Hurricane Irma shifts west but could bring rain and tornadoes to NC

Satelite image of Hurricane Irma before an expected turn toward Florida Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017.
Satelite image of Hurricane Irma before an expected turn toward Florida Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017. NOAA

Hurricane Irma’s slight shift to the west Friday was welcome news for the Triangle, which is now expected to avoid the worst of the storm.

“We will catch some of the outer bands, that’s going to bring us that 1 to 2 inches of rain, but that’s about it,” ABC11 meteorologist Steve Stewart said Saturday morning.

In addition to rain late Monday to early Tuesday, Stewart said the local area can expect the slight chance of an isolated tornado, wind gusts of up to 40 mph and the occasional power outage.

In an update Saturday, Gov. Roy Cooper said North Carolina emergency response crews weren’t letting down their guard.

“As we’ve said and seen before, hurricane forecast tracks can change,” Cooper said. “Just a slight shift in Irma’s track could mean a big change in impact for our state.”

Irma, which prompted evacuation orders for millions in Florida, had downgraded from a Category 5 storm with 160 mph winds Friday to a Category 3 storm with maximum sustained winds of 125 mph as of 11 a.m. Saturday.

The latest potential track area shows the storm approaching the Florida Keys about 2 a.m. Sunday, the Fort Myers area about 2 p.m. Sunday and Tampa about 2 a.m. Monday, according to the National Hurricane Center.

From there the model has it moving up the Georgia-Alabama line on its way to Tennessee by Wednesday, with only the westernmost tip of North Carolina included in the potential track area.

“Our mountains will have some effects there – could be dealing with some flooding,” Stewart said.

Even with the storm largely missing North Carolina, Stewart said Irma will cause significant swells along the coast.

“We’ll be dealing with some significant seas – enough to maybe cause some beach erosion,” Stewart said. “(It’s) very dangerous to be out in the waters.”