On Wednesday afternoon, Eric Blake, a hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center and one of the nation’s leading experts on these storms, took to Twitter to offer some great thoughts on the storm that coming to Florida. “Irma is my heartache,” he refused. “You’d have to be very lucky to lose Florida right now.”
Blake lives in Miami, like the rest of the NHC’s forecasters, and said Irma sent “a thrill” down the spines of residents there. “This hurricane is as serious as any I’ve seen. No hype, just hard facts. Take all the life-saving precautions you can. I have little doubt that Irma will go down as one of the most famous in history. Atlantic hurricane.”
This is a sobering message coming from someone like Blake, who above all preaches calmness and preparation during a stormy season. Here, it is said that a worst-case scenario hurricane is coming to the state of Florida. As we will discuss below, there are some questions about intensity and music, but the parts of the state will be hit exceptionally hard.
One hopeful sign Wednesday night and into Friday was a general weakening of Irma, from 175mph to 150mph (as of 8am ET), bringing the storm to just below Category 5 hurricane status. For the last few days, the storm has been very strong – typically a hurricane will build up in intensity and then fall back quickly when it reaches Category 5 wind speeds. The important question now is whether the storm will In this way, it weakens forward, or the impulses go back up.
Blake and his colleagues at the National Hurricane Center predict Irma will remain at this intensity until it reaches Florida and comes ashore as a 150mph hurricane. But they offered a few caveats: If the center of Irma falls on Cuba, that island’s mountainous terrain could shrink somewhat; and secondly, the storm may weaken a little further as the surface adjusts and then strengthen again before making landfall.
A number of my forecasting colleagues believe that the latter is possible, and some international models show the “deepening” of the storm as it moves towards the Florida Straits. As noted Thursday on Ars, there is a difference in warm water between Cuba and The Bahamas. Provided Irma remains outside of Cuba and completes its eye-change phase, it could very well re-strengthen into a Category 5 hurricane before landfall on Saturday or Sunday.
To be perfectly honest, the physical processes of hurricanes are not completely understood, and therefore they are incorrectly modeled by computer programs. So while it’s good that Irma is weakening now, that only goes so far. A Category 4 hurricane is still very destructive, and Irma could significantly strengthen in the next 24 to 48 hours.
On Thursday, we also discussed the narrow opportunities for Irma’s track to change, but this does not mean that there is no opportunity for it to change. Indeed, there is a slight westerly shift in the National Hurricane Center’s official track during the nighttime hours.
This track is the worst event forecast for south Florida as it hits the state with very dangerous winds, about 10 to 20 inches of rain, and a catastrophic hurricane that makes landfall across south Florida from Naples to the Florida Keys and up. coast through Miami.
This track is not set in stone, however. Some of the most important forecast models, including the GFS model and the European model, have shifted slightly to the west overnight. Both show a powerful storm moving over the Florida Keys, and into the Everglades National Park, before traveling up the spine of the state.
There are some subtle differences in these models, but they are sending a pretty clear signal that Irma is unlikely to miss Florida by turning north and staying east of the peninsula. Instead, it appears that rain and wind threats are increasing in Fort Myers, Naples, and the southwestern parts of the state.
What is clear is that a very dangerous hurricane is coming to southern Florida this weekend, with rain and wind threats extending north through much of the state and possibly into Georgia and the Carolinas. . While we can’t say exactly which areas will be hit the hardest, parts of Florida will definitely see major damage.