Hurricane Irma Should Be Monitored For Possible U.S. Impacts This Weekend/Next Week

As of 8 pm ET, Hurricane Irma is still a strong category 5 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 185 and gusts up to 225 mph. It has unbelievably maintained that same strength since yesterday, despite some fluctuations in minimum central pressure. It is moving west-northwest at 16 mph and will be skirting the northern coast of Puerto Rico soon.

Forecast Discussion:

The biggest challenge to forecasting Hurricane Irma’s track through early next week remains the various features that either have or will impact its steering. Bermuda ridging over the Atlantic has kept Irma on a westward course, and this feature will continue to play a role on Irma’s movement. This ridge has strengthened and has even built southwestward with time; however, there are two main features to watch that could act to break down the westward extend of the ridge closer to the end of the week.

First, a longwave trough has established itself over the eastern United States with a ridge back to the west. For what it’s worth, this is actually the pattern that is responsible for bringing less humid and cooler air across the eastern half of the United States. Unfortunately, it appears that the trough is going to move out too quickly for it to actually steer Irma safely away from the U.S. east coast; however, as the trough lifts and then propagates eastward with time, it will keep a weakness established between the Bermuda ridge out east and a ridge that will center itself over the Four Corners region and extend into west Texas by this weekend. Once Irma gets far enough west, this should result in Irma taking a hard turn northward. This is actually well-advertised in the model guidance, but there has been a bit of spread over the last few days between the models on when that northward turn will occur. Some models take Irma into the eastern Gulf of Mexico, some northward through the peninsula of Florida, and some skirting Florida along its east coast before taking Irma into Georgia and South Carolina.

latest irma forecast models

Figure 1: This is the latest model representations of where Irma could go.

Although Bermuda ridging may build southwestward over the next day or two, this feature should become less of a dominant steering mechanism at least long enough for Irma to start making the turn northwestward/northward towards the end of the week or early weekend. The second feature to watch will be Hurricane Jose. It’s difficult to say if that will have any influence on the southern extent of the Bermuda ridge as Jose treks in a northwestward direction, but it’s most certainly something to watch closely.

To complicate matters even further, the current ridge that is established over the western U.S. which extends northward into western Canada is going to actually break (imagine a wave in the ocean crashing), which will result in the formation of a cut-off low (the same trough I was referring to earlier). Another, weaker shortwave will be moving southeastward towards Mississippi and Alabama, and ridging may begin building over the northeast by this weekend. All in all, this continues to be a super complex forecast.

Aside from all of these features to monitor, the angle that Irma will be coming in relative to the coast makes for additional challenges. A jog fifty miles west or east can be the difference between major hurricane-force winds along the coast or barely tropical depression/storm-force winds.

Where I Think Irma Could Go And Who Should Be Preparing:

Now that you’ve listened to me spend quite a lot of time talking about the complexity of this forecast, I’m actually going to attempt to make a forecast. We still have the three scenarios on the table that I presented close to a week ago in my earlier articles. Irma could barely make it into the eastern Gulf of Mexico and ride along Florida’s west coast, Irma could ride up or along the eastern Florida peninsula into Georgia or the Carolinas, OR Irma could move just east of Florida and out to sea.

The least likely scenario is for this system to go into the eastern Gulf of Mexico. While Bermuda ridging will certainly continue to influence Irma’s steering, it likely won’t extend far enough westward. With a weakness established between the two ridges and with the possible influence of the eastern U.S. trough (even with it lifting out), this should open the door for Irma to make that turn northwestward and then northward before getting into the Gulf. There was quite a bit of talk in the meteorological community about how if Irma stayed below a certain latitude that it would increase the odds of an entrance into the Gulf, and while that may be true, Irma should gain enough latitude over the next couple of days for this scenario not to unfold. I still advise those along the Florida panhandle and west coast of Florida to closely monitor the latest forecasts regardless, due to the complexity of the forecast.

irma sea surface temperatures

Figure 2: Hurricane Irma remains over warm waters.

Based on what I am seeing, the most likely scenario is for Irma to make the turn northwestward and eventually northward before reaching the Florida Keys. This would result in Irma riding along the Florida east coast, possibly causing tropical storm to hurricane-force winds for regions closer to the coast. It’s too soon to say if these winds will be tropical storm/low-end hurricane strength or closer to major hurricane-force winds. I’m not saying that because I’m predicting Irma to weaken considerably before reaching coastal regions of Florida, but because a slight difference in track west or east will make a significant difference in impact. That’s why all residents from the Keys to the east coast of Florida need to prepare for this event. Also, residents located in the Bahamas need to prepare to possibly be impacted by a major hurricane.

