WEATHER WATCH: Hurricane Irma swells to reach islands on Monday

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WEATHER WATCH: Hurricane Irma swells to reach islands on Monday

SINT MAARTEN/CARIBBEAN – Weather conditions in the Northern Leeward Islands of Antigua & Barbuda, St. Barths, Sint Maarten/St. Martin, Anguilla, Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Kitts & Nevis, will start to deteriorate on Tuesday evening as major Category 3 Hurricane Irma nears the islands.  Irma’s swells will start to begin affecting the northern Leeward Islands on Monday and can cause life threatening surf and rip currents. 

Hurricane Watches have been issued for a number of the Leeward Islands and preparations are well underway by the various populations from the territories and countries. 

Some strengthening is possible over the next 24 to 48 hours according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC) on Sunday.  Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 35 miles and tropical storm force winds up to 140 miles.

Irma is now on a west to southwest track and on Monday is forecast to turn toward the west to northwest. This will determine on Monday evening how close Hurricane Irma will be to the northern Leeward Islands as it approaches on Tuesday.

Based on the Sunday evening forecast, major Hurricane Irma is expected to pass near the northern Leeward Islands with 140 mile per hour winds – Category 4.

A Hurricane Hunter NOAA aircraft has already traveled to the location of the hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean to carry out a number of test and observed that the system’s eye has a diameter of 25 nautical miles.

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  UPDATE - WEATHER WATCH: Irma a Small Hurricane, but still to become a Dangerous System

ARCHIVE, Saturday, September 2, SINT MAARTEN/CARIBBEAN – Hurricane Irma on Saturday morning was over 1200 miles east of the Leeward Islands tracking across the Atlantic Ocean towards the Caribbean. 

Irma has been described by the National Hurricane Center (NHC) as a small hurricane at this point in time.  Hurricane force winds extend outward from the center up to 25 miles, and tropical storm force winds extend 70 miles outward.  This is good news in the sense that the 110 miles per hour sustained hurricane force winds are within the 25-mile area.

The un-official approximate closest point of approach to Sint Maarten as of Saturday morning was approximately 148 miles on Wednesday afternoon, September 6.

Hurricane Irma is a Category 2 hurricane at this time and is expected to strengthen over the next few days to a major Category 3 or dangerous Category 4.  The system will undergo within the next 48 hours its track to the south due to the building of a high-pressure ridge. 

Once the ridge weakens, the hurricane will take a more west-northerly track and disaster management officials in the Leeward Islands will have a better idea on how close Irma will get to the islands.

The Leeward Islands stretch from the U.S. and British Virgin Islands in the north to Dominica in the south.

The NHC key message on Saturday is:

Irma is expected to be a major hurricane when it moves closer to the Lesser Antilles early next week, producing rough surf and rip currents. Irma could also cause dangerous wind, storm surge, and rainfall impacts on some islands, although it is too soon to specify where and when those hazards could occur.  Residents in the Lesser

Antilles should monitor the progress of Irma through the weekend and listen to any advice given by local officials.

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WEATHER WATCH: Irma too close to call. Coming days will determine exact track

ARCHIVE, Friday, September 1, SINT MAARTEN/CARIBBEAN – Crown Weather reported on Friday that, “Irma rapidly intensified into a major hurricane yesterday. Since then, Irma has leveled off in intensity with satellite imagery indicating that an eye is evident from time to time. Some dry air infiltrating the storm and the fact that Irma is moving over ocean water temperatures that are moderately warm in temperature are keeping the hurricane in check for now.

“I don't think that we will see Irma significantly intensify again for the next day or two, however, significant strengthening will become likely once again next week as it moves into an environment that is extremely favorable for intensification. In fact, I think that there is a high chance that we will see Irma become a Category 4 or even a Category 5 hurricane as it's approaching the northern Lesser Antilles around Tuesday and Wednesday.”

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) out of Miami says Irma remains a powerful hurricane with winds of 110 miles per hour, and will remain so for days.  On Friday morning Irma was over 1500 miles east of the Leeward Islands.

The Leeward Islands comprise of: U.S. and British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, St. Martin/Sint Maarten, St. Barths, Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Kitts & Nevis, Antigua & Barbuda, Montserrat, Guadeloupe and Dominica.

The intensity of the hurricane has been reduced over the coming days. On Tuesday and Wednesday, September 5 and 6, Irma according to the forecast would be a major Category 3 hurricane east of the Leeward Islands with 125 mph winds.

It is still difficult to say what the exact course the hurricane will take but weather watchers will have a better view on this on Monday.  In the meantime, between now and then, Irma will be moving on a northwest track followed by west and then southwest before adjusting once again.

Crown Weather adds that, “The latest GFS model guidance forecasts a track that keeps Irma far enough northeast of the Lesser Antilles to not be a significant threat,” and adding that the, “The operational European model guidance has shifted a little to the north with its forecast track of Irma. It still forecasts significant to major impacts to Antigua, St. Martin and Anguilla on Wednesday but spares the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico a major impact. From there, the operational European model guidance forecasts a gradual recurve just east of the United States next weekend.”

Another model according to Crown Weather, “The hurricane model track guidance also seems to suggest a track far enough north and east of the Lesser Antilles to not be a significant threat.”

The three models give varying scenario’s, but also some good news where Irma could veer more to the north not to pose a significant threat to the islands.  We now must continue to monitor weather reports closely and follow advisories of disaster management organizations in the coming days while the threat continues to be assessed.

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