Good evening. It has been an extremely long and exhausting day for our weather team. This is what we love doing though and we are so proud to serve such a great part of North Carolina.
Lets start with the facts....:
1) Details on the forecast are coming into clearer view now. Irma is likely to impact our weather and the likelihood of those impacts being significant is increasing.
2) Now an 80% likeyhood of impacts from Irma
3) 60% chance of those impacts being significant
4) Time of initial impacts are moving up, now Sunday into Monday.
5) Plans that you have worked on the last 2-3 days need to start being out into action.
6). Preparations should begin Thursday.
Here is what is unclear still:
1) How Irma interacts with a dry cold air damming event that will be ongoing Sunday into Monday.
2) Exact location of landfall
3) How strong the Bermuda High will be and how much impact Josè will have on it.
4) How Irma will interact with an upper level trough diving South over the Mid South.
Hurricane Irma continues to be a powerful category 5 hurricane and she is moving along at a good clip tonight to the WNW at 16mph. Minimum Central Pressure is 914mb. Hurricane force winds only extend out 50 miles from the storms center, as you would expect with such a tightly wound storm. Tropical storm force winds extend out 185 miles. The current motion is expected to continue over the next two days. Irma may fluctuate between a 4 and a 5 over the next coup,e of days as it goes through some restructure. No doubt it will remain a major hurricane.
Evacuations of Florida have started or will start (depending on where you are) tomorrow. Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina are under a state of emergency by 8:00am Thursday. Locally here in NC that doesn't mean a lot yet. This will allow for extra shipments of gasoline to areas where evacuation routes are set. There is an on going gas shortage and due to the large amount of people who are being or will be forced out, gasoline could spike again. However we urge you not to go out and fill up every gas can and car you own. Instead you should minimize travel as evacuees head North.
Irma looks like she could make an initial landfall at Miami as a category 4 or 5 major hurricane. Then it could move back over the waters of The Atlantic as it makes its run North. It appears it will stay close enough to Florida though that it would bring hurricane force winds from Miami to the Georgia and South Carolina Line. Landfall in Miami would be Saturday Morning and it would advance up the coast through the day, picking up speed.
Hidden to the untrained eye is a upper level low pressure system that will dive South from The Midwest to The Mid South. At the same time a strong ridge of high pressure will drive some degree of dry air down the eastern slow of the mountains. As Irma moves NW into this air mass and the closed upper low opens up over Georgia Irma probably will be forced Norhtwest. Landfall chances are the highest from Savannah Georgia to Charleston South Carolina at this point. Irma arrives to a landfall sometime around Saturday Night or Sunday Morning. Sunday Morning Irma should start to turn more Northwest in response to a strong Bermuda High and an opening of the upper low. If the Bermuda High is weaker, the turn NW would be delayed. The chances of Irma moving further up the coast is still possible although is becoming an outlier.
How quick that turn to the NW occurs is key to impacts here at home in Alexander, Burke, Caldwell, Catawba, Cleveland, Lincoln, McDowell, and Rutherford Counties. If it is simontanious with landfall, which is looking more likely, then Irma could start affecting us with winds and heavy rain by Monday Morning. It is still too soon to know how high the winds will be or how much rain will fall but we are feeling more confident of a significant impact locally. Irma should be gone by Wednesday of next week.
in closing here are a few graphics and a new update will be published Thursday Morning.
Foothills Weather Network
Irma Wednesday Night
Category 5 Hurricane with winds around 185 mph.
Spaghetti plots are coming into agreement of steering this thing right into NC.
Official National Hurricane Center Cone