Hurricane Irma hits Cuba as a Category 4 storm

Irma will bring high winds, tornadoes, power outages to Jacksonville

By Rebecca Barry - Meteorologist, John Gaughan - Chief meteorologist

Boards on the windows of a St. Simons Island restaurant express the sentiment of most coastal residents.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Hurricane Irma is hitting the north coast of Cuba. The 8 a.m. advisory from the National Hurricane Center said the terrain of Cuba will weaken the storm some, but restrengthening is anticipated.

As Irma moves up the Gulf Coast on Sunday and Monday, it will remain a powerful hurricane, punishing much of Florida. The storm is expected to bring Jacksonville Category 1 strength winds, but people west and south could get much worse.

Here's what Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia residents should expect from Hurricane Irma; slight shifts in the track won't matter.

Coastal counties of northeastern Florida

Flagler, St. Johns, Duval, Clay and Nassau counties will see high winds and a storm surge slightly lower than that of Hurricane Matthew. The storm surge for these coastal areas will peak around 5 feet. This level of storm surge for the beach areas could be more damaging to areas with weakened infrastructure from Hurricane Matthew, particularly along A1A in Flagler and St. Johns counties. The storm surge will peak Monday morning and diminish as the eye passes us. 

Winds speeds will peak at Category 1 hurricane strength during the day on Monday. All weekend long, northeasterly winds will build ahead of Irma. Expect tropical-storm force winds possible after 8 p.m. on Sunday; bridge closures may be possible from this point forward. During the worst of the storm, expect sustained winds between 50 and 60 mph and peak wind gusts between 60 and 75 mph. 

Tornadoes are expected. Northeastern Florida will be on the stronger side of the hurricane's eye, according to the current track. Widespread power outages, some for a week's time, are anticipated. Extensive, widespread tree damage is expected. 

Coastal squalls and downpours will begin to push onshore throughout the weekend, dropping between an inch and 5 inches of rain before Irma arrives. As Irma passes, we expect between 5-10 inches of additional rain. Those rainfall totals will feel higher since our ground is incredibly saturated with moisture already from the wettest May through August on record so far. 

Inland counties of northeastern Florida

With Irma taking a Gulf Coast track, the hurricane may not loose much strength before reaching the Georgia border. Because of this, some of the worst of the storm will be seen in this area.

Latest track takes Hurricane Irma up I-75, making this potentially the hardest-hit area of Northeast Florida

Baker, Putnam, Alachua, Bradford, Columbia, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Suwannee and Union counties will be the closest to Hurricane Irma's eye on Monday. That means some of the highest wind gusts and part of the highest risk for tornadoes lies in these counties. Expect 75-85 mph sustained winds and wind gusts peaking between 80-100 mph. 

Widespread and extensive tree damage is expected along with long-term power outages -- weeks for some. Rural, unpaved roadways may be impassable due to heavy rainfall, as well.

Rainfall totals ahead of Irma from coastal squalls ahead of Irma will see between 8-13 inches of rainfall as Irma passes. 

Coastal counties of southeastern Georgia

Camden and Glynn counties will see the worst of the winds for the state, sustained between 55-65 mph and gusts between 65-70 mph. 

Because of the shape of the coastline and then angle the storm is approaching from, Camden and especially Glynn counties have the worst predictions for storm surge. These counties could see a 4-7 foot storm surge in addition top the higher than normal high tides from the 48 hours of Northeasterly winds leading up to Irma. 

Widespread and extensive tree damage is expected along with long term power outages -- up to a week for some. Rural, unpaved roadways may be impassable due to heavy rainfall, as well.

Coastal squalls and downpours will begin to push onshore throughout the weekend, dropping between an inch and 4 inches of rain before Irma arrives. As Irma passes, we expect between 5-10 inches of additional rain. Those rainfall totals will feel higher since our ground is incredibly saturated with moisture already, from the wettest May through August on record so far. 

Inland counties of southeastern Georgia

Brantley, Ware, Charlton, Wayne, Pierce, Appling, Clinch, Coffee, and Bacon counties will see the least of Irma's wrath when it comes to wind speeds. Expect 50-55 mph sustained winds and wind gusts between 65-70 mph. 

Eye on the Storm header

Widespread and extensive tree damage is expected, along with long-term power outages -- up to a week for some. Rural, unpaved roadways may be impassable due to heavy rainfall, as well.

Rainfall totals ahead of Irma from coastal squalls ahead of Irma will be between 8-13 inches of rainfall as Irma passes. 

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