stronger.

A National Ocean Service station in Vaca Key reported sustained winds of 46 mph with a gust to 59 mph. Marathon reported sustained winds of 43 mph with a gust to 66 mph.

Gov.  Rick Scott said in a press conference, “This is just a massive storm. I’m praying we don’t lose lives.”

 

Update 5 p.m.: Hurricane Irma’s top winds remained at 125 mph as it moved 65 miles east of Varadero, Cuba, but forecasters projected it will return to a Category 4 storm with 140 mph winds within 24 hours. Their warning to the Florida Keys: Expect major hurricane winds by daybreak.

The storm is moving to the west and northwest at 9 mph, keeping the southwest coast of Florida in its projected path.

“The threat of catastrophic storm surge flooding is highest along the southwest coast of Florida, where 10 to 15 feet of inundation above ground level is expected,” a National Hurricane Center advisory said. “This is a life-threatening situation, and everyone in these areas should immediately follow any evacuation instructions from local officials.”

But don’t get too focused on the eye with a storm whose shoulders are this broad, forecasters cautioned.  Dangerous winds, tornadoes and other threats extend across the width of the peninsula, they said.

Hurricane-force winds, 74 mph or higher, extend outward up to 70 miles, and tropical-storm-force winds, or more than 39 mph, reach out up to 195 miles. For example, Ft. Lauderdale/Hollywood International airport reported a gust of 70 mph, officials said.

“Irma will bring life-threatening wind impacts to much of Florida regardless of the exact track of the center,” the advisory said.

Update 4:30 p.m.: Hurricane Irma’s eye is clearly visible now on Key West’s radar. Key West National Weather Service office says, “This is as real as it gets.”

Update 2 p.m.:  The National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Irma has maximum sustained winds of 125 mph, making it a Category 3 storm.

But Irma is expected to restrengthen as it moves closer to Florida and over the warm waters of the Florida Straits. It is moving west at 9 mph, and should take a northwest turn later today.

As Irma’s track has moved further west, life-threatening storm surge has become a bigger concern on the southwest coast of the state with more than 9 feet threatening to overrun barrier islands and move deep into the Caloosahatchee River.

Update 12:11 p.m.: A tornado watch has been issued for for seven counties until midnight as Irma’s outer bands begin to reach further into the state.

The watch includes Palm Beach, Broward, Collier, Glades, Hendry, Monroe and Miami-Dade counties.

Update 12:04 p.m.: Irma is about 210 miles south of Miami, or 260 miles south-southeast of Naples. It’s tropical storm-force winds extend 195 miles.

“Major Hurricane Irma remains an extremely dangerous threat for all of South Florida, with a direct major hurricane impact likely over Southwest Florida,” forecasters wrote. “The main concern will be the potential for catastrophic and life-threatening storm surge inundation for Southwest Florida.”

Tropical storm-force winds are still not expected in Palm Beach County until late tonight or early Sunday morning, with the strongest winds – sustained of 55 mph to gusts of 72 mph – happening Sunday afternoon into late night.

As of the 11 a.m. advisory from the National Hurricane Center, the “most likely” arrival time of tropical storm force winds in Palm Beach County is about 8 a.m. Sunday. The “earliest reasonable” arrival time is Sunday about 1-2 a.m.
The hourly wind times for West Palm Beach show the first sustained tropical storm-force wind at 10 a.m. Sunday.

 

Update 11 a.m.: Irma is down to a Category 3 hurricane with winds of 125 mph, but is expected to strengthen as it moves away from Cuba.

The storm has slowed to just 9 mph as it moves straight west. Irma is about 285 miles southeast of Key West. Hurricane force-winds extend out from Irma’s center 70 miles, with tropical storm-force winds reaching 195 miles.

National Hurricane Center forecasters said they expect Irma to regain 140 mph winds before making landfall in Florida, likely in the Keys.

Irma is about to reach the western edge of the Bermuda High and is expected to make a right turn to the north “soon.”

“The track guidance is tightly packed and takes the hurricane over the Florida Keys and near or over the Florida Peninsula,” forecasters wrote. “The confidence in the track forecast is high.”

The probability of Palm Beach County experiencing hurricane force-winds is about 5 to 30 percent, but Florida’s southwest coast’s chances are increasing for dangerous winds and storm surge.

 

The National Weather Service has measured gusts of 57 mph in western Miami.

The highest risk for damaging winds is in South Florida where the eyewall, and its dangerous right front quadrant, passes. On the current track, that could include Naples north to Tampa.

