After another beautiful late summer day across the Midwest, the situation is turning dire in Florida as Irma makes her way towards the state. A large and very dangerous storm, a westward jog in the track has shifted the focus of maximum winds and storm surge to the west of Miami. Landfall is now expected over the Florida Keys early Sunday with the hurricane then expected to take aim on Ft. Myers and eventually Tampa.
Hurricane warnings are out for virtually all of Florida except the far northwest panhandle. You can see in the graphic above the storm is expected to remain a hurricane as far north as southern Georgia. It remains a depression as far northwest as the boot-heel of Missouri Wednesday night.
A bit of good news Saturday was the fact the storm brushed the northern coast of Cuba and weakened from a cat 5 with 160mph sustained winds to a cat 3 with 120 mph winds. Below in the hurricane hunter recon trace you can see the classic signature of a land-disrupted storm. Tight 15-mile eye reported w/ flat wind profile. Likely to reorganize w/larger eye.
The expected turn of Irma to the north/northwest has taken place. That means the interaction with Cuba and land has ended. Now the system will head into 88 degree water that will serve to fuel intensification. I've already seen signs of a secondary eyewall developing which is the first signs of re-strengthening.
The high resolution WRF shows the storm passing over Key West early Sunday as a major hurricane, most likely a cat 4. You can clearly see the eye below. It on the northeast quadrant of the eyewall where the strongest winds and highest storm surge will be found.
By late afternoon the eye is expected to be near Ft. Myers. If the storm regains its strength this is a devastating scenario from Tampa all the way to Key West.
The bell tolls for SW Florida Sunday. We certainly hope and pray for those in the path of this monster storm. Roll weather...TS