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Hurricane Irma a fearsome Category 5 storm

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Will Irma Hit North Carolina? Well, it's a complicated question. First, here is what we know. We know Irma is a powerful Category 5 storm. We know it's moving west. We know Puerto Rico and many Caribbean islands could pay a heavy price as Irma passes over, reported ABC11 (US).

Wielding the most powerful winds ever recorded for a storm in the Atlantic Ocean, Hurricane Irma bore down Tuesday on the Leeward Islands of the northeast Caribbean on a forecast path that could take it toward Florida over the weekend.

The storm, a dangerous Category 5, posed an immediate threat to the small islands of the northern Leewards, including Antigua and Barbuda, as well as the British and U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

"The Leeward Islands are going to get destroyed," warned Colorado State University meteorology professor Phil Klotzbach, a noted hurricane expert. "I just pray that this thing wobbles and misses them. This is a serious storm."

Irma had maximum sustained winds of 185 mph in late afternoon as it approached the Caribbean from the east, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.

On Tuesday evening, President Donald Trump approved emergency declarations for Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and all of Florida ahead of Irma.

The declarations authorize the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster relief efforts in those places.

Irma's size and strength put the entire state of Florida on notice Tuesday. Residents and visitors prepared to leave in anticipation of catastrophic winds and floods.

Puerto Rico's governor is also warning that the effects of Hurricane Irma could be catastrophic and he is calling the storm more dangerous than Hurricane Harvey.

Officials across the northeastern Caribbean canceled airline flights, shuttered schools and urged people to hunker down indoors as Hurricane Irma barreled toward the region as a powerful Category 5 storm expected to strengthen more before nearing land late Tuesday.

Four other storms have had winds that strong in the overall Atlantic region but they were in the Caribbean Sea or the Gulf of Mexico, which are usually home to warmer waters that fuel cyclones. Hurricane Allen hit 190 mph in 1980, while 2005's Wilma, 1988's Gilbert and a 1935 great Florida Key storm all had 185 mph winds.

Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis says his government has ordered a mandatory evacuation of islands in the southern part of the island chain because of Hurricane Irma.

Minnis says the Category 5 storm poses a dire threat to the islands of Mayaguana, Inagua, Crooked Island, Acklins, Long Cay and Ragged Island.

People who live on the islands will be flown Wednesday to Nassau on the island of New Providence. Minnis says it will be the largest hurricane evacuation in the history of the Bahamas.

People who don't evacuate will be at "great danger" from storm surge caused by what he called a "monster" hurricane. Minnis says emergency personnel may not be available to rescue them when the storm is at its height between Thursday and Friday.

Now, let's talk about what we think. We think Miami, and the Keys of Florida, could see a hit from Irma this weekend.

Overnight, we saw the American model, the GFS, show the system working into Florida, and running right up the Florida length of the state.

But as our friend, Brad Panovich, says "Looking at 1 model & trying to forecast the weather? It's like going to Home Depot & getting a hammer & thinking u can build a house."
If we look, our Spaghetti plot though, we do see a more westward shift in the modeling but we continue to see a GIGANTIC spread in the model solutions.

As a matter of fact, the Canadian model takes it to the west of Florida and into the Gulf.

Now these models certainly could shift back, and we are not in the clear by any means. Even if we don't take a direct hit, heavy rains could still be a problem. The latest forecast from the WPC shows a massive amount of rainfall in southeast Florida.
It also shows a wide spread of rainfall across the Carolinas with anywhere from less than an inch of rain to four plus inches of rain by Tuesday.

Just like the hurricane forecast, a precipitation forecast five days out is just a guideline that is subject to (and probably will) change.

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