PHurricane warnings have been issued for the northern islands of the Lesser Antilles as Hurricane Irma – as of this post, a Category 3 Hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 115 mph – approaches after days of crossing the tropical Atlantic from its birthplace over West Africa.
The hurricane is expected to intensify into at least a Category 4 hurricane as it approaches the Lesser Antilles Tuesday. This will be as a result of a combination of reduced vertical wind shear and gradually warming sea surface temperatures along the track. Areas near center will face destructive winds, highest storm surge/surf, and torrential rain.
In addition to the Lesser Antilles, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and the Bahamas will need to be ready to make preparations if and when watches and warnings are issued. If trends in the forecast continue, they will likely be required in the next 48-72 hrs.
As for the United States…the risk of landfall by Irma is increasing as models indicate the possibility of either landfall somewhere along the East Coast (particularly the Southeast to Mid-Atlantic) or an offshore recurvature ultimately heading out to sea. Obvious, the implications for damage potential are dramatically different for either grouping of scenarios. Stay up to update on the latest forecast. We should continue to know more over the next few days.
–Meteorologist Nick Humphrey