As Irma rides close to the coasts of Florida and Georgia, the upper-level low over the Southeast, the ridging over the Northeast, and the Bermuda ridge could cause Irma to eventually make a landfall somewhere between the north Georgia or South Carolina coasts. The strength of these features will ultimately play a role in how this evolves. Residents along the Georgia and Carolina coastlines (including North Carolina) need to monitor this situation very closely, and if model guidance begins to consistently support this forecast and the reasoning behind it, vacation plans for late this weekend and early next week will need to be canceled.

Irma Impact Map

Figure 3: These are states that could be impacted by Hurricane Irma. Note: the black line represents the NHC’s latest projected path; however, the buffer around the black line is not the NHC’s cone of uncertainty, just a 2 degree buffer.

Bullet-Point Summary:

  • The Bahamas need to prepare to potentially be impacted by a major hurricane. The Florida Keys to the east coast of Florida could be impacted by tropical storm to hurricane-force winds. A fifty-mile difference in track could result in huge differences in impact. Given that we’re about five days before Irma reaches Florida, it’s too soon to make a forecast with that kind of precision, given Irma will trek parallel to the state. In fact, it actually could prove to be a challenging forecast even 24 to 48 hours beforehand.
  • While it can’t be ruled out that Hurricane Irma will go into the eastern Gulf of Mexico, it’s highly unlikely. Residents from the panhandle to the west coast of Florida still need to be aware of the latest forecasts in case anything changes.
  • Residents along and inland from the Georgia and Carolina coasts need to prepare to possibly be impacted by a hurricane very late weekend into early next week. While it should be understood that this forecast remains to be complex, planning for this event should be ongoing.
  • While some weakening could occur, Irma is expected to remain in an environment that will support little weakening through at least the end of the week. It seems unlikely that Hispaniola will majorly impact Irma’s strength.
  • We will address other states that could be impacted by Irma over the next day or two.
  • Again, as has been stated numerous times, this forecast is complicated. Modifications will have to be made, but there is nothing wrong with preparing for this event, despite the uncertainty that remains.

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Hurricane Irma Set To Impact Leeward Islands, Puerto Rico, Hispaniola, and Cuba

As of 8 pm ET, Hurricane Irma has maximum sustained winds of 185 mph with gusts reaching 225 mph. After undergoing rapid intensification, Irma has maintained its strength and is now one of the strongest hurricanes ever recorded in the Atlantic. It is the strongest Atlantic hurricane ever recorded outside of the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Ocean, and if its sustained winds increase to over 190 mph, Irma will officially become the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic. While sustained winds did not increase between the 5 and 8 pm advisories, the pressure dropped from 926 to 916 millibars.

Infrared hurricane irma
Figure 1: Latest infrared imagery of Hurricane Irma

Firsthand Weather will be coming out with a detailed article on Hurricane Irma tomorrow evening (Wednesday evening) at 8 pm. This will be one of my more in-depth articles on this system, and I encourage everyone to be on the website around that time. I’ll be discussing potential impacts, track, etc.

Hurricane Irma Track
Figure 2: Hurricane Irma latest projected path

Hurricane Irma is steadily moving westward towards the Leeward Islands, which will be the strongest hurricane to have ever impacted that region (since records have been kept). Antigua and Barbuda are first in line to be heavily impacted by Irma, and overall, conditions will deteriorate considerably, particularly across the northern Leeward Islands, as the night progresses. From this point onward, Irma will trek along the northern parts of Puerto Rico, Hispaniola, and Cuba. Conditions, especially over northern/northeastern Puerto Rico, will decline over the course of tomorrow, and if this system were to trek just slightly farther south than currently projected, impacts will be much worse. Of particular interest in the short-term will be to see how closely Irma tracks to Hispaniola, given that this mountainous island is notorious for rapidly weakening tropical systems. On the downside, a hurricane of this magnitude would devastate those islands, and we don’t want that to occur either. The Bahamas will need to closely monitor Irma towards the end of the week, and then the focus will shift entirely to impacts on the United States.

I know that this was a much less detailed article than what is typical to come from me, but again, I will be releasing a very detailed forecast tomorrow evening at 8 pm ET.

Irma Is So Intense It Is Registering As Earthquakes

Hurricane Irma is now a category 5 hurricane with sustained winds of 185 mph according to the National Hurricane Center. This is one of the strongest hurricanes in recorded history in the Atlantic. In fact, Irma is so strong that the hurricane is registering as earthquakes on seismometers (equipment that measures earthquakes) in Guadeloupe.

