Florida Keys empty out ahead of Hurricane Irma
Hurricane Irma is zeroing in on south Florida this weekend, with tropical storm-force winds starting to lash south Florida around 8 a.m. or earlier on Saturday morning, according to the National Weather Service.
Hurricane force winds could last for 12 hours in some areas of south Florida, according to the National Hurricane Center.
The latest predictions from forecasters indicate that the hurricane’s powerful center will likely be just off south Florida at early Sunday morning—about a day after tropical storm winds pick up in the area.
Tropical storm winds—which are between 39 and 73 miles per hour—are likely to make their way up to central Florida on Saturday afternoon, and they will start to make storm preparations tougher and potentially dangerous, according to the Weather Channel.
Hurricane force winds will extend across the middle of the storm for 100 miles, the office said.
The exact path of the storm is still taking shape, forecasters warn, and Irma could still veer to the east and spare most of the state, according to the National Weather Service. But forecasters are increasingly certain that the storm will impact most of Florida in some way and to some extent—though it remains unclear which parts of the state will see the worst of Irma.
Meteorologists think Irma will be a Category 4 storm when it hits Florida, with winds ranging from 130 and 156 miles per hour, according to Newsweek.
Late Saturday and into Sunday, the worst conditions conditions will arrive in south Florida, National Hurricane Center forecasters say—including torrential rain, storm surge inundation, and hurricane- and tropical storm-force winds, the Weather Channel reports.
Those conditions are likely to arrive in central Florida from Sunday to Monday.
What Irma does on Saturday and Sunday will be key to predicting which areas of south, central and north Florida bear the brunt of the storm. If Irma tracks straight up the spine of Florida, The Weather Channel predicts that tropical storm force winds could batter the east and west coasts of the state simultaneously.
Although the forecast grows less certain as Irma tracks north, the storm will near Georgia on Monday, forecasters say—but dangerous surf and rip currents associated with the storm are likely to start along the Georgia coast Thursday night.
And even if the storm weakens as it moves up Florida, it could still spell trouble for Georgia, according to the Weather Channel.
“Even if Irma’s winds weaken and its Saffir-Simpson category drops, Irma could still be capable of extreme storm surge, depending on its track and the geography of its landfall location(s),” meteorologist Jeff Masons, of the weather website Weather Underground, told The Weather Channel.