It is going to be a long night for Grand Inagua in the Bahamas. They are getting pelted by strong winds, heavy rain, high waves, and deadly storm surge. Irma has maximum sustained winds of 165 mph 264 km/h 144 knots with gusts as high as 235 mph 376 km/h 204 knots.
The central pressure is 920 millibars, which has risen. This is due to eyewall replacement cycle. Once it is done, Irma would get larger and stronger, which is worse. The update is from National Hurricane Center (NHC).
Irma is quite a large hurricane. The whole Bahamas is going to be ravaged by Hurricane Irma. The Bahamas could see storm surge of up to 20 feet/6.1 meters or greater. Bahamas is mostly flat. So anyone there should seek higher ground now!
The satellite image is quite impressive. I would not want to be caught under Irma right now. The question now is where does Irma go. Here is the latest heat map from various forecast models and GFS ensemble track guidance for Irma. The GFS goes up to 10 days.
The forecast models have Irma going west-northwest. It could make landfall or not on Cuba and than turn north into Florida. The question is where would Irma make landfall. If it makes landfall around Florida Keys or near Miami, it will be really bad. If Irma traverses over Florida, it would ravage Florida with strong winds, heavy rain, high waves, and deadly storm surge. That would be really bad. Another scenario is Irma stays offshore of Florida and makes landfall on Georgia or South Carolina. These are all just scenarios for Florida. The forecasts models are in consensus that Florida could be affected by Irma over the weekend. Anyone who is living in evacuation zones need to evacuate now! This is no game! Unfortunately, many cannot escape as gasoline has ran out at many gas stations. They would have to go another gas station and that is no picnic for sure. Waiting in long lines to get gasoline.
Since Irma has been a Category 5 hurricane since Tuesday, will Irma be still a Category 5 hurricane by this weekend?
Most forecast model keep Irma as a Category 5 by tomorrow. Some weaken it to Category 4 in 24 hours. Most keep Irma as a Category 5 for 36 hours. I think Irma will remain a Category 5 hurricane as it gets closer to Cuba and Florida. Here is why I think this.
The waters ahead of Hurricane Irma are very warm and deep. They have lots of energy for Irma to feed off of. The deep warm water is more favorable for maintaining and intensifying Irma. We have a long way to go when it comes to intensity forecast. Even if Irma weakens to Category 4, the NHC forecasts Irma becomes a much larger hurricane, which makes it more dangerous.
The warm waters can make Irma larger as it undergoes eyewall replacement cycle. A larger Hurricane Irma, even as Category 3 or 4 is very dangerous because it can produce higher storm surge and waves. Case in point, Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Katrina made landfall as Category 3 on Louisiana and Mississippi. It produced storm surge as high as 35 feet/10.7 meters! Hurricane Camille made landfall in the same area as a Category 5 hurricane, but produced storm surge of 25 feet/7.6 meters. Camille was smaller than Katrina. Hurricane Ike is another example of a large hurricane, which made landfall on Texas as a Category 2 hurricane in 2008. Ike produce storm surge as high as 25 feet/7.6 meters, which is highest outside of Mississippi! Hurricane Sandy made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane on New Jersey in 2012. It produced storm surge as high as 15 feet/4.6 meters.
If Irma is the only threat in the Atlantic, there is also Jose and Katia. Let’s start with Jose. Jose is now a major hurricane with 120 mph 192 km/h 105 knots with gusts as high as 150 mph 240 km/h 130 knots.
The forecast model is concerning as that Jose could affect the same areas ravaged by Irma. There is a Hurricane Watch for Antigua, Barbuda, Anguilla, Sint Maarten, and St. Martin. They have been utterly leveled by Irma. Jose would make things worse as they already are. Here is the intensity forecast model for Jose.
Some of the forecast models have Jose becoming a Category 4 hurricane. I think Jose has a chance at being a Category 4 hurricane by tomorrow. It is far away from Irma to not be affected.
Closer to Texas, there is Hurricane Katia in the Southern Gulf of Mexico. Katia is a Category 1 hurricane with 85 mph 136 km/h 74 knots winds with gusts as high as 106 mph 170 km/h 92 knots. Here is a forecast model for Katia.
Most of the forecast models have Katia going towards Mexico. It is unlikely that Katia will turn northwards towards flood ravaged Texas. That is a good thing for sure. The next question is how strong will Katia get?
Only one forecast model has Katia as a Category 3 hurricane, which would be the fourth major hurricane in 2017. Most have Katia peaking at Category 2. I think it has a chance of being a Category 3 hurricane. The area where Katia is over is warm, so it could further intensify. It is also a small hurricane, so it can intensify more quickly.
This is an ever changing event. The forecast is subject to change. Regardless, be prepared!
Here is what I think will happen.
-Irma could affect Florida this weekend
-Jose could pose a threat to Irma ravaged Antigua, Barbuda, Anguilla, Sint Maarten, and St. Martin.
-Katia will make landfall on Mexico.
The forecast models came from NCAR-Tropical Cyclone Guidance, National Hurricane Center, and Tropical Cyclone Heat Potential. Special thanks to all of them.