Fly into the eye of Irma with NOAA Hurricane Hunters
An 11 a.m. forecast update from the National Hurricane Center shows Hurricane Irma is maintaining her Category 5 status, and her possible track continues to put her on a path toward South Carolina, weather authorities said.
However, the newest update shows she could make landfall, possibly Monday, in the southern portion of the state and travel northwest toward the Upstate into Tuesday, according to a NHC graphic.
The powerful storm will likely maintain her intensity as she makes the trek toward the east coast of Florida, then an increase in wind shear could weaken her, but Irma will likely continue to be a major hurricane until she comes across land, according to the NHC.
While impacts for the Carolinas continues to look more and more likely, forecasters say it’s still too soon to know what level those impacts could be.
“The chance of direct impacts is increasing in portions of Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina, but it is too early to specify the magnitude and location of the impacts,” an NHC 11 a.m. update stated Thursday.
On Wednesday, S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster declared a state of emergency ahead of the storm, so state emergency officials could begin executing hurricane preparedness plans. As of Thursday morning, no evacuations had been ordered for South Carolina, but the governor urged residents to begin preparing for the storm.
Horry and Georgetown County officials also shifted their Operating Conditions level to 4 on Wednesday, signifying they are on alert status, are interacting with South Carolina Emergency Management, coastal communities including local municipalities, and are closely monitoring the storm.
The hurricane is expected to impact the northern coast of Hispaniola on Thursday, and the Turks and Caicos and southeastern and central Bahamas areas Thursday night and Friday.
The northwestern Bahamas and most of Cuba are under hurricane watches as Irma is expected to bring dangerous storm conditions to those areas Friday and Saturday, according to the NHC.
“The threat of direct hurricane impacts in Florida over the weekend and early next week continues to increase. Hurricane watches will likely be issued for portions of the Florida Keys and the Florida peninsula later this morning,” the NHC morning update stated.
The ferocious storm has already killed at least 10 people and left thousands homeless in the western Caribbean area in her wake, according to the Associated Press.
French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb reported eight people died and 23 were injured, but said the tolls could be much higher in the country’s Caribbean island territories of Saint-Martin and Saint-Barthelemy because rescue teams had yet to finish combing through the storm’s aftermath, the AP reports.
Irma darkened most of Puerto Rico after storming by and taking out most of the island’s power with her, bringing heavy winds and rain, but staying mainly out to sea as she passed.
Communications were also difficult for small islands deeply wounded by the disastrous storm, such as Barbuda. One death was also reported on Anguilla where officials said hospitals, airport, shelters and school suffered heavy damage.
Meanwhile, two other hurricanes churned in the Atlantic. Hurricane Jose grew to a Category 1 storm, and was determined not to be an immediate threat to land; however, a forecast track showed it could interact with the already-stormed Leeward Islands this weekend, the AP report.
Hurricane Katia is in the southern Gulf of Mexico, and could possibly hit the Mexican coast as a Cat. 2 or 3 storm late Friday or early Saturday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.