The National Hurricane Center’s latest 8 p.m. update shows Hurricane Irma is now just a shadow of her former self.
Earlier this week, Irma almost became the most powerful hurricane ever in the Atlantic when her wind speed reached just over 185 mph. After her trek over the Florida peninsula, however, Irma has weakened to a Category 2 storm with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph.
Over the course of the evening, Irma has shifted east. She was once expected to pass straight through Lee County’s barrier island of Captiva, but updates now show her eye is currently battering the Fort Myers and Cape Coral area. The models show Irma traveling north, with her next expected landfall in Tampa sometime around midnight.
With Irma now predicted to deteriorate into a Category 1 storm as she leaves Florida, the catastrophic damage the hurricane was once expected to cause is significantly lessened. While earlier predictions had Irma passing through the coastal city of Savannah, Irma is now predicted to cut through Alabama and reach her final resting place in central Indiana as a tropical depression.
This doesn’t mean Florida’s West Coast will emerge from Irma without a few scars. Flooding, storm surge, and tornadoes are all waiting for Floridians when they emerge from their shelters.
Some Floridians are already beginning to deal with the aftermath of Irma. Heavy rains have caused roof leaks across the state, and one of the most notable roof leaks has happened in Lee County’s largest shelter: Germain Arena.
Reports from the Lee County Sheriff’s Department indicate that the roof of Germain Arena, which has been sheltering almost 8, 500 residents from Irma’s wind and rain, started leaking when Irma’s worst band washed over them. Those inside have been working to reduce the impact the leak has had with sandbags, and officials are monitoring Germain Arena to ensure it remains a safe location.
While it may be tempting for Floridians to rush home once the worst of Irma has passed, emergency officials continue to urge residents to remain in a safe location until they have been given further notice. Florida still isn’t out of the woods, but forecasts show a relatively rosier future for the sunshine state.
Check back with Eagle News for the latest on Hurricane Irma.