Athens is a long way from the coast, but not far enough to completely escape Hurricane Irma’s fury.
Irma, the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic, won’t be as powerful once it makes landfall and moves north.
But it still could pack enough wind and rain to drench Athens, with possible flooding and gusts up to 40 mph.
The storm could also spawn tornadoes, as Harvey did in Texas, said University of Georgia climatologist Pam Knox.
Most models now show Irma tracking along Florida’s east coast, but it’s still possible Irma could track along the western coast of Florida, which would likely bring more severe weather to Athens when it reaches this area, Knox said.
As of Thursday afternoon, the predicted path of the monster storm on the National Hurricane Center website shows Irma’s eye just off the Georgia coast at a little after 8 a.m. Monday, and at the northern edge of South Carolina 24 hours later.
The diameter of Irma’s tropical-force wind strength was about 300 miles on Thursday. That’s twice the width of the Florida peninsula and big enough to do damage to areas far away from the center of the storm.
With sustained winds of 185 mph, climate scientists say Irma is the strongest recorded Atlantic hurricane on record and it’s coming right on the heels of the wettest recorded hurricane, Harvey. Slow-moving Harvey dumped more than 50 inches of rain on some parts of Texas.
No model can take into account all the atmospheric forces that guide a storm, Knox said.
That means we should keep up to date with the hurricane, using reliable sources such as the National Weather Service or the Weather Channel, she said. The National Hurricane Center site is also a source to trust.
“It’s important not to look at everything on social media because there’s a lot of crazy stuff out there,” she said.
It’s simply too soon to know what Irma will bring to Athens, she said Thursday morning. Irma might bring severe weather to Athens, but its effects might also be mild.
“First we have to see what happens in Miami,” she said.
As of Thursday afternoon, the National Weather Service’s Peachtree City weather station says there’s an 80 percent chance of rain in Athens on Monday, increasing to 90 percent Monday night.
Irma’s path remains to be seen, but one thing should be clear, Knox said, every household should be prepared for severe weather, with emergency food, water, light and energy on hand. Sites such as FEMA, the National Weather Service and the National Hurricane Center have good guidance on how to be ready for severe weather, including kits households should have on hand.
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