Sept. 8 (UPI) — Hurricane Irma‘s southwestern eyeball was moving over the north coast of Cuba on Friday evening, the National Hurricane Center said.
The NHC said in its 8 p.m. advisory that the Category 4 storm’s center was about 150 miles east of Caibarien, Cuba, and 315 miles southeast of Miami, with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph. It is moving west at 12 mph.
Irma was downgraded to a Category 4 storm early Friday, as its sustained winds have slowed slightly since maxing out around 185 mph earlier in the week.
It remains unclear if Irma will travel up through the center of Florida, or along its Gulf or Atlantic coasts, but its track shifted slightly to the west throughout the day. The NHC said earlier Friday the storm remains “extremely dangerous.”
“On the forecast track, the eye of Irma should continue to move near the north coast of Cuba and the central Bahamas tonight and Saturday, and be near the Florida Keys and the southern Florida Peninsula Sunday morning,” the NHC said.
The advisory listed expected rainfall from the hurricane to reach between 10 to 15 inches in the southern Bahamas; 8 to 15 inches, with isolated areas receiving 20 inches, are forecast from the Florida Keys to southeast Georgia. Progressively less rain, four to seven inches, is currently expected in Georgia and the Carolinas.
A storm surge warning, indicating the danger of life-threatening inundation from rising water moving inland from the coast, was in place from Sebastian Inlet on Florida’s east coast southbound around to Venice on the gulf coast.
There also is a hurricane warning from Sebastian Inlet on Florida’s east coast, southbound around the tip of the state’s peninsula to Anna Maria Island on the gulf coast. The Florida Keys are also under a hurricane warning, as is the area around Lake Okeechobee, which is supported by a decades-old dike currently under repair. Outside of the United States, hurricane warnings were in effect for the Cuban provinces of Camaguey, Ciego de Avila, Sancti Spiritus and Villa Clara, and Central Bahamas, Northwestern Bahamas and Ragged Island.
The NHC projected Irma’s center would likely reach Florida on Sunday morning. The National Weather Service said parts of South Florida “may be uninhabitable for weeks or months” because of the expected high-speed winds.
Irma’s hurricane-force winds can be felt up to 70 miles from its center. Tropical-storm-force winds extend up to 185 miles from Irma’s center, the NHC said. Irma’s wind speeds have made it the strongest hurricane in the Atlantic basin, outside the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea, in the NHC’s recorded history, the center said.