HOLT, Fla., Sept. 4, 2017—All eyes are turning toward Florida as Hurricane Irma continues to track westward toward the United States.
There is an increasing chance Irma will impact the Florida peninsula and the Florida Keys later this week and this weekend, according to the National Hurricane Center; however, it’s still too early to determine exactly where Irma will make landfall.
Weather conditions over the southeastern United States and in the Atlantic Ocean are allowing the hurricane to move more westward than previously predicted.
As Irma begins to clear the Atlantic high-pressure area that is keeping the hurricane moving westward, the storm will begin to make a turn toward the north possibly as it reaches the southern tip of Florida and the Florida Keys.
The NHC is predicting this turn to occur tomorrow. Timing of the turn will determine the impact to Florida.
Hurricane models differ on whether Irma crosses into Florida from the east coast or the west coast.
For now, modeling does not show the storm landing along the Florida panhandle; however, the Holt area could feel the effects of tropical-storm or hurricane-force winds once the system makes a northward turn.
As of 4 p.m. CDT, Irma was classified as a category four storm by the NHC, based on data collected from hurricane reconnaissance missions flying into the storm.
The hurricane is in a favorable environment for further intensification and the NHC is predicting wind speeds to increase to 145 mph within the next 48 hours. A storm reaches category five at wind speeds higher than 157 mph. Contrary to untrue stories flying around the Internet, there is no such thing as a category six or seven hurricane.
If Irma doesn’t cross over any land areas, the NHC is forecasting the storm to remain a powerful hurricane throughout the five-day forecast period.
In the central tropical Atlantic Ocean, the system located about 1,150 miles east of Irma is likely to develop into a tropical depression within the next few days, according to the NHC. Given an 80 percent chance of development, this storm will likely become Tropical Depression Jose.
Finally, the low-pressure system in the southwest Gulf of Mexico has shown further development.
According to the NHC, environmental conditions, while marginally conducive for slow development, could become a tropical depression during the next couple of days. It has a 60 percent chance of further formation through the next five days.