Irma is expected to grow into a “major hurricane” within the next 24 hours with maximum sustained winds of 120 mph before growing even stronger throughout the weekend and eventually becoming a Category 4 storm.
The storm is moving west at roughly 10 mph and isn’t expected to pose its first threat to land until next week.
That said, longer term models suggest that Irma could make a turn to the northwest towards the middle of next week and head straight for Florida.
Meanwhile, other computer models predict that Hurricane Irma will move through the Gulf of Mexico and make its U.S. landfall in Texas just 2 weeks after Hurricane Harvey devastated the state.
— Michael Ventrice (@MJVentrice) August 31, 2017
That said, a lot could obviously change over the next week and, as the NHC notes, Irma is currently tracking further south than models predicted as of yesterday.
Irma has moved somewhat south of and slower than all of the model guidance since yesterday. Consequently, it stayed longer over the warmer ocean temperatures away from the drier air to the north, possibly allowing the rapid strengthening. Irma should move over cooler waters tomorrow with some increase in mid-level dry air, so hopefully the hurricane’s intensity will level off by then. In a few days, the hurricane will be moving over warmer waters with light shear shown by all of the model guidance. This should promote further strengthening of Irma, and the NHC forecast shows an extremely dangerous category 4 hurricane next week, similar to the solutions provided by the HWRF and the ECMWF models. The intensity forecast is raised considerably from the previous one due to initial trends, and is on the high end of the guidance at long range.
Of course, with FEMA resources already stretched thin by Hurricane Harvey, another U.S. landfall of a Cat 4 hurricane could be devastating blow.