HOLT, Fla., Sept. 3, 2017–Hurricane Irma is moving more westward than predicted earlier putting the Florida east coast closer to the storm.
The latest National Hurricane Center noted in its 5 p.m. hurricane discussion that Irma is moving more westward than reported in in previous updates.
Maximum sustained winds are at 115 mph making it a category 3 storm. It is forecast to reach category 4 strength by Tuesday.
A strong high-pressure ridge over the central Atlantic Ocean should steer Irma westward to west-southwestward during the next couple of days, according to the NHC. After that time, a turn toward the west-northwest should occur as Irma approaches the western portion of the high.
How close Irma gets to making landfall in the United States will be determined by the timing of the storm’s turn toward the north, which is dependent upon the strength (or weakness) of the high-pressure system over the Atlantic and a cold front pushing across the southeast.
Five-day hurricane models show Irma sweeping the east coast of Florida; others show Irma skirting the coast or making landfall in or near the Florida-Georgia state line or further north into South Carolina. Some models still show the storm turning away from the east coast and heading back out into the Atlantic.
The only consistent bit of information among the different data sources is it’s still too early to determine what direct impacts Irma might have on Florida and the east coast of the United States.
Irma is expected to impact the northeastern Leeward Islands by the middle of this week as a major hurricane, accompanied by dangerous winds, storm surge and rainfall, along with rough surf and rip currents.
A dangerous major hurricane, Irma could directly affect the British and U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Hispaniola, the Turks and Caicos, and the Bahamas through the upcoming week, according to the NHC.
Hurricane Hunter aircraft have been flying continuous reconnaissance missions to gather storm data and has more missions scheduled for tomorrow.
Behind Irma is a second system tracking westward to northwestward. The NHC forecasts this to become a tropical depression by the end of the week.
This system has a 60 percent chance of further development during the next five days.
A system in the southwest Gulf of Mexico appeared today. Some slow development of this system is possible during the next few days while it drifts northwestward, according to the NHC.