Hurricane Irma returns to Category 5 as it barrels towards Florida

- Hurricane Irma had weakened to a category four storm Friday afternoon, but it ramped back up to a category five with maximum sustained winds of 160 MPH Friday night. 

It was expected that Irma would remain a category four storm as it slid over Cuba, but it actually struck as a category five. However, the interaction with the Florida Keys will likely knock it back to a category four before it slams into the southwest Florida coast. 

Related: Many Floridians evacuate, head to the Carolinas

Once on shore it will travel north through central Florida and gradually weaken to a Tropical Storm by the Georgia border. We expect the storm to track north and west through Georgia and end up in central Tennessee.

Our area will feel some impacts, but the westerly track will spare us from the worst of the storm. Heavy rain and strong winds will move through the Carolinas on Monday and Tuesday.

Late Monday into Tuesday morning we could see 30-40 mph winds with gusts to 50 mph. By the end of this event rainfall totals will be around two to four inches with locally higher amounts in spots (heaviest in the southwest, lightest in the northeast).

Related: City of Charlotte makes preparations ahead of Hurricane Irma

Around 8:00 p.m. EDT Friday, the hurricane was moving at 12 MPH with maximum sustained winds of 155 MPH. 

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency which went into effect 8:00 a.m. Thursday morning. The governor says this will help residents prepare for the hurricane's impact which is possible between Monday and Tuesday.

RelatedIrma shifts westward, new path could be good news for Carolinas

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal also declared a state of emergency Wednesday for the state's 100-mile (160-kilometer) swath of Atlantic coast, which was last struck by a hurricane of force Category three or higher in 1898.

His South Carolina counterpart, Gov. Henry McMaster, declared an emergency for that neighboring state as officials assessed the chances of receiving a major hurricane strike there for the first time in nearly 28 years.

The FOX 46 Weather Team is keeping a close eye on Irma, tracking the hurricane’s progress and potential impact on the Carolinas.

RelatedHurricane Irma brings death, destruction to the Caribbean

Irma is coming off the heels of Harvey, which caused massive damage and severe flooding in southeast Texas. Harvey dropped historically high rainfall amounts that caused catastrophic flooding in the Houston area and other parts of the Lone Star State.

These aren’t the only hurricanes the U.S. has experienced this season, and the season is far from over. Here is a look at the season so far.

2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season So Far…

The 2017 hurricane season has already been one to talk about and we are not even half way through! So far, we have seen 8 named storms with the first one developing back in April. Most of the cyclones this season have remained in the tropical storm category, but four of the storms strengthened to hurricane status with two becoming a major hurricane.

Atlantic Hurricane Season

Tropical Storm Highlights…

It has not only been an active season; we’ve also seen some significant events. The most recent and memorable storm of 2017 was Harvey. This Cat 4 hurricane caused catastrophic damage and record breaking flooding over southeast Texas. After spinning over Texas for a few days, Harvey moved back into the Gulf near Louisiana. Harvey then made one more final turn to the north and eventually making a second landfall in SE Louisiana. This storm will definitely go down in the history books.

NOAA Hurricane Map

*First major hurricane to hit the US since Wilma in 2005
*First Category 4 storm to make landfall in Texas since Carla in 1961
*First Category 4 storm to make landfall in the US since Charley in 2004

Harvey wasn’t the only big talker this season! Here is a look at a few more highlights.


*Tropical Storm Arlene developed on April 19th in the northern Atlantic Ocean. This was the first     tropical storm to develop in April since Ann in 2003. Arlene was one of two storms ever recorded in April and was the stronger of the two.


*In mid-June a rare low-latitude tropical storm developed and struck the Island of Trinidad. Bret was the earliest storm to form in the in the Main Development Region on record. It was the lowest latitude named storm since 1933 for the month of June.

Hurricane BrettPhoto Courtesy: Weather Underground

*Tropical Storm Cindy made landfall around the Texas and Louisiana border on June 22. This was the first tropical cyclone to strike Louisiana since Hurricane Isaac in 2012.

Hurricane Track

*Franklin became the first hurricane of the season on August 9th.  After crossing over the Yucatan Peninsula as a tropical storm, Franklin quickly intensified to hurricane status in the Bay of Campeche. It only lasted about 5 hours before making landfall in Mexico and weakening rapidly.

Hurricane Track

We are approaching the peak of hurricane season on September 10, but it doesn’t officially end until November 30. The first half has been pretty active, let’s hope the second half is much quieter!

Be sure to follow FOX 46 Charlotte on Facebook and Twitter for the latest on Irma's track and intensity. Now is a good time to download the FOX 46 Weather App to receive instant alerts about the storm. You can also download the FOX 46 News App for breaking news alerts. 

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