Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Hurricane Irma remains a powerful Category 4 hurricane, as it continues to track through the Caribbean and possibly toward the U.S. by the weekend.
As of the 5 a.m. Tuesday advisory from the National Hurricane Center, Irma had maximum sustained winds of 150 miles an hour.
The storm saw another significant increase in intensity Tuesday morning, as wind speeds rose from 140 to 150 miles an hour in only a few hours time. The hurricane is expected to stay very strong through Wednesday morning.
The storm was moving towards the west at 14 mph.
Hurricane warnings are still in effect for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
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The current consensus track from the National Hurricane Center has Irma moving north of the islands of the Caribbean, including Puerto Rico and Hispanola, over the next several days. By Saturday, it's expected to be just off the north coast of Cuba.
Confidence is growing in that track. Where it goes next is still uncertain. Most of the longer range models have it going into Florida,, while others have it moving north up the coast of the eastern U.S. Some o
Hurricane hunter aircraft have begun routine flights into the storm, and the data that's collected over the coming days will give extra clarity. With the shifts that have already occurred, it's a safe bet the models will shift again.
BOTTOM LINE: What About South Carolina?
At this point, we really can't say in any definitive way the impacts on South Carolina.
For now, don't get too fixated on the path you see on the graphic attached to this story. That image has changed multiple times, and will again several more times in the coming days.
Also, don't assume that the current path of the storm continues on past the five day point. There could be sudden, dramatic shifts in direction that the five-day forecast just can't account for at this point.
And finally, don't trust or rely on weather data from third party sources that promise to have some "inside information" that no one else knows. No one, and we mean no one, has more data on these storms than the National Hurricane Center, which is where News19 and other reputable TV & radio stations and digital media sites get their information on the storm's path. Other people may put out memes on social media that show forecasts that go beyond five days. Don't trust them. Any serious weather scientist knows that the longer out you try to forecast (6, 7, 8 days) the less reliable that forecast becomes.
While it's too soon to know exactly what impact it will have in South Carolina, the National Hurricane Center is stressing preparation. "Everyone in hurricane-prone areas should ensure that they have their hurricane plan in place, as we are now near the peak of the season," they write.
News19 Hurricane Expert Jim Gandy, Meteorologist Efren Afante, and Meteorologist Daniel Bonds are all tracking the storm, and will have regular updates online, on our Facebook page, and on TV.