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Big shift in Irma model data

Big shift in Irma model data
Posted at 1:17 PM, Sep 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-06 13:17:00-04

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The National Hurricane Center’s Hurricane Irma forecast made a rather dramatic shift to the east this morning, this as a result of model data doing the same.

At this point, the official forecast calls for a South Florida landfall early Sunday. That may in fact be the case, but the trend suggests otherwise.  Understandably, the NHC prefers to adjust forecasts only incrementally, for fear the data swings back the other direction causing a mixed message by way of a waffling forecast.

So, at this point – still about 4 days out from a potential Florida strike – all options need to be left on the table, thus the large cone of uncertainty. There’s even a possibility that the storm stays completely offshore of the United States, but most model data suggest otherwise.

Regarding the intensity, Irma is still a category 5 storm, with maximum sustained winds of 185 mph. The forecast only very gradually weakens the storm over time, and folks in Florida and the Bahamas are rightfully preparing for a major hurricane impact this weekend.

RELATED: Hurricane Irma slams Caribbean islands as Category 5 storm

Looking farther up the line, anyone along the GA-SC-NC coast needs to pay attention to swings in the forecast track and be prepared for what could be a big blow early next week. If Irma does resemble something along the lines of last year’s Hurricane Matthew - a coastal plain disaster - Charlotte and the WBTV viewing area might not be impacted too badly, as we’d be on the western flank. 

While that scenario is an option, it could also just be wishful thinking. There is a plethora of data that suggest Irma could be a powerful hurricane making a South Carolina low-country landfall early next week, then track inland and north toward the Charlotte region. If that were to be the case, Irma would pose a real problem for us.

So, at this point, the data is clustering on a more consistent solution, but we are still days away from any potential U.S. landfall and all forecast solutions need to be considered and respected. 

A lot can – and will – change over time, so I would simply urge you to check back with us frequently for forecast updates and start to think about what you would have to do this weekend to prepare and protect your family and property should Irma decide to pay us an unwelcome visit.

- Meteorologist Al Conklin

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