FIRST ALERT: The latest updates on Hurricane Irma

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Hurricane Irma could impact South Georgia beginning late Sunday evening.

Ahead of the storm, our First Alert Meteorologists Chris Zelman, Andrew Gorton  and Ryan Wichman are answering some of the questions you've been asking.

MONDAY 12 p.m. UPDATE: Chris

Hurricane Irma was downgraded to a Tropical storm at 8am and is entering south Georgia as a 65 mph storm. Winds are gusting to 65 mph and sustained 30-50. Rains are beginning to ease southeast to northwest as will the winds.

Conditions quickly improve this evening. Rains ends, Winds relax to below Tropical storms force gusts end by 7pm.

MONDAY 4 a.m. UPDATE: Chris

Hurricane Irma has continued to weaken through the overnight.  As of 2a.m. it is a Category 1 Hurricane with winds of 85 mph over Central Florida. The track over the peninsula of Florida is forecast to get it down to a Tropical Storm when it enters South Georgia by early this afternoon. This a marked downgrade compared to what we thought it would be 24 hours ago. Therefore our effects will be mostly Tropical Storm force winds, heavy rainfall an isolated weak tornado in our far eastern communities.

Winds will be sustained 40 to 60 mph and may gust close to 70.  This will be enough to bring trees down and cause scattered to numerous power outages. We are expecting an additional 3 to 7 inches which could cause flash flooding, areal flooding and moderate river flooding.

The strongest winds arrive in our southeastern communities at midday and this afternoon in Albany.

Conditions quickly improve this evening. Rains end, Winds relax to below Tropical storms force by 8pm.

SUNDAY 8 p.m. UPDATE: Andrew

Irma is a near Fort Myers as a Category 2 Hurricane with sustained wind speeds of 105 MPH. Wind gusts are up to 33 mph in South Georgia from Thomasville to Valdosta, which is just under Tropical Storm Force strength (39+ mph). Light rain will continue this evening, becoming heavier Monday morning. Wind gusts will also increase overnight, with Tropical Storm Force Gusts likely just before sunrise Monday Morning. Wind gusts could peak as high 80 mph with sustained wind of 40 to 55. Most of Southwest Georgia will also receive anywhere from 3 to 7 inches of rain. The damp ground paired with the strong wind will likely result in widespread power outages. These outages could last for a few days. Isolated tornadoes are also a threat Monday. Most of these tornadoes will be EF-0 & EF-1 strength. The wind and rain will calm down late Monday, clearing out by Tuesday morning.

SUNDAY 4 p.m. UPDATE: Ryan

Hurricane Irma has officially made landfall as of 3:35pm at Marco Island, FL. Winds there gusted to 130mph just before landfall. We expect the eye of Irma to skirt along the western coast of Florida before reaching southern Georgia by Monday. Widespread 40-60 mph sustained winds are expected Monday with gusts to 85 mph possible.

SUNDAY 2 p.m. UPDATE: Ryan

The national hurricane center has slightly weakened Irma to a Category 3 storm with sustained winds of 120 mph. It remains a very dangerous storm and is about to come ashore once again at Marco Island, FL. Locally hurricane warnings remain in effect for most of Southwestern Georgia as Irma's effects will start to really be felt overnight and Monday.


Hurricane Irma is now less than a day from coming through Southwest Georgia. We expect winds will remain steady today in the 20-30mph range, picking up quickly overnight. By Monday morning wind gusts over 50mph will be common which will begin to lead to power outages and fallen trees. Wind gusts as high as 80-90mph will be possible as the center of Irma passes overhead sometime late Monday morning or early afternoon. Again, many fallen trees are possible which will lead to more power outages.

The winds will begin to subside by late Monday evening into Tuesday. Total rainfall is likely for many to be between 3-7", with totals to 10" possible where the heaviest rains fall (more likely in south central Georgia).

SUNDAY 12 p.m. UPDATE: Chris

SUNDAY 11 a.m. UPDATE: Chris

The latest information from the National Hurricane Center.

Updating resources:
Shelters available
Business closings
School closings
Voluntary evacuations

SUNDAY 10 a.m. UPDATE: Chris

Dougherty County officials held a press conference at 10 to update Irma preps for the area.

They are urging drivers to be off the road by 5 p.m. Sunday.

SUNDAY 9 a.m. UPDATE: Chris

SUNDAY 8 a.m. UPDATE: Chris

Irma's eye wall is now hitting the Florida Keys. Now that the storm has begun it's northern turn, the models are in agreement that the path of the storm will bring it straight through South Georgia.

