Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Tampa Bay Weather

Thursday: Hurricane watch issued for parts of Florida as Irma track shifts west (w/video)

Floridians were still on hinge Thursday as they waited to see how sharp of a turn monster storm Irma would take on its current track toward the peninsula.

Parts of Florida are already under evacuation orders and have been given an official hurricane watch from the National Hurricane Center.

As evidenced by projections that moved Irma from Florida's east coast to closer to the middle of the state, Tampa Bay and the rest of the Gulf Coast still aren't in the clear. Exactly which parts of Florida will be the most impacted by the storm that's already devastated the northern Caribbean is still hard to say. The entire state will, however, feel Irma's wrath, officials warn.

The National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane watch and storm surge watch from the Jupiter Inlet southward and around the peninsula to Anna Maria Island, including the Florida Keys, Lake Okeechobee and Florida Bay.

Those areas of the state have already been told to evacuate ahead of Irma's destructive path as the Atlantic Ocean's most potent hurricane ever.


Irma weakened a bit on Thursday, still remaining a powerful Category 5 storm with sustained winds of 165 mph, according to the hurricane center. As of 11 p.m., Irma was about 585 miles east-southeast of Miami and moving west-northwest at 16 mph.

Irma's eye was moving away from the Turks and Caicos Islands and toward the southeastern Bahamas late Thursday. The core will then move between the north coast of Cuba and the Bahamas during the next day or two.

Forecast models showed the hurricane tracking closer to the middle of the state, then swerving east as it moved north.

[Weather Underground]

Forecasters said Thursday the storm will likely remain a Category 4 or 5 for the next two days.

It's then Irma will likely head north toward Florida.


At a morning press conference from Hialeah Thursday, Gov. Rick Scott said the Florida Department of Transportation is already seeing bottlenecks across the state's major highways. He told citizens to head to their county's shelters.

"You don't need to evacuate out of the state or hundreds of miles to stay safe," he said.

The governor has waived tolls across the state to help ease some of the traffic woes.

Scott said Florida is already working with Google to ensure Google Maps is kept up to date about any road closures because of Irma.


The storm is expected to hit Florida sometime Sunday and Gov. Rick Scott said he planned to activate 7,000 National Guard soldiers by Friday. He warned that Irma is "bigger, faster and stronger" than Hurricane Andrew, which wiped out entire neighborhoods in south Florida 25 years ago.

Experts worried Thursday that Irma could rake the entire Florida east coast from Miami to Jacksonville and then head into Savannah, Georgia, and the Carolinas, striking highly populated and developed areas.

"This could easily be the most costly storm in U.S. history, which is saying a lot considering what just happened two weeks ago," Brian McNold, a hurricane researcher at the University of Miami told the Associated Press.

So far, Broward County has issued voluntary evacuations of mobile homes and low-lying areas beginning Thursday morning. Collier County has issued voluntary evacuations of Marco Island, which began Wednesday. Miami-Dade County has issued mandatory evacuations in its lowest-lying areas.


Irma blacked out much of Puerto Rico, slamming the U.S. territory with heavy wind and rain while staying just out to sea.

To the east, authorities struggled to get aid to small Caribbean islands devastated by the storm's record winds earlier Wednesday.

HURRICANE GUIDE: Emergency information, tracking map and storm resources

Communications with the northern Caribbean communities already hit by Irma has only tickled out:

More than half the island of Puerto Rico was without power, leaving 900,000 in the dark and nearly 50,000 without water, the U.S. territory's emergency management agency said in the midst of the storm. Fourteen hospitals were using generators after losing power, and fallen trees and light poles covered the roads.

Puerto Rico's public power company warned before the storm hit that some areas could be left without power from four to six months because its staff has been reduced and its infrastructure weakened by the island's decade-long economic slump.

State maintenance worker Juan Tosado said he was without power for three months after Hurricane Hugo in 1989.

"I expect the same from this storm. It's going to be bad," he told the AP.

The NHC said in its Thursday morning report water levels around Puetro Rico should subside throughout the day.


Nearly every building on Barbuda was damaged when the hurricane's core crossed almost directly over the island early Wednesday and about 60 percent of its roughly 1,400 residents were left homeless, Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne told the AP.

"It is just really a horrendous situation," Browne said after returning to Antigua from a plane trip to the neighboring island.

He said roads and telecommunications systems were wrecked and recovery would take months, if not years. A 2-year-old child was killed as a family tried to escape a damaged home during the storm.

DOWNLOAD: Get the tbo Weather App and see where storms are headed


On St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Laura Strickling spent 12 hours hunkered down with her husband and 1-year-old daughter in a boarded-up basement apartment with no power as the storm raged outside. They emerged to find the lush island in tatters. Many of their neighbors' homes were damaged and once-dense vegetation was largely gone.

"There are no leaves. It is crazy. One of the things we loved about St. Thomas is that it was so green. And it's gone," Strickling said. "It will take years for this community to get back on its feet."

Significant damage was also reported on St. Martin, an island split between French and Dutch control. Photos and video circulating on social media showed major damage to the airport in Philipsburg and the coastal village of Marigot heavily flooded. France sent emergency food and water there and to the French island of St. Bart's, where Irma ripped off roofs and knocked out electricity.