So why is this happening? According to Stephen Hicks (a seismologist at the University of Southampton), noise caused by the high winds and the movement of trees-transferring energy into the ground registers as low-pitch sounds that show up as small earthquakes. Some of the seismometers are also located close to the shoreline and can become contaminated (false earthquakes) by large waves generated by Irma. The frequency of the ‘earthquakes’ will increase as Irma nears land and grows in intensity.


Tweets from Stephen Hicks about Irma registering as earthquakes

It should be noted, Irma is not causing actual earthquakes. Earthquakes occur below the surface and there is no research showing a correlation between tropical cyclones and earthquakes. During intense tropical cyclones, it is common to see seismometers register earthquakes due to the winds associated with the tropical cyclone.

Please check back this evening for an updated forecast on Hurricane Irma.

Hurricane Safety and Quick Tropical Update

Hurricane Hunter aircraft are once again in the air this afternoon exploring Hurricane Irma. Yesterday evening, the NOAA and US Air Force put on a display with 4 flights into Irma to gather data. At the moment, there is currently 1 flight under way, an upper level dropsonde mission, but 1 low level recon mission has just completed with more preparing to get under way. Hurricane Warnings are in effect for several of the Caribbean Islands and a very dangerous situation will be occurring there in the next 24 hours. Hurricane watches have been extended to the Turks and Caikos and Southern Bahamas. Irma still has winds of 185 miles per hour with gusts over 220 miles per hour.

Tropical Storm Jose has formed to the East of Irma in the Atlantic. This storm is expected to become a hurricane to be just east of where Irma presently is in about 3 days but the forecast calls for it to move to the Northwest and be less of a threat to the Leeward Islands.

Tropical Depression 13 has formed in the Gulf of Mexico. This is expected to become Tropical Storm Katia in the next couple of days. This system does not appear to be a threat to Texas and will actually loop around to the south and hit Mexico at this time. We will obviously watch this situation carefully.

The track below are Irma, Jose and 13 respectively.

Hurricane

Hurricane Safety

Evacuations

Evacuation orders are being prepared for in the Florida Keys currently. For those who are evacuating, you will need to determine a safe evacuation route inland and as far north as you can get. While evacuating, you’ll want to monitor the latest information to ensure that you will be evacuating to a location that is not also under a risk. Public services in these areas will already be strained and adding many evacuees will only cause more strain for everyone. Learning the location of official shelters will be helpful both in the event that you evacuate as well as for those who do not evacuate. Areas that are not under evacuation orders should also have shelters for the residents who end up in trouble due to hurricane hazards. Tornadoes, lightning, power outages, and property damage due to falling trees can force residents from their homes, even if a mass evacuation isn’t needed.
When evacuating, put together a go-bag. Include a disaster supply kit, including a flashlight, batteries, cash, first aid supplies, medications, and copies of your critical information if you need to evacuate. Ensure that you secure your critical information in waterproof bags. Snacks and stuff to drink will also be good for longer evacuations, especially with children and pets. While you may stop for gas, many others are also evacuating with you so its possible that many supplies will be sold out along your route. If you haven’t already, fill up your gas tank in your local area. Cell phones should be charged before you leave. Have one member of your family turn their phone off while travelling together. This will ensure that if one phone does run out of battery, you will have another phone to turn on and use. All family members should have all numbers for your phones and know to call multiple numbers if they can’t get a hold of you.
You should also inform someone of your plans. If you fail to arrive at your destination due to a car accident, your contact can alert the authorities. Having them know the route you planned to take is essential in locating you.
Stay tuned to local news outlets as you travel. Conditions may change and areas you were heading to that were going to be safe may not be anymore. Harvey brought a large area of rain to Texas and some locations people were heading for wound up under a flood warning when it wasn’t before. Always ensure that the safety of your location is the top priority.

Staying at home

For those of you who are not leaving home, I would first implore you to heed local evacuations if you are under them. Evacuation orders are given for a reason. If you are under those orders it is absolutely not safe where you are. While I do realize that some properties remain even in massively damaged areas, you only put yourself and those who would need to rescue you in the event of an emergency in danger by taking that gamble. It is never just your survival on the line.
If you have not been ordered to evacuate, there are several things you should plan for. First, as I mentioned above, have a plan to be able to evacuate to a local shelter if your house if one of the unfortunate locations that falls victim to one of the more local hurricane hazards. Lighting occurs frequently within a hurricane and can strike even in areas where hurricane conditions are not occurring. You should also have a plan for any pets you may have. Not all shelters accept pets so ensure the one you may go to does.

