IRENE will be a Category 4 hurricane as it turns northward off Florida's Gold Coast Thursday.

For us here in Florida and southeast Georgia, we continue to be outside the cone of uncertainty for hurricane IRENE. which means we no longer see a danger of this storm’s hitting our coast. Good news indeed!

Today, the storm intensified to category 3 strength (on a scale of 1 to 5) with maximum sustained winds of 120 mph. At 2 PM Wednesday it was centered in the Bahamas about 250 miles southwest of Nassau. Movement is towards the northwest around 12 mph. The track forecast by the National Hurricane Center will take the center well east of Miami Thursday morning, and about 300 miles east of Jacksonville around noon Friday.

For northeast Florida and extreme southeast Georgia, we can expect northeast winds to increase Thursday afternoon and evening to 15 mph inland and 22 mph at the coast. No major rains are expected, but rainfall amounts Thursday night and Friday may run up to 2 inches along our beaches, but only an inch away from the shore near the St. Johns River and Highway 301. Our highest winds will be on Friday as the center of IRENE passes us well offshore. We can expect 20 to 30 mph winds, but occasional gusts may reach 40 mph at the beaches. Skies will be cloudy Friday morning with some passing showers, but they should begin to clear by late afternoon and winds change from northeast to north. The main effect on our area will be rough surf, rip currents and high tides. Surfers will find waves ranging from 8 to 12 feet.

On Saturday morning, IRENE will be centered 100 to 200 miles east of Myrtle Beach on a northeasterly course reaching Cape Hatteras by nightfall. This will allow our winds will swing around to the west and drop to 8 to 12 mph on Saturday. Surfers will still see waves 5 to 8 feet in the morning, but they will be decreasing during Saturday afternoon and evening. We will see partly sunny skies, and it feel uncomfortably warm and humid, even at the beaches with afternoon temperatures reaching the mid-90’s. The chance for a passing shower will be down to 25%, both Saturday and Sunday. On Sunday, Surfers will discover that the seas have subsided to only 2 to 3 feet, but for all of us it will be a nice beach day to look for sea shells, and maybe find a shark’s tooth (on the sand, not in the water!).



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