NHC issues storm surge watch for Tampa Bay

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

The National Hurricane Center has issued as storm surge watch during its 5 p.m. update on Friday.

The region is currently under a hurricane watch.

A hurricane warning is in effect for Jupiter Inlet southward around the Florida peninsula to Bonita Beach, Florida Keys, Lake Okeechobee and Florida Bay. A hurricane watch is in effect for north of Jupiter Inlet to the Flagler/Volusia County line and north of Bonita Beach to Anclote.

Irma is expected to be a Category 4 hurricane when it makes landfall somewhere in south Florida early Sunday morning. The latest forecast from the National Hurricane Center takes Hurricane Irma up the spine of the state and on to Georgia.

According to the National Weather Service, tropical storm conditions are possible beginning Saturday night in Pinellas County. Northeast winds of 25-30 mph with gust to 40 mph are possible. Chance of rain is 30 percent. Hurricane conditions are possible on Sunday and Sunday night with numerous showers and isolated thunderstorms. Chance of rain is 50 percent. North winds 35-40 mph with guests around 55 mph are forecast increasing to 40-50 mph with gusts around 70 mph in the afternoon. Rain chances increase to 70 percent Sunday night.

Hurricane conditions are still possible on Monday. Mostly cloudy skies are forecast for the morning with partly sunny conditions by afternoon.

At 11 a.m. Friday, Irma was located about 435 miles east of Caibarien Cuba and 655 miles southeast of Miami. Maximum sustained winds were down to 150 mph. Irma was a category 4 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. Movement was to the west-northwest at 14 mph.

Irma was expected to move near the north coast of Cuba and the central Bahamas today and Saturday and be near the Florida Keys and southern Florida peninsula Sunday morning.

“The primary concerns at this time are the potential for destructive winds and life-threatening storm surge,” the National Weather Service said Friday morning. “The main window of concern for Hurricane Irma across west central and southwest Florida is Sunday through Monday afternoon.”

NWS advises residents to prepare for life-threatening wind with “possible devastating impacts” across west central and southwest parts of the state.

Hurricane force winds extend outward up to 70 miles from the center and tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 185 miles.