6:44pm NZT — Irma is now a Category 1 hurricane. The latest update from the US National Hurricane Center shows the winds have weakened a little and the air pressure has risen.
Current sustained winds are 140km/h with gusts to 195km.h.
The latest tracking still takes Irma back more westwards tonight and overnight as it heads north into more central USA – but the further eastwards movement in the past few hours has saved Tampa from a potentially catastrophic storm surge – but has now placed Orlando more in harms way of tornadoes, flooding and damaging hurricane force winds in the hours ahead. Tampa isn’t in the clear yet either, with the worst of the winds and rain yet to arrive.
There have been waterspouts coming on to land – where they are then called tornadoes. Tornadoes have also been forming across Florida with numerous warnings, although the areas affected have narrowed a bit in the past hour or so. One tornado was travelling at 120km/h – not the speed of the winds within the tornado but the speed of the entire storm itself, travelling within Irma’s giant State wide wind flow around the centre of the storm, reported CNN.
The southern State is about halfway through this event and slow weakening of Hurricane Irma continues as dry air starts to now slowly feed into the centre.
Irma made two landfalls in Florida today – the initial one in Key West in the early hours of Monday NZT was as a monster Category 4 hurricane and the second one after 7am this morning NZT was as a strong Category 3.
It’s the first time on record that two Category 4 hurricanes have made landfall in one year in the US (following Harvey in August in Texas). Incredibly these two Category 4 storms were just 16 days apart, according to Tom Sader – a meteorologist at the CNN Weather Center in Atlanta.
Hurricane force winds span about 150kms across and further powercuts are expected. Already, a staggering 3.3 million Floridians are without electricity.
– By Philip Duncan, WeatherWatch.co.nz, a CNN International Weather Affiliate