The forecast inland track of Hurricane Irma was pushed well to the west overnight, significantly trimming the storm’s predicted impacts on the Rock Hill area early next week.
But forecasters warned that additional adjustments in the track are possible, saying a complex set of variables is complicating the predictions process.
The latest track of Irma will send the powerful hurricane into south Florida late Saturday or early Sunday, probably as a Category 4 storm with top sustained winds of about 140 mph.
The old forecast path of Irma had the storm riding Florida’s east coast, moving inland around Charleston, and then cutting northwest across South Carolina, passing just west of Rock Hill with top winds of 60 mph.
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The new path has Irma moving north through Florida, and then into Georgia. The center of the storm is expected to be near Atlanta on Tuesday, with top winds of 30 mph.
With the new forecast track of Irma, the South Carolina coast would be spared a major impact.
What does the change mean for the Rock Hill area?
A team of scientists from several universities had predicted Thursday that power outages in the area would be around 30 percent. But with the updated forecast, that figure dropped to near zero.
Rodney Hinson, of the National Weather Service office in Greer, said Friday morning that 2 to 4 inches of rain is still possible in the Rock Hill area. And it will be breezy, with some gusts of 30 to 35 mph. But the heaviest rain and stronger winds are now expected to be west of Spartanburg, from the western edge of South Carolina into central Georgia.
High clouds from the storm should begin streaming into the Rock Hill area by Sunday afternoon, and showers are likely Monday morning. The heaviest rain and breezy conditions are predicted for Monday night and into Tuesday morning.
Hinson had a word of caution for people in the area.
“The forecast can change, and tropical storm threats may increase or shift back east,” he said. “Persons across the area need to keep abreast of the latest forecasts.”