BLACKSBURG, Va. — If the current track of Hurricane Irma is correct, this area will be spared any significant impact from the storm, according to the National Weather Service (NWS) in Blacksburg.

Robert Beasley, NWS meteorologist, said the track has shifted west and when the storm eventually comes inland it will take a more northwest turn toward western Tennessee.

“It is tracking further west than expected and may continue on that track,” he said, taking a northerly change probably late Saturday.

“It is tracking toward Key West, then Naples and Fort Myers and on toward Tampa,” he said, adding that this track would take it into southern Georgia, then westerly into northeastern Alabama and very close to Paducah, Kentucky.

“We will have some rain and wind,” he said. “As we get into Monday night and into Tuesday morning we will be seeing rain from a feeder band … we will have a period of moderate to heavy rain Monday night or Tuesday morning.”

Beasley said the winds in the Bluefield area could reach 35 mph gusts on top of East River Mountain but for most people those gusts would be about 25 mph with sustained winds at 14 to 16 mph.

“That’s nothing compared to some winter storms we have,” he said.

It’s also minor compared to Hurricane Hugo, he said, which hit this area in 1989, but that was a direct hit as it entered the country in the Charleston, S.C. area.

If Hurricane Irma had slid up the East Coast and taken a similar course, “that would have been Hugo type thing,” he said.

Predictions of Irma’s movements have been generally on track, he said, but have been adjusted in recent days to take it moving up the west coast of Florida rather than the East Coast.

Despite the slight weakening on Saturday because it was hugging the northern coast of Cuba, Beasley said it is sill a dangerous storm and could gather more strength, from the current Category 3 to a 4.

But when winds are that strong, 125 mph sustained and gusts of 155 mph (in a Category 3), it’s destructive.

“Look at the destruction in the Caribbean,” he said. “It could be the same thing for the Florida Keys.”

The direction of hurricanes are difficult to predict because of the factors involved in steering them, he said, with a massive high pressure system north and a trough in the Gulf Mexico determining the track of Hurricane Irma.

But it’s not out of the question it could move a little farther west and get into the Gulf of Mexico, and even make two different landfalls in Florida.

“But I have seen a jog to the north,” he said Saturday evening.

Beasley said he is also keeping an eye in Hurricane Jose, which is a Category 4 far out in the Caribbean.

Although it has been forecast to take a turn to the north and miss the United States altogether, Beasley is cautious.

“Keep on eye on Jose,” he said. “It could hit the North Carolina coast next week. While Jose may spin around, it may come back to haunt us.”

— Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com

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