Warnings as Category 5 Hurricane Irma Heads Across Caribbean Towards Florida

Dozens of hurricane warnings are in effect as Hurricane Irma makes its way across the Caribbean, threatening 185 mph winds, 6 metres storm surges and 500 mm of rain.

The category 5 hurricane is forecast to head westwards and could potentially reach the Florida coast by 10 to 11 September, 2017.

Florida Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in all 67 counties within the State of Florida. The State Emergency Operations Center has been activated to level one, which is a full-scale, 24-hours-a-day activation.

Governor Scott yesterday requested, and President Donald Trump approved, a pre-landfall emergency declaration for the State of Florida in preparation for Hurricane Irma which will provide important preparation resources and assistance from the federal government.

On Sept. 4 at 17:24 UTC, NASA-NOAA’s Suomi NPP satellite captured this view of Hurricane Irma as a Category 4 hurricane approaching the Leeward Islands. Credits: NOAA/NASA Goddard MODIS Rapid Response Team

185 mph Winds

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) in the USA said that Irma is the most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic, with maximum sustained winds remain near 185 mph (295 km/h) with higher gusts.

On 6 September at 6.00 UTC, Irma’s centre was located approximately 10 km north of the island of Barbuda. Later the storm headed away from Barbuda and on toward the island of St Martin.

Irma is expected to move near or over portions of the northern Virgin Islands later today, and pass near or just north of Puerto Rico this afternoon or tonight.

Irma is forecast to remain a powerful category 4 or 5 hurricane during the next couple of days.

Forecast track of Hurricane Irma Photograph: National Hurricane Centre

Warnings

Hurricane Warnings are is in effect for:

  • Antigua, Barbuda, Anguilla, Montserrat, St. Kitts, and Nevis
  • Saba, St. Eustatius, and Sint Maarten
  • Saint Martin and Saint Barthelemy
  • British Virgin Islands
  • U.S. Virgin Islands
  • Puerto Rico, Vieques, and Culebra
  • Dominican Republic from Cabo Engano to the northern border with Haiti
  • Guadeloupe
  • Southeastern Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands

A Hurricane Watch is in effect for:

  • Haiti from the northern border with the Dominican Republic to Le Mole St. Nicholas
  • Turks and Caicos Islands
  • Southeastern Bahamas
  • Cuba from Matanzas province eastward to Guantanamo province
  • Central Bahama

Storm Surge

According to NHC forecasts, as well as powerful winds, many Caribbean islands are facing storm surges of up to 20 feet (6 metres) above normal tide levels in the Turks and Caicos Islands and Southeastern Bahamas.

NHC adds that “The combination of a life-threatening storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline.

The water is expected to reach the following heights above ground if the peak surge occurs at the time of high tide:

  • British and U.S. Virgin Islands except St. Croix – 7 to 11 ft
  • Northern coast of Puerto Rico – 3 to 5 ft
  • Southern coast of Puerto Rico and St. Croix – 1 to 2 ft

Rainfall

High levels of rainfall have also been forecast. NHC warns that this rainfall may cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides.

Northern Leeward Island may see as much as 12 inches (300 mm) of rain fall between 06 to 07 September, 2017. Isolated areas may see 20 inches (500 mm).

Elsewhere, NHC forecast:

  • Northeast Puerto Rico and the British and U.S. Virgin Islands – 4 to 10 inches, isolated 15 inches
  • Southwest Puerto Rico, the southern Leeward Islands, and Saint Croix – 2 to 4 inches
  • Southeast Bahamas, the Turks and Caicos and eastern to central Cuba – 8 to 12 inches, isolated 20 inches
  • Northern Dominican Republic and northern Haiti – 4 to 10 inches, isolated 15 inches
  • Southwest Haiti – 1 to 4 inches

Tropical Storm Jose

Irma could be closely followed by another destructive storm. NHC say that Tropical Storm Jose has formed in the tropical Atlantic and that residents in the Leeward Islands should monitor the track.

Forecast track of Tropical Storm Jose. Image: National Hurricane Centre

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