Hurricane Irma devastated the Sunshine State before it even made landfall.
Storm surge and hurricane watches and warnings were issued days prior to Irma’s landfall. Irma caused catastrophic damage to the Caribbean Islands prompting the United States to prepare. At 2:00AM EDT on Sunday, Irma strengthened to a Category 4. Winds were already reported at Pulaski Shoals Light at a sustained 62 mph. It made landfall in Cudjoe Key at 9:10AM EDT. Throughout Sunday, Irma trekked it way up Florida causing tremendous rainfall amounts, powerful wind damage and high storm surges to most of the state.
History proves that Irma is dangerous. But, do we need to be concerned here? In northwest Indiana?
The National Hurricane Center downgraded Irma to a tropical storm earlier today with sustained winds at 45 mph. Even though the intensity has weakened, Irma still threatens the U.S. with rain and continuous strong winds. Since Irma is on land, it is not able to gain moisture from the Ocean and strengthen. But, it also won’t dissipate immediately.
Forecasted track of Tropical Storm Irma over the next few days / National Hurricane Center
Irma’s current movement is to the northwest. As it follows this path through Georgia and across Alabama, it will stall in western Tennessee. At this point, Irma will weaken to a tropical depression. This will now be referred to as the “remnants” of Hurricane Irma since the main circulation will be gone and winds will be less than 39 mph. Irma will make a sharp turn, here, to the north-northwest into southern Illinois and Indiana.
It is possible that these remnants of Hurricane Irma will reach us in northwest Indiana.
However, this does not mean we will have the same hurricane conditions. Once on land, hurricanes lose most of their “tropical” characteristics, such as the strong winds and storm surge. The main concern is usually heavy rain. This cyclone would no longer be considered tropical, instead we can refer to it as extratropical.
According to the National Weather Service Chicago, tropical cyclone remnants have tracked near us before. After landfall, when a tropical cyclone moves north, it will be steered by the mid-latitude westerly winds. These extratropical cyclones will affect our area when the hurricane remnants have a curved path to the northeast or east. This is the case with Hurricane Irma.
Tropical cyclone remnant tracks that have impacted northwest Indiana / NWS Chicago
Up to date information regarding the intensity of Tropical Storm Irma can be found on the National Hurricane Center’s website nhc.noaa.gov.
-Meteorologist Sabrina Bates