As of 2 p.m. EDT Sunday, the center of Hurricane Irma was located at 25.6 degrees north (N) and 81.8 degrees west (W). This puts Irma about 30 miles (mi) south (S) of Naples. Maximum sustained winds are at 120 miles per hour (mph), which classifies Irma as a Category Three (Cat 3) Hurricane, Irma’s minimum central pressure has risen to 936 milibars (MB), or 27.64 inches. Irma’s current direction is just W of due N at 12 mph, but a more NNW direction with an increase in forward speed is expected later today.
How Irma will Impact Tampa Bay
Due to increasing wind shear and interaction with the Florida Peninsula (even if the eye remains off shore), the National Hurricane Center (NHC) expects Irma to weaken to a borderline Cat 2/Cat 3 prior to approaching Tampa Bay. If Irma comes ashore in SW FL, she would likely weaken to a minimal cat 2 (100-105 mph) before affecting Tampa Bay.
The TB National Weather Service (NWS) expects sustained winds of 75-95 mph and gusts up 115 mph over inland areas of Hillsborough County, 80-100 mph winds and 120 mph gusts for coastal Hillsborough County, and 85-105 mph winds with 125 mph gusts in Pinellas County. Should Irma weaken more than currently forecast prior to reaching Tampa Bay, the expected winds would likely decrease.
Storm surge heights will range from 5-8 feet across southern Pinellas County and around Tampa Bay, with a 4-6 foot surge expected in northern Pinellas County
. The surge will not feed into west-central Florida until after Irma moves north of the area. Wave heights of 15-20 feet on top of the water rise could cause greater damage along the waterfront communities. Rainfall totals of 8-12 inches, with isolated totals of 15 inches, will further exacerbate flooding on top of the surge and waves.
For these reasons, the entire Tampa Bay area remains under a Hurricane Warnings, with Storm Surge Warnings for areas along the coast. The TB NWS has issued Flash Flood Watches for the expected heavy rainfall. The Storms Prediction Center (SPC) has issued a Tornado Watch for all areas in and around Tampa Bay for the rest of the day.
Links to Additional Hurricane and Local Weather Information
For additional information about Hurricane Irma, please visit the National Hurricane Center website and the AccuWeather Hurricane Center website. For the latest track and model projections related to Irma and other ongoing tropical systems, please visit the Spaghetti Models website. To find out more about Hurricane Irma’s potential impacts for the Tampa Bay area, please visit the TB NWS website, Meteorologist Denis Phillips Facebook page, and the Storm Team 8 Facebook page.