What to bring to the shelter

You will need to make sure that you have everything you need at the shelter. While the shelter will have supplies, they don’t usually carry specific medications or your specific brand of baby food or pet food. Ensure that you have a first aid kit with all the medications taken by your family. If you are running low, see if your local pharmacy can give you more. Baby food and diapers will be needed. Your baby should be prepared for a multiple day stay at the shelter. Bring things to do as well. Books, games for children, headphones and a source of music (we all know some of you still have a Walkman) will all be desired. The shelter is not exactly a fun place to be. Bring your toiletries and blankets. The shelter will have some but we all prefer our own. Flashlights and batteries are good to have in case the power goes out at the shelter as well. Also ensure you bring identification, cash and credit cards as well as copies of your essential documentation like proof of insurance.

Protecting your home

Be aware that Hurricane winds can cause trees and branches to fall, so before a hurricane trim or remove damaged trees and limbs to keep you and your property safe.
Secure loose rain gutters and downspouts and clear any clogged areas or debris to prevent water damage to your property. This can also help keep them lighter and not fall under the weight of all the rain. Hurricanes can be a daunting experience for a lot of people and if you decide to stay in your home, you need to make sure that all of the exterior systems like your guttering are working efficiently. Too much water in your gutters can increase the chances of water damage, which can result in further problems that you don’t need. By contacting someone similar to this Clean Pro Gutter Cleaning Baltimore company regularly can help to make sure that your gutter is free from anything that could have an impact on how it works, especially in the event of a hurricane. Reduce property damage by retrofitting to secure and reinforce the roof, windows and doors, including the garage doors. Plywood over windows or close storm shutters if your house has them, this can protect them from wind and debris. If you are construction inclined, hurricane clips can be installed in your attic to help secure your roof to the house. You can also brace your garage door and doors that lead outside with planks to keep it from blowing in. You should also close all interior doors to compartmentalize the house. If your doors sustain any damage remember to contact a company like Spark Garage Doors – Repair & Installation straight away. This way, if a window does break in one area, the remaining areas will have protection against the elements coming in. Purchasing a portable generator or installing a generator for use during power outages is also a good idea. Remember to keep generators and other alternate power/heat sources outside, at least 20 feet away from windows and doors and protected from moisture. You should never try to power the house wiring by plugging a generator into a wall outlet. If power does go out, use a flashlight. Candles are a fire hazard.

Keeping food and water safe

The most important thing when it comes to food is to buy nonperishable goods and to store water. You do not need to buy multiple gallons of water for activities like brushing your teeth. Simply refill an old milk or water bottle with tap water and use it. You can do the same thing for bath water, pre-filling your tub is also recommended. Tap water storage can be done with any container from large pots used for cooking to old bottles and even any large plastic container. Always remember to keep using the tap water until it goes out, you don’t want to needlessly use up your supply and not be able to replenish it. For any cold food you do have, turn your refrigerator and freezer to their maximum cold settings and open them as little as possible. This will help keep things cold. Try to use up any chilled foods first so that keeping things cold becomes unnecessary and have a supply of ice on hand to keep things cold longer. While you can buy ice at the store, you can also just use ice cubes. Simply dump your tray into a plastic bag and refill the trays. Dump new ice cubes as they form and keep refilling the trays. You will be able to continue this process for as long as you have power or tap water. This also creates an emergency water supply should you run out of water. Simply melt the ice. You can also use rain water if you have a safe way to get a bucket outside to collect some. You should always try to keep a lid on your water supply. This will keep dust and bugs out of it.

After the Storm

It will be tempting to go outside after the storm has passed or during the calm period in the eye. This should be avoided. The eye is only temporary and hurricane conditions can start very quickly. After the storm, there will be a lot of damage in the region. Floods could still be occurring and the water could be contaminated. You also can’t see what’s in the water. Animals and hazards in the water could be potentially dangerous to your health. The water could even be electrically charged from downed power lines.
Even where roads are visible, bridges and roads may no longer be safe for the weight of a vehicle.
Once you are home, check for damage. Ensure there are no downed wires, water or gas leaks, or damaged appliances in the home. Make sure you get Water Damage and Roofing Austin to repair any damages ASAP to prevent further issues.
We here at Firsthand will do our utmost to keep you up to date with the latest information. Our thoughts go out to those in the areas affected by Harvey. Stay safe everyone.

Robert Millette
Incident Meteorologist
Braintree Emergency Management Agency

Everything You Need To Know About Hurricane Irma

We continue to have a very complex forecast on our hands with Hurricane Irma, and while we do have some time to nail down the forecast, it’s understandable that residents along the East Coast and even along the eastern Gulf of Mexico are wanting to know what plans they should be making in preparation for Irma. Tonight’s article will not be particularly long and detailed, but I do briefly want to point out few things.