“Only a slight eastward departure in track could bring the core of the most dangerous winds to the Miami area,” said Bob Henson, a meteorologist and blogger for Weather Underground. “Hurricane-force winds are possible, and damaging tropical-storm-force winds are very likely, well up and down the west and east coasts of Florida, as well as inland, including the Orlando area.”

Western areas of Palm Beach County are under a flash flood watch with coastal areas under a flood watch. As much as 6 to 15 inches of rain is possible through Thursday.

Update 10 a.m.: Three tornado warnings have been issued in South Florida as Hurricane Irma’s outer bands start reaching Miami and Naples.

Alerts were issued in Miami-Dade and Collier counties this morning as the massive Category 4 hurricane reaches over the Florida Straits.

Tornadoes are also going to be a concern for Palm Beach County as Irma continues to move onshore and its more turbulent bands move north.

 

 

Update 8 a.m.: Interaction with Cuba has weakened Irma to a low-end Category 4 storm with 130-mph winds, but the storm is expected to regain strength once it moves into the Florida Straits.

Irma is headed west near 12 mph and is expected to make a move to the northwest later today and then north-northwest tonight. On its current path, Irma should reach the Florida Keys Sunday morning and be near the southwest coast of Florida Sunday afternoon.

The new forecast track is basically the same as the 5 a.m., steering Irma more to the west with a center track skimming Florida’s western coast.

Palm Beach County is out of the forecast cone, a stark difference to just a day ago when the track was further to the east. But the area will still feel sustained tropical storm-force winds with possible hurricane-force gusts because of Irma’s large size.

Also, about 33 percent of the time, a hurricane moves outside the forecast track.

Under the 5 a.m. forecast, West Palm Beach is predicted to feel 75 mph-gusts on Sunday afternoon and evening, with sustained winds of 54 mph. That means gusts to Category 1 strength with sustained tropical storm-force winds.

Hurricane force-winds extend out 70 miles from the center with tropical storm-force winds extending out a whopping 195 miles.

The area in orange around Irma shows the wind field for hurricane force winds. The light green is tropical storm force winds.

This morning, the National Weather Service in Miami sent an alert noting that the outer bands of Irma were approaching South Florida.

The highest risk for damaging winds is in South Florida where the eyewall, and its dangerous right front quadrant, passes. On the current track, that could include Naples north to Tampa.

“Only a slight eastward departure in track could bring the core of the most dangerous winds to the Miami area,” said Bob Henson, a meteorologist and blogger for Weather Underground. “Hurricane-force winds are possible, and damaging tropical-storm-force winds are very likely, well up and down the west and east coasts of Florida, as well as inland, including the Orlando area.”

Check The Palm Beach Post radar map.

Bands of Irma approaching South Florida.

Here’s the forecast for West Palm Beach:

Irma’s track shifted gradually west on Friday with the West coast of the state facing an increasingly grim future as the storm refused to make a forecast right turn.

Because of the angle of Irma’s approach to the West coast of Florida, it is extremely difficult to pinpoint exactly where the center might move onshore.

Related: Palm Beach County officials say don’t be lulled into complacency by western track. 

The current west-northwest motion is expected to continue for the next 12 to 24 hours, followed by the turn to the north-northwest that would take the center parallel to the west coast of the state.

But it is still believed Irma will make landfall in Florida as an extremely dangerous major hurricane that likely will be able to maintain near Category 5 winds if the center stays off the west coast of Florida where it will be partly over the warm Gulf of Mexico waters.

The official forecast keeps Irma at major hurricane strength through at least early Monday when it is expected to be riding the coast near Tampa.

Storm surge on the southwest coast of Florida could be between 8 and 12 feet above ground level in some areas.

The Bermuda High is stronger than forecasters thought, keeping Irma on that westerly track longer than expected.

While forecasters had hoped a trough of low pressure delivering cold air to the northeast would be strong enough erode the Bermuda High and allow Irma to slip north into a weak spot, riding the western edge of the high out to sea.

“That trough just bounced up over the top of the high and couldn’t push it eastward,” said Bob Smerbeck, senior meteorologist with AccuWeather. “The high was so strong, that the trough just wasn’t strong enough to budge it.”

Smerbeck suspects that Hurricane Jose may be playing a role in keeping Irma steering to the west.

Jose, now a Category 4 hurricane that is not expected to impact the U.S., is behind Irma. The two of them acting together may have bolstered the Bermuda High, moving it west and keeping Irma on its underside for longer.

Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Jose may have worked in tandem to bolster the Bermuda High and keep Irma on a more westerly path.

Henson called Irma a “peninsula runner.”