LIVE RADAR: Interactive storm track, hourly outlooks, 10-day forecasts and weather alerts

President Donald Trump approved an emergency declaration for the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, allowing the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other agencies to remove debris and give other services that will largely be paid for by the U.S. government.

Pauline Jackson, a 59-year-old registered nurse from Florida visiting Puerto Rico, the AP she had tried to leave before the storm but all flights were sold out.

She has a reservation to fly out Friday and is worried about her home in Tampa. "When you're from Florida, you understand a Category 5 hurricane," she said.


Shifting forecasts raised the threat to the Southeast from fierce Hurricane Irma and prompted emergency declarations in the Carolinas and coastal Georgia, including areas that haven't suffered a direct hit from a major hurricane in more than a century.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal 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 3 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.

"It is a precaution. This is not an order of evacuation," McMaster said in Columbia, South Carolina's capital, adding evacuations could be ordered as early as Friday — if needed. "Assume it's arriving tomorrow morning and get ready. When that hurricane is coming, when it gets close, it's too late."

The last major hurricane to hit South Carolina was Hugo in September 1989. It slammed ashore just north of Charleston with winds of 135 mph (215 kph), causing 13 deaths in the state and $6.5 billion in damage in 1989 dollars.

Also, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency taking effect at 8 a.m. Thursday for the entire state. He added that all swift-water rescue teams the state had sent to Texas for Hurricane Harvey were expected back in North Carolina by Wednesday night.

Temperatures falling fast; freeze warnings issued for Tampa Bay

Temperatures falling fast; freeze warnings issued for Tampa Bay

UPDATE: The National Weather Service has issued freeze warnings for Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco, Hernando, Manatee and Sarasota counties.A cold air mass is moving southward through the Florida peninsula dropping temperatures across the Tampa Bay ar...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Snow, ice and record cold grip the South; at least 8 dead

Snow, ice and record cold grip the South; at least 8 dead

ATLANTA ó A layer of snow and ice and a record-breaking blast of cold closed runways, highways, schools and government offices across the South and sent cars sliding off roads Wednesday in a swath of the country ill-equipped to deal with wintry weath...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Pasco opens cold shelters, joining Pinellas, Hillsborough and Hernando

Pasco opens cold shelters, joining Pinellas, Hillsborough and Hernando

Temperatures are set to drop Wednesday and keep dropping, Tampa Bay. Itís time to take tonightís lows seriously.Thatís why cold shelters are opening in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties.PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Goodbye 70s. Hello freeze w...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Goodbye 70s. Hello freeze watch. Cold spell headed for Tampa Bay.

Goodbye 70s. Hello freeze watch. Cold spell headed for Tampa Bay.

Did everyone enjoy the cool, sunny weather? Because itís over now.Itís about to get very chilly, Tampa Bay. A rush of arctic air is headed our way, bringing another cold spell. Daytime temperatures will be in the low 60s on Wednesday, but overnight t...
Published: 01/16/18
How to protect your Florida plants during a freeze

How to protect your Florida plants during a freeze

With forecasts predicting freezing temperatures for much of the Tampa Bay area, you may want to protect sensitive plants.The National Weather Service says a freeze watch is in effect from Wednesday evening through Thursday morning for Hillsborough, P...
Published: 01/16/18
Forecast: More warm weather, but frigid conditions are returning to Tampa Bay

Forecast: More warm weather, but frigid conditions are returning to Tampa Bay

The sunny skies and warmer temperatures that took hold on Martin Luther King Day will extend into Tuesday across Tampa Bay.10News WTSPFeels-like temperatures around the Tampa Bay area They will last only a day, however, as the region will see a shor...
Published: 01/16/18
Crews struggle to clear California highway after mudslides

Crews struggle to clear California highway after mudslides

Associated PressLOS ANGELES ó Crews working around the clock cleared boulders, trees and crushed cars from all lanes of U.S. 101, but California officials still werenít sure Monday when the key coastal highway might reopen after being inundated durin...
Published: 01/15/18
Forecast: Cool, sunny in Tampa Bay; Pinellas, Hillsborough shelters to open Sunday night

Forecast: Cool, sunny in Tampa Bay; Pinellas, Hillsborough shelters to open Sunday night

ST. PETERSBURG ó Skies have cleared in Tampa Bay, but cold weather shelters will open Sunday evening, as temperatures will remain chilly. 10News WTSPThe latest Tampa Bay-area radar 10News WTSPFeels-like tem...
Published: 01/14/18
Forecast: Fog leads to rain across Tampa Bay, before winter takes hold again

Forecast: Fog leads to rain across Tampa Bay, before winter takes hold again

The Tampa Bay region is transitioning from fog to rain on Friday, as a cold front also will bring a return to more winter-like conditions this weekend.10News WTSPFeels-like temperatures around the Tampa Bay area Friday will be the last warm day for ...
Published: 01/12/18
Forecast: Foggy morning, warm afternoon in Tampa Bay before cold front arrives

Forecast: Foggy morning, warm afternoon in Tampa Bay before cold front arrives

Morning commutes are being hampered by thick fog as humid conditions take hold across the Tampa Bay area.10News WTSPFeels-like temperatures around the Tampa Bay area The region is under a dense fog advisory until 10 a.m. The fog could be accompanied...
Published: 01/11/18