SUNDAY 5 a.m. UPDATE: Chris

Irma has strengthened back to a category 4 hurricane with sustained winds of 130 mph. It should be hitting the Florida Keys by 7a.m. The forecast track has not changed much. A landfall is possible from Naples to Tampa Bay and then moves into the Big Bend of Florida. It is forecast to come into South Georgia as a Category 1 Hurricane. And it should move through the heart of Southwest Georgia as a Hurricane.  This is now a high confidence forecast.

Hurricane conditions are expected for most of South Georgia by Monday morning. Winds sustained 60-80 with gusts to 90 mph are possible.  Widespread wind damage is expected. Downed trees will cause power outages, damage to homes and could block roadways.

Rain totals of 4"-6" on average are expected with some areas in the southeastern counties reaching 8"-10".

A few short lived weak ef0-ef1 Tornadoes are possible. Winds in these tornadoes are 75 to 100 mph.

SUNDAY 12 a.m. UPDATE: Ryan

No major updates to the track of Hurricane Irma, it still expected to hit late Sunday through early Tuesday. Wind gusts to 90 mph will be possible.


Irma remains a powerful storm with sustained winds of 120 mph. The storm has weakened during its interaction with the Cuban coast the past 24 hours but Irma is expected to strengthen before reaching the Florida Keys soon. It is still expected to hit the west Florida coast as a Category 4 storm with sustained winds between 130-150 mph. It is now forecasted to maintain hurricane strength to the Georgia/Florida border. 

Tropical storm conditions are still expected to reach SW Georgia as early as Sunday late afternoon. Hurricane force winds will begin by Monday morning with gusts over 80 mph likely. Gusts to 100 mph are possible for several hours late Monday morning into the afternoon. Sustain winds should be between 30-50 mph the entire day Monday. 

Heavy rainfall is also possible with widespread rain totals of 3-6". The heaviest totals will be closer to I-75. The Tornado threat also increases Monday. A few Tornadoes are possible into the early afternoon. These will be short lived ef0-ef1. 75mph-100mph winds. Again it will be most favored for the eastern half of Southwest Georgia


Irma has weakened to a category 3 hurricane as it has encountered the northern Cuban coast. It is now moving north and away from Cuba. It already looks like it's getting stronger and the Hurricane Hunters has just reported a 2 millibar drop in pressure. That means it is getting stronger. It is forecast to hit the west coast of Florida Sunday evening as a Category 4 Hurricane. And then heads north into the Florida Big Bend Monday morning as a Category 3 and into South Georgia as a Category 2 Monday afternoon.

Tropical storms conditions are expected after midnight Sunday. Hurricane conditions are expected by midday Monday and lasts through the afternoon. Winds subside to Tropical Storm Force Monday night and then just breezy by Tuesday morning. Widespread wind damage is the primary threat with Hurricane Irma in South Georgia. Winds are forecast to gust to 90 mph and possibly to 100 mph east of Highway 319.  Power outages of a week or more are possible.

Rain will be coming quickly and heavy. Flash flooding is possible east of I-75. 24 hour rain totals should reach 3"-4" west to 6"-8" east. This may cause flooding short term and some moderate river flooding long term, but Catastrophic Flooding is not expected. Nothing like Hurricane Harvey in Houston, or the Great Flood of 1994 or 1998 in Albany.

The Tornado threat increases Monday. A few Tornadoes are possible into the early afternoon. These will be short lived ef0-ef1. 75mph-100mph winds. Again it will be most favored for the eastern half of Southwest Georgia


Irma's track has shifted west. The more time spent over the Gulf of Mexico brings a greater threat of Hurricane conditions to the WALB viewing area.

Winds 60-80 mph are expected Monday gusts to 90 mph. A widespread 5" to 8" is expected, some areas could exceed 10".

A Hurricane Watch has been issued for most of South Georgia.

There will also be a threat of short-lived EF-0, EF-1 Tornadoes.

This is forecast to start Monday morning, peaks Monday afternoon lingers into the evening and ends Tuesday morning.


Mostly sunny skies return Saturday with highs in the mid 80s and wind gusts up to 25 MPH.

Rain could start as early as Sunday night as the winds picking up to Tropical Storm Force strength of 39 mph and above into early Monday morning. These Tropical Storm Force winds last through Monday, gusting as high as 75 mph. If wind gusts reach 74 mph or above, that would technically put them in at Category 1 Hurricane strength.

