Hurricane Irma now a Category 5 storm: Will it hit North Carolina?

Will Irma Hit North Carolina? Well, it’s a complicated question. First, here is what we know. We know Irma is a powerful Category 5 storm. We know it’s moving west. We know Puerto Rico and many Caribbean islands could pay a heavy price as Irma passes over.

The latest:

* Irma strengthens into Category 5 with 175 mph winds
* Authorities warn the storm could dump up to 10 inches of rain
* States of emergency declared in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and all of Florida
* Hurricane warnings issued for 12 Caribbean island groups, including Antigua

The storm had maximum sustained winds of 175 mph Tuesday morning, and the U.S. National Hurricane Center said additional strengthening is expected.

Officials across the northeastern Caribbean canceled airline flights, shuttered schools and urged people to hunker down indoors as Hurricane Irma barreled toward the region as a powerful Category 5 storm expected to strengthen more before nearing land late Tuesday.

Here’s the latest path from the NHC.

Now, let’s talk about what we think. We think Miami, and the Keys of Florida, could see a hit from Irma this weekend.

Overnight, we saw the American model, the GFS, show the system working into Florida, and running right up the Florida length of the state.

But as my friend, Brad Panovich, says "Looking at 1 model & trying to forecast the weather? It’s like going to Home Depot & getting a hammer & thinking u can build a house."

If we look, our Spaghetti plot though, we do see a more westward shift in the modeling but we continue to see a GIGANTIC spread in the model solutions.

As a matter of fact, the Canadian model takes it to the west of Florida and into the Gulf.

Now these models certainly could shift back, and we are not in the clear by any means. Even if we don’t take a direct hit, heavy rains could still be a problem. The latest forecast from the WPC shows a massive amount of rainfall in southeast Florida.
It also shows a wide spread of rainfall across the Carolinas with anywhere from less than an inch of rain to four plus inches of rain by Tuesday.

Just like the hurricane forecast, a precipitation forecast five days out is just a guideline that is subject to (and probably will) change.
Click here for ABC11 First Alert Doppler Hurricane Tracker

So to answer the question I started with: Will Irma hit North Carolina? The answer: I still don’t know about us yet, but I wouldn’t want to be in south Florida this weekend.

In the meantime, states of emergency have been declared in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and all of Florida while people on various Caribbean islands boarded up homes and rushed to find last-minute supplies.
Irma’s maximum sustained winds increased early Tuesday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said. It was centered about 320 miles (east of the Leeward Islands and moving west at 14 mph.

Authorities warned that the storm could dump up to 10 inches of rain, cause landslides and dangerous flash floods and generate waves of up to 23 feet.

In the Caribbean, hurricane warnings were issued for 12 island groups, including Antigua, where the governor urged people to evacuate the tiny island of Anegada if they could ahead of the storm.
Both Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands expected 4 inches to 8 inches of rain and winds of 40-50 mph with gusts of up to 60 mph.

A hurricane warning was posted for Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Martin, Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Maarten and St. Barts, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. and British Virgin islands. A tropical storm warning was in effect for Guadeloupe and Dominica.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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