ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Hurricane watches and warnings are in effect for parts of Florida's west coast and the southern part of the state in advance of Irma, according to the National Hurricane Center. That includes southern counties of the WTSP viewing area.
The watch is in effect from Anna Maria Island south to Bonita Beach, including Manatee, Sarasota and Highlands counties. Tropical storm force winds are anticipated 48 hours after the watch is declared.
The hurricane warning is in effect from Jupiter Inlet to Bonita Beach, including the Keys, Okeechobee and Florida Bay.
A storm surge watch also is in effect for the same area. Jupiter Inlet to Bonita Beach could see a surge of 5 to 10 feet.
Hurricane Irma is a potentially catastrophic Category 5 storm with 165 mph winds, according to the center's 11 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 7 advisory. The storm is about 732 miles from Tampa and 585 east-southeast from Miami.
It is moving west-northwest at 16 mph and has a minimum central pressure of 920 mb.
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A hurricane watch means hurricane-force winds in excess of 74 mph are possible within 48 hours and plans to possibly evacuate must be reviewed.
Other tropical storm watches and, later on, warnings are possible as Hurricane Irma approaches the Florida coast. It remains too early to tell where and if Irma makes landfall, however, computer models recently have depicted an eastward trend along the east coast of Florida.
It's also possible the storm could remain out to sea but still lash the shore with damaging winds and a dangerous storm surge.
It's because of these uncertainties that it's still worth having a plan and being aware of updated forecasts.
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