There will also be periods of heavy rain within Irma's convective bands. 3 to 9 inches possible across Southwest Georgia through Tuesday. Atkinson, Clinch, Coffee & Echols Co. are under a Flash Flood Watch until Monday night with 5 to 10 inches of rain possible.


Hurricane Irma is expected to hit southeast Florida this Weekend as a Category 4 Hurricane.

Then ride up the east coast of Florida and Georgia with another landfall early next week near the Georgia, South Carolina border.

This approach brings increasing winds this weekend with rain chance showing by Sunday. Monday winds will whip 25-35 mph and gust to near 45 mph.

East of I-75 winds are forecast 35-45 mph and gust past 60 mph. Some showers are expected west of the Highway with more of a steady rain east of I-75.

Rain totals could exceed 5 inches east of I-75 and may barely reach a 1/2 inch near the Alabama State Line.

Hurricane conditions are expected along the Georgia Coast and Governor Nathan Deal has now called for a mandatory evacuation.

Conditions should improve Tuesday.


What can we expect with the updated track of Irma?

The latest track of Irma takes it a little further up to the East than previous tracks have had it, but it still doesn't bring any potential impact to Southwest Georgia until late Sunday at the earliest, more likely Monday. It appears at this point, still 5 days out, that we would see some impact from the storm but nothing like hurricane force winds. That's not in the equation right now. Irma will still be a hurricane when it's impacting our area on Monday, but we will only see the tropical storm-force winds, which are 39 MPH and up.

What about flooding now?

East and Southeast Georgia may see some flooding, but I'm not as concerned about flooding in Southwest Georgia.

Will we still see tornadoes?

The tornado threat is always going to be on the northeast side of a hurricane. So for Southwest Georgia, I'm not concerned with a tornado threat associated with this storm. However, they are still possible for communities to our northeast.

Is it possible the storm could shift back toward us?

What we need to look out for in the next few days is exactly how far west it's going to go before it shifts to the north. So right now, models are in agreement for the most part that Irma is going to start shifting to the north right as it approaches the gulf coast of Florida. So down by Miami and the tip of Florida and ride along the Atlantic coast. That being said, this is 5 days away, and we've got multiple factors still in play here. So we could still see this shifting continuing to move west before it goes north, and we could see an impact expand a bit here in Southwest Georgia.

So what do we need to do today?

First off, there's no reason to panic, just prepare. What I tell you today is the same thing I would tell you at the start of hurricane season. You always want to have a few days of water and food for your family.


What are the current forecast projections for Irma's impact on South Georgia?

The storm could reach us Monday afternoon/night or Tuesday. As it looks right now, again this is just a forecast nearly 7 days out, it will most likely be a tropical storm moving through South Georgia. We say tropical storm, we're talking about 40-60 MPH winds sustained, gusting to 70. Wind and rain, squally weather, which means wind and whipped rain. Rain totals are expected to be 4 inches for the western communities, and over 8 inches for the eastern communities. There might also be a risk for tornadoes when the storm makes landfall or when it comes into our area.

What will the storm be like strength wise when it reaches us?

As long as it's forecasted the way I'm thinking, it should be a tropical storm. If it's to the west, it could be a hurricane. If it's to the east, it'll have a lot less affect on us.

Is this anything like Harvey?

This is nothing like Harvey. This is moving 10-15 MPH, which if you take into account how Harvey was moving, was 2-3 MPH, so it's moving 5-10 times faster. And so the rain totals, at most some areas may see rain over 10 inches. But more like 4-8 inches.

Will we have the possibility for flooding?

There may be some flash flooding and some minor to moderate river flooding, again going off the forecast. However, nothing like Harvey. We're not expecting catastrophic flooding. Nothing like the flood of 1998 at this time.

Do we have the possibility for tornadoes?

When there's a tropical storm making landfall, you always have the possibility for tornadoes. They tend to be short lived, they tend to be weaker. They are not usually the EF-3s that we got during January. They're usually EF-0 or EF-1, with winds of about 75-100 MPH. As opposed to 135 MPH like we had in January.

What should people do today to get ready?

At this point, there isn't anything you really have to do. However, if you're out and about, you may as well go ahead and get yourself some water and other supplies. But really I think Thursday will be the day you'll need to make your plans.

Should people evacuate in South Georgia?

There is no reason to evacuate South Georgia. Again, the only reason you would want to evacuate, you would know there would be catastrophic flooding like there was in '94 and you know you live in a flood area. We don't see that happening right now. The only reason people evacuate for hurricanes typically is for storm surge along coastal areas, when a wall of water comes in land, which we saw with Katrina.

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