Hurricane Irma Upgraded To Cat 3, Barreling Straight Toward The East Coast -- Expected To Be ‘Extremely Dangerous’ Cat 4
Update from the NHC as of 5pm: IRMA BECOMES A CATEGORY 3 HURRICANE OVER THE EASTERN ATLANTIC
At 500 PM AST (2100 UTC), the center of Hurricane Irma was located near latitude 17.3 North, longitude 34.8 West. Irma is moving toward the west-northwest near 12 mph (19 km/h). This motion is expected to continue today, followed by a westward turn on Saturday, and a west-southwestward motion by Sunday.
Maximum sustained winds have increased to near 115 mph (185 km/h) with higher gusts. Irma is a category 3 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Fluctuations in strength, both up and down, are possible, but Irma is expected to remain a powerful hurricane for several days.
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The National Hurricane Center (NHC) has just updated its forecast for what it is now referring to as a "rapidly intensifying" Category 2 hurricane in the Eastern Atlantic ocean and the results look disastrous for a large swath of the Caribbean and Southeastern United States. Here is a brief summary of Hurricane Irma from the National Hurricane Center released at 11AM EST:
Satellite images indicate that Irma is rapidly intensifying. Very deep convection has formed in the central dense overcast, which is now displaying a small and clearing eye. Dvorak estimates were up to 77 kt at 1200 UTC, and since the cloud pattern continues to quickly become more organized, the initial wind speed is set to 85 kt.
At 1100 AM AST (1500 UTC), the center of Hurricane Irma was located near latitude 16.9 North, longitude 33.8 West. Irma is moving toward the west-northwest near 10 mph (17 km/h). This general motion is forecast through early Friday, followed by a generally westward motion on Saturday.
Maximum sustained winds have increased to near 100 mph (155 km/h) with higher gusts. Irma is forecast to become a major hurricane by tonight and is expected to be an extremely dangerous hurricane for the next several days.
Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 15 miles (30 km) from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 80 miles (130 km).
Irma is expected to grow into a "major hurricane" within the next 24 hours with maximum sustained winds of 120 mph before growing even stronger throughout the weekend and eventually becoming a Category 4 storm.