The Florida governor has declared a state of emergency as Hurricane Irma reaches a Category 5 storm with 185 mph winds. What are the chances, though, that the hurricane will hit Orlando?
Residents of Orlando are preparing, just in case. (To see updated September 7 information for Orlando, including on evacuations, go here.)
On September 6, The Orlando Sentinel reported: “Orlando and Central Florida are in the forecast cone of Irma’s potential path,” adding, “Central Florida could start feeling tropical storm wind impacts from the storm as early as Saturday morning.” That’s a new thing; it’s occurred as forecast models show the storm turning somewhat to the east. You can see that cone graphic here:
Furthermore, for the first time on September 6, the National Weather Service said that hurricane conditions were possible for Orlando on Sunday, as well as tropical storm conditions on Saturday.
“Forecasters said the storm has continued to move closer to Florida, and there is an ‘increasing chance’ that it will impact the state,” reported the Sentinel of Irma, which made landfall in Barbuda overnight with Puerto Rico next in line.
The forecasts show that Orlando is likely to see some impact from Irma in terms of rain and wind, but there was still not a hurricane watch or warning for the city on September 6.
The hazardous weather outlook for Orlando for September 6 reported, “While forecast for this weekend still remains somewhat uncertain, Major Hurricane Irma is forecast to move west-northwest into the eastern Florida Straits on Saturday, then turn north and make its closest approach to central Florida, through Sunday night or early Monday. While it is still too early to be specific about direct impacts that Irma will have on east central Florida, there is an increasing likelihood that Irma will produce a significant deterioration of weather conditions as it passes by.”
The latest hazardous weather forecast for Orlando from the National Weather Service, on September 5, says: “The forecast for this weekend remains somewhat uncertain as Major Hurricane Irma moves into the Florida Straits and makes its closest approach to central Florida, probably around Sunday. While it is still too early to be specific about any direct impacts that Irma will have on east central Florida, there is an increasing likelihood of as least some impact from the system.” That impact? “Increasing rain chances and increasingly windy conditions are likely this weekend.”
“It’s already the strongest hurricane ever recorded outside the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico, and it’s likely to make landfall somewhere in Florida over the weekend,” The Washington Post reported. Read about the potential impact on Disney World here.
“All of Florida — especially South Florida and the Keys — should be preparing for a major hurricane landfall on Sunday. Tropical-storm-force winds are expected to arrive as soon as Friday.” The Post noted of the storm’s unpredictability: “Computer models are in strong agreement that by Saturday, Irma will be approaching the Florida Keys — where dangerous storm conditions are likely. Then, they show a sharp northward turn by Sunday morning. The precise timing and location of the turn has huge implications for Florida.” It’s not clear how the storm will track after that, The Post reported – east Florida, west Florida or straight up into the state.
“Irma has become one of the most powerful storms in history with the National Hurricane Center calling it ‘potentially catastrophic,'” reports The Orlando Sentinel. “It’s tied with Hurricane Wilma as the second strongest storm that’s formed in the Atlantic Ocean on record, both just behind Hurricane Allen in 1980, which had wind speeds of 190 mph.”
This map provides the earliest reasonable arrival times for Hurricane Irma. You can see that the National Weather Service is projecting that the hurricane won’t be over Florida until Friday evening:
“Even before Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in all of Florida’s 67 counties about 5 p.m., residents began stocking up on supplies. Spaces on water shelves at several Publix stores were empty. Generators were sold out by mid-afternoon at The Home Depot on Colonial Drive east of Sermoran Boulevard,” The Orlando Sentinel reported.
However, it’s south Florida, not central Florida, that’s most in the way of the hurricane’s path. According to the Orlando Sentinel, the hurricane is expected to strike “with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph, lashing Key West and Miami by 2 p.m. Saturday.” On September 5, Hurricane Irma was moving west at 14 mph and is about 270 miles east of Antigua.
Here’s a map of the hurricane Tuesday:
The National Weather Service extended forecast for Orlando, though, is projecting that tropical storm conditions are possible for Saturday.
Orlando Weekly also notes that the hurricane’s path is still unpredictable. “Some models show Irma possibly hitting southern Florida this Friday, Sept. 8, and some show it missing us completely. However, in the meantime, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to check your hurricane kit,” the news site reported on September 4.
Check recent weather by zip code here on the State of Florida’s disaster website.
“Computer models show the system moving through the Caribbean, and by the end of week, it will turn right toward the north,” said CNN meteorologist Tom Sater.
“There is a small window. If it turns sooner rather than later, we could maybe see the system slide by the East Coast into the ocean, but that window is shutting quickly,” Sater said to CNN. “It definitely looks like we will be impacted by a major hurricane that is a Category 3, 4 or 5.”
On September 4, the National Weather Service reported a hurricane watch for the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. The governors of both Puerto Rico and Florida have declared states of emergency as the hurricane looms.
Here’s the current projected path for Irma, as of 11 p.m. on the East Coast:
This is the extended forecast for Orlando, Florida, from the National Weather Service. Right now, NWS is predicting thunderstorms for Orlando, not hurricane-force winds.
“Today (September 6)
Showers and thunderstorms likely after 1pm. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 90. Calm wind becoming south around 5 mph in the afternoon. Chance of precipitation is 60%. New rainfall amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch, except higher amounts possible in thunderstorms.
Showers and thunderstorms likely, mainly before 9pm. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 75. West northwest wind around 5 mph becoming calm in the evening. Chance of precipitation is 60%. New rainfall amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch, except higher amounts possible in thunderstorms.
A 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms after noon. Partly sunny, with a high near 92. Northeast wind around 5 mph. New rainfall amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch, except higher amounts possible in thunderstorms.
A 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms before 3am. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 76. East northeast wind 5 to 10 mph.
A 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms after 9am. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 91. North northeast wind 5 to 15 mph.
A 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 76. Northeast wind 10 to 15 mph.
A chance of showers and thunderstorms, then showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm after 9am. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 87. Northeast wind 10 to 15 mph, with gusts as high as 20 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%.
Tropical storm conditions possible. Showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm. Cloudy, with a low around 76. Chance of precipitation is 60%.
Hurricane conditions possible. Showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm. Cloudy, with a high near 83. Chance of precipitation is 70%.
Showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm. Cloudy, with a low around 74. Windy, with an east northeast wind 15 to 25 mph, with gusts as high as 35 mph. Chance of precipitation is 70%.
Showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 83. Windy, with an east northeast wind 40 to 45 mph decreasing to 30 to 35 mph in the afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 55 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%.
Showers and thunderstorms likely. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 74. Windy, with a southwest wind around 20 mph, with gusts as high as 30 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%.
A 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly sunny, with a high near 88. West southwest wind around 15 mph, with gusts as high as 25 mph.”