Category 3 Hurricane Irma is expected to bring hurricance forced winds to the Caribbean

ATLANTIC OCEAN - As of 5 AM, Hurricane Irma is a Category 3 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 115 MPH moving west/southwest at 14 MPH. Irma is expected to continue moving westwards towards the Caribbean with hurricane forced winds extending at least 30 miles outwards from Irma's center, so islands will be feeling hurricane forced winds before they see Irma. Life-threatening sufs and rip currents are expected along the shorelines of Caribbean islands.

In regards to making landfall, Irma is expected to make landfall to the northern portion of the Leeward Islands. Irma is expected to curve northward passing over Puerto Rico and north over Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Even though Irma will pass north of these islands, Irma could bring devastating wind gusts and torrential downpours for islands in the Caribbean.

Why will Irma be so destructive? Irma is about to enter incredible warm ocean waters. Sea-surface temperatures are at least 30°C (86°F) and are warmer than 31°C along the Leeward Islands (>87°F). Another factor for Irma's strengthening and intensification is the lack of shear preventing Irma's growth. Low shear values will allow Irma to continue to develop as Irma is expected to intensify to a Category 4 hurricane by Wednesday. Also, there is not a lot of dry air that will inhibit Irma's development.

When will the Caribbean feel Irma's effects? Hurricane force winds and tropical forced winds will approach the Leeward Islands by Tuesday morning and to Puerto Rico by Wednesday morning. Irma is still expected to be a major Category 4 hurricane through Thursday too, so Irma's incredibly gusty winds will not die off anytime soon. 

Personally, when it comes to the Tropics, I do not feel confident past 3 days so the forecast past Thursday is still fuzzy and unclear. It is far too early to tell whether this will affect the continental US, but everyone in hurricane-prone areas along the east coast should prepare. Be prepared not scared!

-Meteorologist Rebeca Velázquez


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