Potentially catastrophic Cat. 5 Irma moves toward St. Martin

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BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) –

Potentially catastrophic Hurricane Irma is maintaining its strength and moving toward the island of St. Martin early Wednesday morning, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC).

At 4 a.m., Irma was located at 17.9 North, 62.6 West, or about 35 miles east-southeast of St. Martin. Maximum sustained winds were 185 mph and it was moving west-northwest at 16 mph.

Irma’s current NHC forecast track takes the monstrous hurricane through the Leeward Islands, across or near the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, then parallel along Hispaniola and Cuba on her way to the Straits of Florida. Just a minor deviation from that track could mean disaster for the Domincan Republic, Haiti, Cuba, or the Bahamas. Indeed, Irma has the potential of being devastating, if not downright catastrophic, for a number of islands in the coming days.

#IRMA now tied #2 highest wind speeds for Atlantic hurricanes, #1 for hurricanes outside Gulf of Mexico & Caribbean. #WAFBFirstAlert#LAwxpic.twitter.com/YROxBlGNia

— Jay Grymes (@Jay_WAFB) September 5, 2017

What’s more, the potential is increasing for Irma to make her way into the eastern Gulf of Mexico by the early part of next week.

Most of the guidance continues to show a strong turn to the north sometime between the weekend and early next week, and that turn would protect Louisiana. However, we all know things could change and sometimes that change can be dramatic.

While we currently believe Irma will indeed take a turn to the north before getting this far west, now is the time to take stock in your home, family, and business with your “tropical game plans.” Be sure you and your family are prepared to weather the storm should Irma continue to creep farther and farther westward.

2017 Hurricane Center

You have ridden with the WAFB First Alert Team through this kind of scenario on numerous occasions over the years and we want to remind everyone that these forecasts are based on models, and models can and DO change. However, at this time, confidence is fairly good that Irma will turn north before getting far enough west to threaten Louisiana.

Also in the tropics, a tropical depression that formed in the southwest Gulf of Mexico/Bay of Campeche has been upgraded to Tropical Storm Katia by the NHC. Fortunately, Katia will likely remain trapped in the SW Gulf. Katia is the 11th named storm of the season nearly a week before September 10, which is the climatological midpoint of the hurricane season, according to the NHC.

In the central tropical Atlantic, Invest 94L was upgraded to TS Jose on Tuesday, with the NHC forecast calling for Jose to become a Category 2 hurricane within the next few days. Fortunately, Jose will be no threat to the Gulf region and, in fact, looks like it will stay over the open Atlantic.

Of course, the WAFB First Alert Storm Team will have all eyes on Irma through the week and during the upcoming weekend too. So stay with us on-air, online, and on our free WAFB 9News app, and make sure you have the WAFB First Alert Weather App as well to track Irma on your devices.

Copyright 2017 WAFB. All rights reserved.

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