South Florida is under a hurricane warning

Irma could threaten South Florida this weekend

By Peter Burke - Local10.com Managing Editor , Betty Davis - Chief Meteorologist , Luke Dorris - Meteorologist , Max Mayfield - Hurricane Specialist
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PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. - Time is almost up for South Florida to prepare as Hurricane Irma draws closer and closer to the state.

As of the 11 p.m. advisory, the National Hurricane Center placed South Florida under a hurricane warning. 

Hurricane watches have been issued for all of South Florida as the forecast track brings the storm directly over the region by Saturday evening.
 
Although the forecast makes it look like the Florida Keys are safe from a direct impact, residents who did not evacuate from Monroe County should not rest easy.
 
The watch is in effect from the Jupiter Inlet south and around the peninsula to Bonita Bay, including the Florida Keys. A hurricane watch means that hurricane conditions are possible within 48 hours.

A hurricane warning could be issued for South Florida by Thursday night.

"We cannot make some of the same mistakes that we have made in the past with people only looking at the forecast cone," said Local 10 Hurricane Specialist Max Mayfield. "But the impacts can extend well beyond the cone."

Besides the winds, Irma is expected to bring a storm surge that may flood much of the southern tip of Miami-Dade County and the coastline.

Irma is expected to impact South Florida by the weekend as a Category 4 storm. Tropical storm-force winds extend out from the eye more than 180 miles.

Local 10 News chief certified meteorologist Betty Davis said even a Category 3 storm is capable of removing roof decking, snapping or uprooting trees and causing electricity and water outages for weeks after a storm.

A Category 4 storm can knock down power poles, damage exterior walls and destroy most of a roof, Davis said.

"It's cast to come over us or near us as a Category 4, but either way you can see just how damaging this could be as the wind event alone, not mentioning the storm surge," Davis said. 

The current forecast track calls for Irma to take a turn to the north, possibly making landfall near the upper Keys.

Local 10 News meteorologist Luke Dorris said the computer models are almost all in agreement about the direction and strength of Irma.

"As we go through Friday and Saturday, it moves northwestward through warm water -- that's fuel for a hurricane -- and also it doesn't have any wind shear to kind of break it up," Dorris said.

Forecasters said the center of the storm should pass near the central Bahamas by Friday.

Whether or not it makes a direct landfall in South Florida, Irma will pack heavy winds.

"This is big enough that it's going to have an impact no matter what," Local 10 hurricane specialist Max Mayfield said.  

Irma could hug the Florida coast and impact Georgia and the Carolinas by early next week.

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