MIAMI (CBSMiami) — All eyes are on Hurricane Irma as the massive Category 5 storm churns its way toward South Florida.
Irma has been one for the record books.
Not only is the storm the strongest hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean, north of the Caribbean Sea and east of the Gulf of Mexico, it is also the longest-lasting Category 5 storm with winds over 180 miles per hour in history in both the Atlantic Ocean and Eastern Pacific Ocean.
Irma has maintained 180+ mile per hour winds for more than 24 hours. The last storm to maintain long-lasting category 5 strength was Hurricane Allen, which only maintained 180+ mile per hour winds for 18 hours. Hurricane Irma is expected to maintain Category 5 strength through Friday before weakening to a category 4 storm on Saturday as it approaches Cuba and the Bahamas.
Once Irma reaches the Bahamas, our focus will shift to Irma’s turn. All models have Irma making a turn to the north sometime between Friday and Sunday.
Irma’s impact on South Florida hinges on that turn.
“You see many of the models showing this turn. This turn is going to be everything,” says CBS Miami Meteorologist Craig Setzer. “The problem is, we don’t know exactly when or where this turn is going to occur. An earlier turn takes to the east, a later turn takes it to the west of us, and a turn that’s probably Saturday morning to Saturday night in that time frame could potentially take it to us, so we’re going to be watching that very, very closely.”
If Irma turns to the north before it reaches the 80 degree latitude line, the center of the storm would likely stay offshore, farther to the east. If it turns on or near the 80 degree latitude line, the track of Irma would likely be more devastating to South Florida. If Irma turns west of the line, Miami-Dade and Broward Counties would likely fare better.
The timing of the turn also matters.
An earlier turn would be the best case scenario for our area. A turn to the north on Saturday, would put Irma’s center on or near South Florida.
As National Hurricane Center director, Edward Rappaport told CBS Miami this evening, “This could be the storm of a generation.”
It is pertinent you prepare now and follow evacuation orders, when given.