Powerful Irma chugs westward; Florida's threat increasing

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As of the National Hurricane Center’s Thursday evening update, Irma is still a powerful Category 5 hurricane with max sustained winds of 175 mph. It is closing in on the Turks & Caicos as it continues to move west-northwest at 16 mph.

Hurricane watches are currently in effect for South Florida and the Florida Keys. Those will likely be expanded north at some point in the next 12 to 18 hours.

Model trends on Thursday afternoon have shown a slight shift to the west, more over the Florida peninsula.  The official track from the NHC has followed suit with a slight bump westward.

The time of Irma’s right-hand turn is critical in determining the range of impacts felt across the state. The worst of the weather will be felt on Irma’s northern and eastern sides. Areas directly in front of and east of the center of the storm can expect sustained hurricane-force winds for a time, while winds on the western side of the eye will be decreasing the further west you go.

It’s still too early to pinpoint the impacts for an exact location, as a shift in track of just 20 or 30 miles could dramatically change who sees what.

The exact track is not etched in stone and, as of now, all of the Florida Peninsula needs to be prepared for hurricane conditions Saturday night through Monday morning as this system moves north through the state.