Hurricane Irma has weakened to a Category 3 storm with maximum sustained winds of 125 mph winds, but is “forecast to restrengthen” before hitting Florida. Already, roughly 25,000 people in Florida have lost electricity as the storm’s outer bands have begun hitting the southern part of the state.
“Irma is a category 3 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale,” the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said in its 2:00 PM EST advisory. “Irma is forecast to restrengthen once it moves away from Cuba, and Irma is expected to remain a powerful hurricane as it approaches Florida.”
UPDATE: A NOAA Hurricane Hunter aircraft has found that Irma’s intensity is a little lower, and the maximum sustained winds are estimated to be near 120 mph (195 km/h) with higher gusts. Irma is a category 3 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Irma is forecast to restrengthen once it moves away from Cuba and remain a powerful hurricane as it approaches Florida.
The storm could potentially be over warm waters after Cuba for up to 12 hours and the eye remains structurally intact.
Florida Governor Rick Scott warned residents on Saturday that the storm surge from Hurricane Irma could “cover your house” and those in its way “will not survive.”
“This will cover your house. If you’ve ever watched how storm surges work, it flows in fast, very fast, and then it flows out,” Gov. Scott said. “You will not survive all this storm surge.”
He urged Floridians to evacuate immediately as forecasters warn storm surge of up to 12 feet in places will inundate houses.
“Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 70 miles (110 km) from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 195 miles (315 km),” the NHC added. “Caibarien, Cuba recently reported a wind gust to 124 mph (200 km/h). The minimum central pressure reported by an Air Force plane was 941 mb (27.79 inches).”
The NHC 2:00 PM EST advisory also extended hurricane warnings for the U.S. East Coast northward to Fernandina Beach. The hurricane warning for Florida’s East Coast was extended northward to the Flagler/Volusia County line to Chassahowitzka.