As of 8 pm ET, Hurricane Irma is a category 4 hurricane with sustained winds of 120 mph. Irma’s movement is finally back to the west after losing some latitude due to the influence of an upper-level low to the northeast of the system. Bermuda ridging should strengthen in the coming days to the north of Irma and could even build southwest, which will keep system generally on a westward track. Regions, across the northern Lesser Antilles and the Greater Antilles, including Puerto Rico, Haiti, Dominican Republic, and Cuba need to prepare to be impacted by a major hurricane. I have included the National Hurricane Center’s latest five-day forecast, and residents in those regions need to understand that a track just slightly farther to the south will worsen the possible impact from this storm. This could be a serious situation, so again, I urge residents of those islands to not take this threat lightly.

Hurricane Irma Track
Figure 1: The National Hurricane Center’s latest 5-Day forecast for Irma (as of 8 pm ET)

Unlike with Harvey when it first made landfall, Irma’s forecast is quite complex due to the angle that it will be coming towards the coast of the contiguous United States, which could result in a level of uncertainty remaining even by the end of the week or weekend. Additional complicating factors to this forecast include numerous features that will potentially be influencing the track of Irma, which will ultimately determine whether or not this system makes landfall in the U.S. In order to keep this forecast briefer than my last discussion, I’m going to provide a bullet-point list below. I will be providing a follow-up forecast either tomorrow night or Wednesday, depending on how things evolve over the next 18 to 24 hours.

Sea surface temperatures hurricane irma
Figure 2: Irma will continue moving westward into warm waters. The black dot represents Irma’s location as of 8 pm ET.

  • First and foremost, residents across the entire coast of Florida and along the East Coast need to start making some preliminary plans, just in case. In particular, I urge residents from the southern Florida coastline to the Carolina coast to begin making plans and to continue following the forecasts closely. I still can’t rule out this system making it into the far eastern Gulf of Mexico; however, it still remains unlikely. Residents along the western Gulf of Mexico coast do NOT need to worry at this time. If a U.S. landfall occurs, it likely won’t occur until this weekend, at the earliest!
  • A western ridge/eastern trough configuration is going to set up across the United States. If this pattern were to hold, this would allow Irma to safely recurve out to sea away from the U.S. However, this pattern is likely not going to hold long enough. The western ridge is probably going to break (imagine a wave crashing in the ocean), and while the trough could become cut-off from the main flow, it appears that it will move out to the northeast before Irma gets far enough northwest to be picked up. Ridging to the west will remain in place while Bermuda ridging will either build westward or remain in place. Between these two features, a weakness will still be present over the eastern U.S, which will eventually result in Irma taking a sharp turn to the north. The timing of this turn to the north will be everything. It will be the difference between this system going into the far eastward Gulf, through Florida, or impacting regions along the eastern coast of Florida and the Carolinas.
  • Again, this forecast is tricky also because of the angle Irma will be coming in relative to the United States. With Harvey, it moved mostly perpendicular to the coast towards Texas before making its first landfall, so we knew that somewhere along the Texas coast was going to be heavily impacted by hurricane-force winds. In Irma’s case, it will be coming in parallel to the coastline or if it starts making its northward turn south of Florida, it could come in perpendicular to the south Florida coastline (but remember, the southern Florida coastline is MUCH shorter in length than the Texas coastline).
  • At this point, I’m still not ruling out Irma only skirting the coastline or completely being a miss; however, that isn’t the most likely scenario. At this point, the most likely scenario is an impact to Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas. Keep in mind that modifications to this forecast are likely, and that forecast confidence is much lower than usual.

Hopefully by Wednesday, we’ll get a much clearer picture of what could unfold. Just hang with us, and we’ll make sure we nail down this forecast for you as quickly as possible.

Fake Irma Forecast!

The National Weather Service (NWS) is sending a message to the public after a fake forecast went viral on social media. A Facebook profile with the name “Joe Maley” posted a fake forecast on Facebook, which quickly went viral–receiving more than 37,000 shares. The image shared on Facebook used a National Hurricane Center (NHC) map depicting Hurricane Irma moving towards Texas. This post, which many believed to be authentic, fed into the fears that Texans currently have after being heavily impacted by Hurricane Harvey.

FAKE Forecast Posted On Facebook

The NWS was quick to respond on Twitter today stating: “Keep your eyes out for fake forecasts. THIS is what an official NOAA advisory looks like. Note: forecast only goes out 5 days. #Irma.” The FAKE forecast on Facebook was eventually deleted today.

Statement From NWS

For official forecasts from the NHC, please click HERE!