The Triangle appears to be less at risk from Hurricane Irma’s damaging winds and rain as forecasters on Friday shifted the storm’s likely track westward.
The forecast “cone” that shows the area where the National Hurricane Center thinks the center of the storm is most likely to go includes western North Carolina, with heavy rains being the primary concern
The National Weather Service in Raleigh warned, however, that the state will not be immune to problems from the storm, which is projected to enter Florida as Category 4 hurricane early Sunday morning.
“Just a reminder, cone just shows possible tracks of center, not impact area; storm impacts can still be huge well outside the cone!” the weather service noted in a Twitter post Friday morning.
The Raleigh forecasters cited “a large amount of uncertainty” in trying to say where the storm center will be a few days from now.
“Track forecasts are likely to fluctuate over the next couple of days, and everyone should be prepared for the potential for strong, possibly damaging wind gusts and heavy rain, beginning as early as Monday morning,” they said.
The Friday forecast said the Triangle likely will see rain Monday night and Tuesday even if Irma stays well to the west.
The state Office of Emergency Management noted that a projected storm path made Friday is 200 miles wide for Tuesday.
Irma’s sustained winds were at an “extremely dangerous” 150 mph Friday morning as it swept the Bahamas, according to the hurricane center. The storm was located about 405 miles southeast of Miami and moving west-northwest at 14 mph.
All of south Florida was under a hurricane warning Friday morning. A storm surge warning was in effect for the entire coast. The hurricane center said surges could reach as much as 10 feet above ground in the Florida Keys if tide and storm conditions combine.
ABC11 meteorologist Don Schwenneker said that Irma’s westward shift means the Triangle can expect 1 to 4 inches of rain, with the highest totals southwest of the Raleigh-Durham International Airport.
The greatest threat would be from tornadoes, which is almost always the case when disruptive storms pass over the area.
Strong rip currents and rough surf are possible through next Thursday along North Carolina’s southeast coast, according to the weather service’s Wilmington office.