South Florida Officially Under Hurricane Watch As Irma Continues Caribbean Path

9 hours ago

Updated at 2:10 p.m.

A hurricane watch is in effect parts of South Florida - including from the Jupiter Inlet south to Bonita Beach, the Florida Keys - as Hurricane Irma continues its path across the Caribbean as a Category 5 storm with sustained winds of 175 mph, according to the 2 p.m. advisory from the National Hurricane Center.

The most recent advisory shows the storm moving between the north coast of Hispaniola and the Turks and Caicos islands. Hurricane warnings have been discontinued for Puerto Rico, Vieques and Culebra, although they are still in place for parts of the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Bahamas. 

A hurricane watch is also in effect for parts of Cuba, from the province of Matanzas eastward to Guantanamo. 

Get the latest information about Hurricane Irma at WLRN.org/weather

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In the last few hours, Hurricane Irma has become a little less organized with the eye becoming cloud-filled and the pressure rising, although experts say it will remain a strong hurricane.

"Irma will be going through internal eyewall replacement cycles causing fluctuation in the intensity, but it is going to remain a strong Category 5 or 4 hurricane as its environment will be favorable over the next 3 days with warm water and low shear," said Meteorologist Cyndee O'Quinn . 

Cyndee advises that preparations for the hurricane should be completed before tropical storm force winds arrive in Florida in less than 48 hours.

"Tropical storm force winds could be seen as early as 2 am Saturday morning in South Florida with the outer bands of Irma and then move up the I-4 corridor Saturday evening and on to north Florida by Sunday morning."

Evacuations have already started in the Florida Keys. Broward and Miami-Dade Counties have also issued  evacuation orders for coastal areas starting Wednesday. 

Read more: Are You In An Evacuation Zone? Here's How To Know

"I can not stress this enough. Get prepared, know your evacuation zone, listen to your locals. And you have to take this seriously. Remember we can rebuild your home, we can not rebuild your life," said Gov. Rick Scott at a press conference in Doral Wednesday afternoon. "This is a life-threatening storm, protecting life is an absolute top priority."

On Tuesday evening in preparation for the eventual arrival of Hurricane Irma, President Donald Trump signed an emergency declaration for the 67 Florida counties. The declaration allows the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to deploy to the field. 

Justo Hernández has been named as the Federal Coordinating Officer for federal response operations in Florida, according to a release from the agency. 

Hurricane hunter aircraft are making routine flights into Major Hurricane Irma multiple times a day to obtain more forensics on the storm. And as each day passes, the forecast situation as it relates to Florida will become much clearer.