FIRST ALERT: 8 a.m. update shows Irma now category 4, track keeps west of SC

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CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) –

The latest track shows Irma restrengthening to a Category 5 hurricane when it makes landfall in Florida.

The 5 p.m. update is still showing Irma continuing its trend away from South Carolina lessening the effects that the Lowcountry will feel.

However, Chief Meteorologist Bill Walsh says residents are still expected to feel impacts, not as intense as a direct landfall, by Monday due to the size and magnitude of the storm.

“Impacts include tropical storm and possible hurricane force winds,” Walsh said late Friday afternoon.

Five to ten inches of rainfall, and some storm surge is also expected based on the current forecast tracks.

“The tornado threat will be high and power outtages will be widespread,” Walsh said.

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Irma is expected to be a Category 5 hurricane when it hits south Florida on Sunday.

Walsh attributes the strength of the storm to the fact that Irma will be in 90 degree weather and there is nothing inhibiting it from getting stronger.

The forecast then shows Irma moving up the Florida peninsula, then into Georgia as it moves on a westward trend.

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5 p.m. Update

At 5 p.m., the distinct eye of Hurricane Irma was located by a reconnaissance plane and Cuban radars near latitude 22.1 North, longitude 76.5 West, about 195 miles east of CaibariƩn, Cuba and about 345 miles southeast of Miami, Florida.

The Category 4 hurricane’s maximum sustained winds were at 155 mph maintaining its strength from the last 2 p.m. update.

Irma is moving toward the west near 12 mph, but the hurricane should resume a west-northwest motion later Friday.

A turn toward the northwest is expected by late Saturday.

A turn toward the northwest is expected by late Saturday. On the forecast track, the eye of Irma should move near the north coast of Cuba and the central Bahamas today and Saturday, and be near the Florida Keys and the southern Florida Peninsula Sunday morning.

Potential S.C. impact

Live 5 Chief Meteorologist Bill Walsh says even though Irma is not headed to the state we will still feel some impacts.

“We’ll certainly see some storm surge and we’ll see a lot of heavy rainfall,” Walsh said.

Those impacts are expected to be felt beginning late Sunday depending on the forecast track.

According to Walsh, as Irma pushes to the north, even if it tracks to our west, we’re going to see a lot of water piling on the beaches.

In this new scenario, the hurricane would be forecast to be a Category 1 when it reaches Georgia. That would still put South Carolina in the most powerful side of the storm, but the storm would be weaker than earlier models have predicted and further away.

“If this trend continues, it would be good news for Charleston,” Chief Meteorologist Bill Walsh said. “But remember, these forecast models will continue to evolve.”

People should never rely on the red line of a forecast track, Walsh said.

We start to see Irma turn on Saturday towards south Florida where the current models show it move a bit westward.

“What this means for us is it’s a little bit better for the Lowcountry since land is interacting with Irma knocking it down to a Category one once it’s in Georgia,” Walsh said.

The latest trends show it heading westward and pulling up towards the Tennessee Valley.

Walsh says there are three possible scenarios at this point.

The first is a 5 percent chance that it stays east of South Carolina and out to sea which would bring us high surf, heavy rain and tropical storm winds.

The second is a 20 percent scenario which has Irma directly hitting South Carolina where we would see hurricane winds, flooding rains and damaging storm surge.

The third scenario is a 40 percent chance of Irma remaining inland as it moves north through Florida then west.

We would experience tornado threats, heavy rain and tropical storm winds in this case.

“Our best hope is that the storm weakens as it comes up and stays off more to the west,” Walsh said Thursday night.

Gov. Henry McMaster has declared a state of emergency for South Carolina ahead of potentially catastrophic Hurricane Irma Wednesday and urged people in potentially vulnerable areas to review personal safety plans, become familiar with local evacuation zones in coastal counties and locate the nearest hurricane evacuation routes.

McMaster said he plans to issue orders to evacuate and reverse lanes on I-26 that would take effect at 10 a.m. Saturday.

He stopped short of actually ordering a mandatory evacuation, but said he is 99 percent sure he will call for evacuations from the coast and encouraged people to leave the cost sooner than what he would order Saturday morning.

Irma, the most powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricane in recorded history made its first landfall in the northern Caribbean at around 1:47 a.m., the National Weather Service said.

Current watches and warnings

A Storm Surge Warning is in effect for:

  • Sebastian Inlet southward around the Florida peninsula to Venice
  • Florida Keys

A Storm Surge Watch is in effect for:

  • North of Sebastian Inlet to the Flagler/Volusia County line
  • North of Venice to Anclote River
  • Tampa Bay

A Hurricane Warning is in effect for:

  • Sebastian Inlet southward around the Florida peninsula to Anna Maria Island
  • Florida Keys
  • Lake Okeechobee
  • Florida Bay
  • Southeastern Bahamas
  • Cuban provinces of Camaguey, Ciego de Avila, Sancti Spiritus, and Villa Clara
  • Central Bahamas
  • Northwestern Bahamas

A Hurricane Watch is in effect for:

  • North of Sebastian Inlet to the Flagler/Volusia County Line
  • North of Anna Maria Island to the Suwannee River
  • Cuban provinces of Guantanamo, Holguin, Las Tunas and Matanzas

A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for:

  • Cuban provinces of Guantanamo, Holguin, and Las Tunas

A Storm Surge Warning means there is a danger of life-threatening inundation, from rising water moving inland from the coastline, during the next 36 hours.

A Storm Surge Watch means there is a possibility of life- threatening inundation, from rising water moving inland from the coastline, in the indicated locations during the next 48 hours.

A Hurricane Warning means that hurricane conditions are expected somewhere within the warning area. A warning is typically issued 36 hours before the anticipated first occurrence of tropical-storm- force winds, conditions that make outside preparations difficult or dangerous. Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion.

A Hurricane Watch means that hurricane conditions are possible within the watch area. A watch is typically issued 48 hours before the anticipated first occurrence of tropical-storm-force winds, conditions that make outside preparations difficult or dangerous.

A Tropical Storm Warning means that tropical storm conditions are expected somewhere within the warning area in this case within 36 hours.

A Tropical Storm Watch means that tropical storm conditions are possible within the watch area, generally within 48 hours.

Computer models continue to vary on the storm’s path because it is still far out into the Atlantic.

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