The National Hurricane Center said Thursday that Irma will be a strong tropical storm when it moves across South Carolina’s Upstate and northeast Georgia on Tuesday morning.
The Hurricane Center’s latest forecast track for Irma, a powerful hurricane responsible for several deaths in the Caribbean, will take the storm into northeast Georgia around 8 a.m. Tuesday.
That is after the storm is expected to make landfall Monday evening somewhere near Savannah, Ga.
Earlier Thursday, the Hurricane Center had predicted Irma would be somewhere between Rock Hill and Spartanburg on Tuesday morning, but the track was pushed to the west later in the day. Forecasters cautioned that additional track changes are likely between now and next week.
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The latest track would lessen the wind threat for the Rock Hill area but increase the threat of heavy rain and tornadoes.
Power outages are expected across South Carolina and northeast Georgia, even well inland from landfall. One estimate from scientists at Ohio State University was that between 20 percent and 40 percent of customers in the region could lose power from the storm.
The Hurricane Center said Irma will have sustained winds of 60 mph Tuesday morning in northeast Georgia.
The National Weather Service office in Greer has been cautioning South Carolina residents for days that the track of Irma could change greatly as the storm crosses the Caribbean and then moves up the Florida coast. But Weather Service forecasters are growing more confident.
“There remains some uncertainty, but confidence is growing that some portion of our area will be impacted,” meteorologist Trisha Palmer said. “Residents across the area should play it safe and be prepared for all manner of tropical cyclone impacts.”
In the meantime, the region will enjoy unseasonably cool weather. The temperature dropped to 52 degrees Thursday morning at the Rock Hill/York County Airport, with lows of 54 at the airports in Lancaster and Chester. Charlotte’s morning low of 53 tied a record for the date.
Sunrise temperatures Friday are expected to be in the low 50s again, and afternoon highs in the mid- and upper-70s are predicted through Sunday. That is almost 10 degrees below seasonal averages.
Meteorologists say high clouds from approaching Hurricane Irma should begin filtering into the Rock Hill area by Sunday afternoon, with off-and-on rain arriving Monday morning. Winds will increase gradually, reaching a peak Monday night and Tuesday morning.