All of Collier County is under a Hurricane Warning Thursday night into Friday as the imminent threat of Hurricane Irma is drawing ever nearer.
The National Hurricane Center upgraded previously standing Hurricane Watch conditions from Bonita Beach southward to warnings as of 11:00 p.m. Thursday night, and put Hurricane Watch conditions into effect north from Bonita to Anna Maria Island near Bradenton.
Hurricane Warnings mean that hurricane conditions are expected in an area, and that all preparations to protect life and property should be nearing their completion.
As of the 11 p.m. advisory, Irma has maximum sustained winds of 165 mph, moving to the west-northwest at 16 mph. The center of circulation sits 585 miles to the east-southeast of Miami.
According to recent Hurricane Hunter flight data, Irma appears to be going through an eyewall replacement cycle, which typically results in a loss of intensity, however this also leads to a widening in the hurricane strength windfield. Hurricane force winds extend 75 miles from the center of circulation. Tropical storm force winds extend 185 miles.
A Storm Surge Warning also exists south of Bonita Beach, with a Storm Surge Watch in place north to Venice. Current forecast predictions call for up to five to 10 feet of storm surge above ground level if surge occurs during high tide for the warning area, with three to five feet of surge in the watch areas.
Forecasts call for Irma to continue a general west-northwest track for the next 36 hours, before beginning to turn northward. Current forecast models are split on where exactly the storm could make impact, but the threat of a direct hit is in play for anywhere in the southern half of the state. Irma is expected to continue a gradual weakening, but will still be at least a Category 4 hurricane should it make landfall Sunday.
Mandatory evacuations are in place on Friday for Goodland, Chokoloskee, and Everglades City, as well as all of the barrier islands including Sanibel, Fort Myers Beach, and Pine Island.
Once wind speeds reach 40 mph sustained, emergency services will not respond to calls for help.
Shelters will open in Lee County at 9 a.m. Friday, and at 1 p.m. in Collier. The next full advisory will be released at 5 a.m.
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