The Tampa Bay region will have one more day of relative calm before the effects of Hurricane Irma blow through the state, producing powerful winds and potentially devastating storm surge.
Conditions, however, will deteriorate Sunday night into Monday morning, 10Weather WTSP meteorologist Grant Gilmore said.
The region is expected to experience gusty winds starting Saturday morning, with winds around 20 mph and increasing throughout the day and strengthening to tropical storm-force Saturday night, Gilmore said.
There is a 50 percent chance of rain on Saturday, with highs near 90 ahead of the hurricane, which is forecast to make a northerly turn later Saturday, forecasters said.
Those winds could prompt the closure of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge on Saturday night, once sustained winds reach 40 mph, Gilmore said.
Winds will continue to increase into Sunday, with the worst conditions expected Sunday night into Monday morning, Gilmore said.
Irma could pack Category 3 strength after it makes its possible landfall near Fort Myers and moves through the Tampa Bay area on Monday morning, producing maximum sustained winds as high as 120 mph from Sunday around 8 p.m. through Monday around 8 a.m., Gilmore said.
The storm could produce quick spin-up tornadoes and up to three inches of rain starting Sunday night, with the potential of a 5-7 feet of storm surge across Tampa Bay — and perhaps up to 9 feet in some areas, Gilmore said.