IRMA UPDATE: Intensifies to Category 4 before imminent landfall in Florida Keys

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MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – Hurricane Irma is nearing landfall near the Florida Keys, likely as a Category 4 storm with winds above 130 mph this morning. As of 5AM, the eye of this catastrophic storm is 40 miles southwest of Key West, which is directly in it’s path.

The storm will then move northward along the western Florida peninsula today, including Naples, Fort Myers and Tampa. Its path then goes into Georgia on Monday, with hurricane strength winds over 70 mph likely well inland, possibly as far north as Atlanta. For South Carolina, Tropical Storm Watches are extended along the coast in the Lowcountry, but not into the Grand Strand. However, our coastline is still expecting to have beach hazards, gale warnings and overall very rough seas. Areas inland will experience only fringe effects from the outer bands of Irma.

IRMA’S FRINGE EFFECTS INCLUDE:

*Gusty winds tomorrow through Monday night

*Minor coastal flooding during high tide from late tomorrow through Monday night

*Dangerous rip currents, minor beach erosion, and gale force winds at sea.

*Periods of rain with some heavy downpours at times

*Low risk of an isolated tornado

Mobile users, tap here to view a slideshow of images showing the latest forecast tracks, potential impacts and more.


WIND: While Irma will pass well to our west, the large size of the storm combined with a large area of high pressure well to our north will combine to produce a period of gusty winds from tomorrow through Monday night. Winds tomorrow will increase to 20 to 25 mph with gusts to 30 to 35 mph at times. The gustiest winds will arrive on Monday with gusts to 35 mph likely through across much of the region the afternoon and evening. Near the beaches, a few wind gusts of 40 to 45 mph will be possible at times.

COASTAL FLOODING/EROSION: Dangerously rough surf, a high risk of rip currents and increased wave heights of 3 to 8 feet will make our coastal waters very dangerous starting Sunday and lasting through Tuesday. Large breaking waves continue to increase through Monday. Beach erosion is likely as well especially in areas which were destroyed last year in Hurricane Matthew. Some areas of the beach could see dune overwash at times. During times of high tide, minor coastal flooding will be possible especially in flood prone areas of Garden City, Surfside Beach, Cherry Grove and North Myrtle Beach. Water level rises of 1 to 3 feet are possible. Gale warnings are in effect now as winds will reach 30-40 knots just off shore.

Sunday high tide- 11:04am and 11:35pm

Monday high tide- 12:01pm

TORNADO: The far outer rainbands from Irma will be rotating onshore during the day Monday. Individual storms within these bands will have the risk of producing brief, isolated tornadoes.

RAIN: Because Irma will likely be moving fairly quickly and passing well to our west, huge rainfall amounts and severe flooding are not expected. According to the current track, rain totals of 2 to 3 inches are possible across much of the region. The heaviest rain will likely be early Monday through early Tuesday.

Miami, West Palm Beach and Naples could see winds as high as 120 mph to 150 mph. In addition, winds over 100 mph are likely across a large portion of Florida.

Very strong winds will spread well inland through southern and central Georgia where gusts to hurricane force are likely. Areas as far north as Atlanta could see wind gusts of 50 to 70 mph. Wind gusts across western South Carolina could reach 50 mph with rain totals over 6 inches possible.

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