“Hurricane warnings were extended up both sides of the Florida peninsula late Friday, running from the Anclote River on the west to the Volusia/Brevard County line on the east,” Henson said.  “Hurricane Watches extended from Indian Pass to Fernandina Beach—a remarkable swath that included the entire coastline of the peninsula, plus about half of the Florida Panhandle coast, including Tallahassee and Apalachicola.”

National Weather Service meteorologists in Miami stressed the size of Irma — 350 to 380 miles across — during a forecast call Friday.

“When you think of Florida being only 100 miles across in some of the southern areas, that’s pretty big,” said Kevin Scharfenberg, a NWS meteorologist in Miami. “It’s a very large storm that will take longer to get through.”

Western Palm Beach County is under a flash flood watch with areas closer to the coast under a flood watch.

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South Florida under hurricane warning as Irma approaches

Update 11 p.m.: South Florida is now under a hurricane warning as Irma approaches the peninsula.

The maximum sustained winds have weakened a bit to 165 mph, but remains a strong Category 5 hurricane.

The chance of tropical storm-force winds has risen to 93 percent in West Palm Beach. Hurricane chance is 47 percent, according to forecasters.

Update 8 p.m.: Hurricane Irma’s top winds remained at 175 mph about 55 miles west of Grand Turk Island as it maintained a course aimed at South Florida.

The Category 5 storm continues moving northwest at about 16 mph, holding a collision course with South Florida where it could be a strong Category 4 storm by Sunday. Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 70 miles from the center, and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 185 miles, giving it a damaging reach as wide as the state itself.

The dangers of storm surge and hurricane winds this strong are “life threatening,” Robert Molleda, warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Miami, stressed again in an 8:30 p.m briefing.

Minutes later, Gov. Rick Scott ordered mandatory evacuations from seven cities around Lake Okeechobee Friday: South Bay, Lake Harbor, Pahokee, Moore Haven, Clewiston, Belle Glade and Canal Point.

A statement from Scott’s office said, “Based on recent forecasts, the U.S. Army Corps has been reviewing how the federally operated Herbert Hoover Dike will be impacted. Governor Scott spoke to Col. Jason Kirk with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers today and the Corps believes there will be additional impacts from excessive wind pushing some water over the Dike. While they have assured the Governor that the structural integrity of the Dike will not be compromised, Governor Scott has ordered voluntary evacuations beginning immediately in the cities surrounding the southern half of Lake Okeechobee from Lake Port to Canal Point in Hendry, Palm Beach and Glades counties.”

Earlier Thursday, Scott said, “We cannot save you once the storm hits. Once there is an evacuation order, get out.”

As motorists clogged major arteries, Scott urged residents not to take more gas than they need at stations that have supplies.

A Hurricane Watch is in effect for Jupiter Inlet southward around the Florida peninsula to Bonita Beach, including the Florida Keys, Lake Okeechobee and Florida Bay.

A Storm Surge Watch is in effect for Jupiter Inlet southward around the Florida peninsula to Bonita Beach.

 


Update 5 p.m.:  Hurricane Irma remains a powerful Category 5 storm aimed at Florida where it is expected to make landfall as a strong Category 4 on Sunday.

Tropical storm-force winds are expected in Palm Beach County by Saturday afternoon with hurricane force-winds hitting predawn Sunday.

The National Weather Service in Miami used strong language in describing the potential impacts of Irma, including “complete destruction of mobile homes.”

“Structural damage to sturdy buildings, numerous large trees snapped or uprooted, widespread power and communication outages,” said meteorologist Kevin Scharfenberg. “We’d rather not focus on category because a Category 3 to 5 means real risk of life-threatening destructive winds.”

 

National Hurricane Center forecasters said the strong Bermuda High nudged Irma’s path further south and west.

A hurricane watch is in effect for Jupiter Inlet south around the tip of the peninsula and Lake Okeechobee. A storm surge watch is also in effect for the same area. A “watch” means there is an estimated 48 hours before hurricane-force winds will hit an area.

Update 2 p.m.:  Hurricane Irma is heading toward the Turks and Caicos Islands with 175 mph winds and moving west-northwest at 16 mph.

A Storm Surge Watch is in effect for:
*  Jupiter Inlet southward around the Florida peninsula to Bonita
Beach
* Florida Keys

A Hurricane Watch is in effect for:
* Jupiter Inlet southward around the Florida peninsula to Bonita
Beach
* Florida Keys
* Lake Okeechobee
* Florida Bay
* Cuba from Matanzas province eastward to Guantanamo province

Watch: Live Irma webcam of downtown West Palm Beach. 

Update 1 p.m.:  The National Weather Service has issued a Hurricane Irma threat graphic to give you a better idea of what to expect.

