Enlarge / 5am ET official forecast track for Hurricane Irma. (credit: National Hurricane Center)
As of Saturday morning, Hurricane Irma is moving westward, with its center just inland over the northern coast of Cuba. It is nearing the western periphery of a ridge of high pressure, which should force it into a northwest turn soon. Although the forecast models have been struggling with precisely when this turn is likely to occur, we have pretty high confidence it will turn west-northwest today, and then northwest tonight. The Florida Keys will be hit very hard later today and Sunday.
The more westward track over Cuba has weakened the storm’s maximum winds to 130mph, and additional weakening is possible before Irma moves back into the Straits of Florida later today or tonight. This movement will also keep the center of Irma away from the greater Miami area, sparing the heavily populated southeastern coast of Florida from the worst effects of winds and storm surge. Hurricane force wind gusts are still likely, but they will probably not cause widespread damage in Miami.
With that said, Irma remains an extremely dangerous hurricane for parts of Florida, and it should restrengthen tonight and Sunday in the waters between Cuba and Florida. Here are some of the key questions that meteorologists are considering regarding the storm today; the answers will ultimately determine where its most devastating effects occur.
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