Latest On Category 5 Hurricane Irma; Still Maintaining Strength

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Latest On Category 5 Hurricane Irma; Still Maintaining Strength

To say Hurricane Irma is resilient might be the biggest understatement of the year. Irma continues to devastate the eastern islands of the Caribbean with 185 mph winds and will continue to do so in the days to come. Here is the 5 PM advisory from the National Hurricane Center. Hurricane Warnings in place for all of Puerto Rico, the northern coast of Hispaniola and the central and eastern Bahamas. It is incredible that Irma has maintained 185 mph strength for over 24 hours.

Here is a satellite representation of Irma as it tracks WNW to the north of Puerto Rico. Notice the “buzzsaw” look that Irma possesses… this is indicative of its strength and perfect (or near-perfect) structure. Irma is not expected to weaken much between now and the weekend. It may even strengthen some north of Hispaniola, a notorious hotbed for hurricane intensification.

Below is a snapshot of water temperatures. Note the region of very warm waters (upper 80s) beginning to the north of Hispaniola and becoming even warmer between the Bahamas and Cuba. This could further strengthen Irma as these waters are in its path. Surreal to think, but the possibility cannot be discounted.

WHERE IRMA WILL TRACK: If I would put my money on one particular track over another, I’d be a fool. Model tracks will continue their swaying back-and-forth act so I’ve essentially tossed those in the dumpster long ago. I like to go directly to the source… and that is the upper air pattern. This will always tell us a more comprehensive story of where Irma could go. The upper air pattern tells us we have to continue watching a number of things over the next 24-48 hours. Let’s recap…

  • Guess what tops this list? If you said the trough in the east, you’d be correct. Initial thoughts were that the Irma’s connection with the trough could kick it out to sea, but it will almost certainly miss that scenario. Now we look to how soon Irma begins its northward trough and this will be determined by the timing of that same trough.
  • Irma is continuing its track in a westerly heading as the ridge to its northeast keeps building to the west preventing a turn north, sooner. As soon as Irma distances itself far enough away from the ridge, it will begin its turn north. When that occurs depends on the timing of the trough and how soon it distances itself from the ridge.
  • Thursday into Friday is the timeframe we need to be concerned with as we will almost certainly know if Irma is far along enough from the ridge and whether it can establish a connection with the trough.
  • In the event that Irma misses the trough connection, I suspect we will have to increase the chances of Irma skirting across the west coast of Florida and perhaps the far eastern Gulf. This scenario will be talked more in-depth if it becomes a greater threat.

THOUGHTS: As far as landfall is concerned, regardless of where or IF it makes landfall in Florida, widespread impacts of a major hurricane will be felt. After scouring over the upper air pattern, I’m looking at these scenarios (in order of likeliness)… Yes, I could be wrong, but these are what I suspect for now.

  1. Irma goes into southern Florida
  2. Irma skirts up the East Coast of Florida, then hooks northwest
  3. Irma remains just offshore of eastern Florida and pushes toward the Carolinas.
  4. In the event Irma misses the trough connection, then we have to acknowledge additional Gulf scenarios.

Further, I do not buy the sharp north as models are indicating at this point. I am thinking that the turn will be more gradual, but that is another item to watch closely moving forward over the next day or two. My biggest concern is the potential for Irma to further intensify between Cuba, the Bahamas and Hispaniola.

CALL TO ACTION: We like simplicity, we do not like complicated messages during an extreme weather event. Simply put, those from Florida to the Southeast US Coast, continue to have serious interest and concern with Irma. Florida, I would even go a step farther and say be prepared for conditions characteristic of a major hurricane this weekend.

About Author

John Kassell

He discovered his interest in weather as a child. Over the years, that interest developed into a passion, and moreover, into a way of life. He graduated from the University of Akron in 2010 with a B.S. in Geographic Information Sciences and a concentration in Climatology.

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