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In just a few hours, meteorologists predict Hurricane Irma will make landfall in Florida.
As of the latest update at 11 a.m. on Saturday, the storm appears to be shifting just a bit to the west, and much of Florida’s Panhandle is at risk.
According to the National Hurricane Center’s latest forecast, Irma will make landfall in southern Florida and the Miami area around 8 a.m. Sunday morning before working its way up Florida’s spine on its way toward the panhandle.
Look at the latest Irma track at the top of the page.
It’s expected that Irma will make landfall as a Category 4 hurricane and dissipate to a Category 3 by the time it reaches the panhandle.
A Category 3 hurricane on the Saffir–Simpson scale is considered a “major” hurricane that will bring devastating damage. Winds will range somewhere between 111-129 mph, and the NHC warns that well-build framed homes may incur “damage or removal of roof decking and gable ends.”
According to The NHC, tropical-storm-force winds ranging between 39 to 73 mph are expected to hit northern Florida Sunday morning with the worst conditions coming from Sunday evening to Monday morning in the panhandle.
The National Weather Service issued a Hurricane Warning for Lakeland, Winter, Haven and Bartow counties on Saturday, calling for dangerous winds arriving around Sunday afternoon.
In addition, a storm surge warning was extended for all of Florida’s west coast ahead of Irma as there’s a high probability of a surge.
The NHC also advises that between 8 to 15 inches of rain with isolated totals of 20 inches are expected in the Florida peninsula and southeastern Georgia.
On Monday, Florida Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency so that “local governments have ample time, resources and flexibility to get prepared for this dangerous storm.”
“In Florida, we always prepare for the worst and hope for the best and while the exact path of Irma is not absolutely known at this time, we cannot afford to not be prepared,” Scott said in a statement.
The latest forecast has brought forth one of the United States’ largest evacuations ever, with about 5.6 million people being ordered to evacuate. As the days continued to pile up and the storm strengthened, Scott told Floridians to “leave now” during a Friday press conference.
“If you have been ordered to evacuate, you need to leave now,” Scott said. “Not tonight, not in an hour, now.”
For the latest updates on Irma, click here.