Updated: 1:15 AM ET September 4
It is late – after 1am ET on September 4 now – Labor Day 2017. We are watching a powerful hurricane as it gathers strength over the ever-increasing water temps of the tropical Atlantic. It is the talk of the town for just about anyone who lives on or near the coast in the western Atlantic Basin. Indeed, Irma is coming…and first up will be the northern Leeward Islands and possibly Puerto Rico.
I do not have a lot to add in terms of where Irma ends up when all is said and done, that chapter of the story has yet to be written and won’t be for several days to come. It does, however, seem that Irma is moving more west in the model forecasts and thus the chance of it moving out to sea seems to be diminishing.
I will have a full video discussion again Monday morning and will use that to go over the details of the overnight model runs – for now, I want to focus on the northern Leewards.
Take a look at the map I have posted here. Those are the islands that will see the first effects of Irma in the coming days. How much of an impact Irma has in that region remains to be seen and will depend entirely on how close the core gets and how strong the hurricane is as it passes by. We will also need to watch the various reports of what the wind field is like. As Irma strengthens, it is likely to expand in size, bringing a larger area of tropical storm force winds along with hurricane force winds. This is impossible to predict in terms of absolute size but let me tell you, it is likely now that portions of the northern Leeward Islands will see hurricane conditions and maybe even the dreaded core itself.
The latest run of the GFS (Global Forecast System) shows Irma getting very close to portions of the extreme northeast corner of the Leeward Islands. If we look at the latest wind field info from the 11pm ET advisory package from the NHC, it shows:
Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 35 miles (55 km) from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 140 miles (220 km).
This means that some of, if not all, the islands seen in the map will experience at least tropical storm conditions – winds of 39 mph or higher. Obviously, the closer Irma’s core passes to these islands, the stronger those winds will be.
Another thing to keep in mind, especially if debating whether or not to prepare for the hurricane is the fact that the core could undergo rapid changes up or down with no notice at all. It’s best to err on the side of extreme caution if you are in the area – an intensifying phase could easily bring a category higher of wind and gusts to the area – you do not want to roll the dice on that one and hope it doesn’t happen.
So for now, my best advice is simple: if you’re in the hurricane watch area – you need to assume that hurricane conditions are coming. Forget whether or not the eye will pass over you. It’s what’s around the eye – the core – that brings the horror of punishing down burst winds and extreme gusts. Ask those who live in Rockport, Texas about that. Tomorrow and Tuesday are your only days to prepare. Get it done, don’t second guess or use hope as a substitute for accomplishing the tasks needed to save your butt and your property. Irma is bad and will get worse. Be ready and follow the instructions of the local governments etc.
As for what happens next – well, let’s just say Irma is going to be remembered for a long time to come it does appear. I will go over the latest in a complete video discussion by Noon ET Monday.