Update 11 a.m.: A hurricane watch has been issued for the Florida Peninsula from Jupiter Inlet south, including Lake Okeechobee.

A storm surge watch has also been issued for Jupiter Inlet south around the peninsula to Bonita Beach including the Florida Keys.

A watch is issued 48 hours before hurricane or storm surge conditions are expected in the area.

As of the 11 a.m. advisory from the National Hurricane Center, Irma’s winds were at 175 mph and heading west-northwest at 16 mph. The minimum central pressure was 921 mb.

Watch: Live Irma webcam of downtown West Palm Beach. 

Forecasters said there has been no change in the track guidance, which brings the core of Irma to southeast Florida in about three days as a major hurricane.

While the winds may have slowed slightly from their high of 185 mph, National Hurricane Center forecasters said there is nothing to weaken the storm as it moves closer to Florida.

Hurricane force-winds extend outward up to 60 miles form the center of Irma. Tropical storm-force winds extend outward up to 185 miles.

“We know it will come very close to South Florida, but 50 miles will make all the difference between tens of billions of dollars and a few billion dollars,” said Jeff Masters, a hurricane expert and co-founder of Weather Underground. “The thing to emphasize is if you are in the cone, you are in the cone, you are in danger of a direct hit.”

Storm surge inundation levels are available on the National Hurricane Center’s website. 

Download the Palm Beach Post WeatherPlus app here.

Update 8 a.m.:  Hurricane Irma maintained its 180 mph wind speed this morning as it strafes the Dominican Republic and nears vulnerable Haiti.

Previous story: Hurricane Irma continued its ominous trek toward Florida overnight with little change in forecast path or wind intensity.

As of the 5 a.m. update from the National Hurricane Center, Irma was a 180-mph major tropical cyclone moving west-northwest at 17 mph.

Under the current forecast, the center of Irma will be just north of Palm Beach County at 8 p.m. Sunday. Tropical storm-force winds could begin late Friday.

Watch: Live Irma webcam of downtown West Palm Beach. 

Download the Palm Beach Post WeatherPlus app here.

Forecasters said Irma may weaken slightly in its westward path, but that it will likely make landfall in Florida as a Category 4 hurricane.

While the center of the track is taking the storm along the east coast of the state, all of the Florida peninsula remains in the cone, and forecasters pleaded that people not focus on the center of the forecast track.

Track errors at forecast days 4 and 5 are between 175 to 225 miles.

Hurricane watches for the Keys and South Florida are expected today.

A hurricane watch means you have approximately 48 hours before hurricane-force winds reach your area. A warning is issued 36 hours in advance.

At 4 a.m. Irma was passing north of the eastern Dominican Republic and was 225 miles east-southeast of Grand Turk Island.

While Irma is not forecast to reach Florida until Sunday, tropical storm-force winds are possible as early as Friday night in portions of extreme South Florida and officials are urging everyone to have preparations complete by then.

“This is a growing and serious situation,” said Kevin Scharfenberg, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Miami. “We have lots of computer models, not just one, and, unfortunately, they are in very good agreement right now that there will be a hurricane in the neighborhood this weekend.”

“People need to act as if they are sure the storm is coming at its worst, even if we can’t be sure the worst is coming,” said Bryan Norcross, a Weather Channel hurricane expert who is credited with saving lives during Hurricane Andrew when he was a Miami meteorologist. “If the storm were to go right up Interstate 95, it would be worse than Wilma, significantly worse.”

Hurricane Wilma, the last storm to bear that name, hit on the west coast of Florida with Category 3-force. By the time it reached Palm Beach County, it was a Category 2.

Eric Blake, a National Hurricane Center scientist, said seeing powerhouse Irma so closely follow devastating Hurricane Harvey reminded him of the 2004-2005 storm seasons that ripped Florida from the Panhandle to Palm Beach.

“Ugh,” he said.

Perhaps at no time in history has the atmosphere been so scrutinized as this week with dozens of weather balloons launching daily across the belly of the country to measure an upper-level trough that plays a crucial role in Irma’s forecast.

It’s that trough, which is digging east with the jet stream, that could tug Irma north into a weak area on the west side of the Bermuda High and steer it to the east of Florida.

While the that path would be similar to Hurricane Matthew in 2016, forecasters said Irma is a more difficult storm to predict at this point because Matthew was coming from the south, after having already made a right turn.

“Irma is coming in from the southeast, and these storms from the southeast are much more problematic because they have to make a stronger turn,” said Dan Kottlowski, a hurricane expert with AccuWeather. “In this sense, it’s more dangerous than Matthew.”

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