I received an email from William Vermaak in Centurion, Pretoria
Just days after Major Hurricane Harvey saw the state of Texas suffer massive flooding, the United States is already looking at the next potential threat. Hurricane Irma developed in the Atlantic last week and has since been strengthening during her trek towards the Leeward Islands. Satellite imagery shows a powerful hurricane with strong presentation, and a well defined eye.
Model forecasts over the past several days have been back and forth, however, there is now a growing consensus in the models for the storm to take a more southerly route. Earlier runs suggested the storm may move towards the US, while turning out to sea before posing a serious risk to the mainland. Latest model runs however, suggest that the storm may move further south instead, and pose serious risk to the islands and later on to the United States itself, with Florida looking particularly at risk.
Irma’s model runs with regards to intensity have been absolutely frightening, and there are no doubt thousands of Florida residents watching each run closely to see how it develops. In one of the recent model runs the GFS showed a sub-900mb storm making landfall in Florida. The last time Florida was truly rocked by a massive storm like the one shown in the forecasts, would be Hurricane Andrew.
It is important to remember that models are notoriously difficult several days out, and there is still a large margin for error in terms of both intensity and movement.
There is however, no denying that this storm is one that is certainly worth watching and could pose a massive threat to the United States. The storm would be faster moving than Hurricane Harvey, with less rainfall, however, if the intensity runs are to be believed, it could bring stronger winds to its landfall destination.
The immediate threat however, is for the Leeward Islands. The Leeward Islands have gone without a truly strong storm for a few decades now, but unless Irma picks up a northerly movement soon, they could be just hours away from a serious landfall situation.
Irma strength and position at time of publication:
ABOUT 360 MI…575 KM E OF THE LEEWARD ISLANDS
MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS…145 MPH…235 KM/H
PRESENT MOVEMENT…W OR 270 DEGREES AT 13 MPH…20 KM/H
MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE…939 MB…27.73 INCHES