Even with the eye of Hurricane Irma barely a day away from potential landfall, forecasters are still struggling to define the exact path of the storm.
The problem has persisted for several days as the Irma has been steered by a high pressure system to the north that is expected to develop a weakness over Florida.
Now Irma is preparing to encounter that weakness and turn north, but the timing of the northward turn is critical.
At this time it is impossible to confidently predict that the center of Irma won’t remain over water — either in the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic Ocean.
The latest National Hurricane Center forecast still has the center of the storm hitting the southern tip of the Florida peninsula on Saturday night. But there is enough spread in the models to allow for the possibility of either ocean scenario.
A deviation of only a few miles will make the difference between who gets the fiercest winds in the eye wall (up to 150 miles per hour) and who gets off ‘lightly’ with minimal hurricane winds (80 miles per hour).
As of the 5 p.m. EDT National Hurricane Center advisory, Irma is less than 250 miles from Miami.
Maximum winds are 155 miles per hour. The forecast has shifted very slightly westward in the last six hours, and the trajectory of the center is closer to the west coast of Florida. Warnings and watches have been extended northward along both coasts.
Make Final Preparations
Regardless of the exact path of Irma, this will be a very destructive storm, and anyone in its potential path should take all possible precautions NOW.