By Jim Stefkovich, Meteorologist, Alabama Emergency Management Agency
As of early morning September 5th, Irma is a major hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 150 mph, and tropical storm force winds (sustained winds between 39-73 mph) extended outward 140 miles from the center.
The graphic below represents the current forecast from the National Hurricane Center (NHC).
Let me again emphasize, the forecast cone is where the expected center of the storm will be. It does NOT mean if you are outside the cone there is nothing to worry about, as actual impacts (winds, flooding rain and tornadoes) are typically well outside the forecast cone. Also, historical records show that when comparing the forecast cone with what actually happened, the center of the storm ends up outside of the cone 1/3 of the time!
So, you probably want to know if Irma will affect AL. Unfortunately, it is too soon say if this storm will in fact reach the Gulf of Mexico this weekend. When a hurricane approaches the US, where it ends up is highly influenced with what is going across the rest of the country. Some models want to continue a westward track while others want to curve it northward. But, it does appear that major impacts are becoming more likely in the southeast US.
Also, look at the graphic below. If Irma does continue into the Gulf of Mexico, wind impacts to AL could occur as early as Saturday or Sunday. But again, there is still a lot of uncertainty at this point.
Finally, please beware of graphics and social media posts about Irma or any tropical system outside of the National Hurricane Center. Unfortunately, there is a lot of that out there, leading to confusion and unnecessary anxiety.