Hurricane Irma update: What forecasters now expect in the Charlotte region

Latest track: Irma pounds Cuba, approaches Florida Keys

Hurricane Irma pounded Cuba during the night and is expected to turn towards the North later Saturday.
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Hurricane Irma pounded Cuba during the night and is expected to turn towards the North later Saturday.

Hurricane Irma is losing steam and her projected track has shifted westward, reducing her expected impact on the Carolinas. But Charlotte should still expect a gusty Monday and 2 to 4 inches of rain Monday and Tuesday, and tornadoes are possible.

Irma, after savaging some Caribbean islands, was downgraded to a Category 4 hurricane with sustained winds of 150 mph. It was hitting hard the coast of Cuba Saturday morning with sustained winds of 130 mph.

The storm was expected to land in the Florida Keys and southern Florida by Saturday afternoon or night.

As of Saturday morning, the National Weather Service was saying that “tropical storm hazards” were possible Monday and Tuesday for the Charlotte region, as well as western North Carolina and upstate South Carolina. Hurricane Irma was expected to weaken to a tropical storm by Monday.

In Charlotte on Monday, showers would start after 11 a.m., and sustained wind speeds of 17 to 25 mph, with gusts up to 37 mph possible, the weather service said Saturday.

Forecasts late Thursday night showed Irma taking a decided westward swing.

The National Hurricane Center’s Friday morning forecast showed the cone of possible storm tracks just west of Charlotte. Tropical storm-force winds of up to 73 mph are still shown in Georgia by 2 a.m. Tuesday but diminish farther north.

Irma’s center is expected to move across the western Carolinas as a weakening tropical storm Monday night through Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service forecast office in Greenville-Spartanburg, S.C. The office covers Charlotte.

“We will definitely have some gusty winds starting Monday, with the strongest Monday evening,” forecaster Andrew Kimball said.Winds should diminish Tuesday but the rain will continue.

Hurricane Irma caused widespread damage as it passed over the British Virgin Islands, destroying moorings and buildings in the capital, Road Town, which is on the largest of the islands, Tortola.

Charlotte should see 2 to 4 inches of rain from Irma, Kimball said, with 4 to 6 inches or more expected in the mountains, mainly south of Asheville.

Tornadoes are possible from Irma, but because Charlotte is on the eastern side of her expected track it will have less tornado risk, he said.

Aerial video from a naval helicopter shows extensive devastation to parts of the Dutch side of St. Maarten caused by Hurricane Irma.

As Irma nears the U.S. mainland, forecasters have increasing confidence in her track. But important aspects won’t be known for several days, such as whether the storm moves up the East coast from the Florida peninsula or shifts as expected toward Georgia.

“There’s still a lot of uncertainty,” Kimball said.

Officials update North Carolina residents on Irma's track as it makes it's way towards mainland United States Friday, September 8, 2017

WBTV meteorologist Al Conklin expects sustained winds of 10 to 20 mph in Charlotte on an otherwise sunny Sunday.

“Until we see more data, however, we are still wary of wind gusts reaching as high as 45 to 55 mph Monday afternoon and evening with rainfall amounts still in the 2 to 4 inch range,” he wrote in early Friday update. “So don't let your guard down just yet.”

Video showing a rough flight through the eye of Hurricane Irma from a NOAA WP-3D Orion and a Gulfstream IV.

Hurricane Irma roared into the Caribbean with record force early Wednesday, its 185-mph (297-kph) winds shaking homes and flooding buildings on a chain of small islands along a path toward Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba and likel

Bruce Henderson: 704-358-5051, @bhender

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