Irma Retains Category 5 Power: First Watches Issued For Florida

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Irma is bearing down on Florida. Forecast courtesy of NOAA.

At 5 p.m. EDT, the National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane watch for all of south Florida. In addition, storm surge watches are posted for the Keys and east facing coastlines.

The forecast track has shifted slightly westward since this morning, and the latest path is inland near the east coast of Florida. This inland route would lead to more rapid weakening, but the storm is still forecast to be a hurricane when it enters Georgia.

Irma continues to travel over warmer-than-normal water and in a favorable  upper level wind and water vapor environment, so little change in intensity is forecast before it makes landfall in south Florida.

Irma has tracked north of Hispaniola and is expected to remain north of Cuba, avoiding the interaction with land that does in many hurricanes in this region.

Since many of the model forecasts on which the National Hurricane Center bases its projected path have shifted west, interests on the west coast of Florida should be vigilant. A further shift to the west would put the west coast at risk of a catastrophic storm surge.

If the current forecast proves to be correct, the southeast coast will be the hardest hit.

Decoded Science will have a complete update of Irma Friday morning.

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