Will Hurricane Irma Hit Key West? Florida Is Bracing For The Storm

U.S. Navy/Getty Images News/Getty Images

On Tuesday morning, the National Hurricane Center said that Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 storm with sustained winds of 180 m.p.h., could have "potentially catastrophic" effects. But how badly will Hurricane Irma affect Key West and Florida's mainland, the region it's currently on track to reach this coming weekend?

According to meteorologists, if Irma stays on its current path, it's likely to hit parts of Southern Florida. "Computer models are in strong agreement that by Saturday, Irma will be approaching the Florida Keys — where dangerous storm conditions are likely," wrote Brian McNoldy, a hurricane researcher at the University of Miami, and Jason Samenow, The Washington Post's chief meteorologist. "Then, they show a sharp northward turn by Sunday morning. The precise timing and location of the turn has huge implications for Florida."

Therefore, Florida Gov. Rick Scott said his state isn't taking any chances, and declared a statewide emergency on Tuesday morning. “Hurricane Irma is a major and life-threatening storm, and Florida must be prepared,” Scott said, according to the Orlando Sentinel. “In Florida, we always prepare for the worst and hope for the best, and while the exact path of Irma is not absolutely known at this time, we cannot afford to not be prepared.”

The National Hurricane Center echoed the Florida governor's warning for Irma, which at the time of writing is about 200 miles away from the island of Antiqua in the Atlantic Ocean. “There’s an increasing chance of seeing some impacts from Irma in the Florida Peninsula and Florida Keys,” the NHC said. “Otherwise, it is still too early to determine what direct impacts Irma might have on the continental United States. However, everyone in hurricane-prone areas should ensure that they have their hurricane plan in place.”

Meteorologists expect Irma's forceful 180 mph winds to weaken slightly in the coming days. However, meteorological projections suggest that Irma will still have sustained winds of about 140 or 150 mph this weekend, when it will likely hit Florida.

Prior to reaching the Sunshine State and its islands — if the storm does indeed do so — Irma could dump as much as 12 inches of rain on some Caribbean islands. “Hurricane conditions are expected to begin within the hurricane warning area in the British and U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico on Wednesday, with tropical storm conditions beginning tonight,” the National Hurricane Center said, according to The Washington Post. “Hurricane and tropical storm conditions are possible within the watch area in the Dominican Republic by early Thursday.”