ORLANDO, Fla. – Tropical Storm Irma is now a hurricane in the open Atlantic and is expected to strengthen into a category 4 storm as it treks west.

As of late Thursday morning, Irma was a category 2 storm packing sustained winds of 100 mph and was located more than 3,000 miles away from Florida. The storm is headed west toward the Leeward Islands.

U.S. and European computer models show Irma heading in different directions.

“The American models take it to the Carolinas by next Sunday (Sept. 3). The European models have it going to Cuba and possibly threatening South Florida,” News 6 meteorologist Troy Bridges said. “It’s just too early to tell.”

Irma is expected to grow into a category 3 hurricane with 120 mph winds by Friday. The system is forecasted to become a category 4 storm with 130 mph winds by Tuesday.

The peak of hurricane season is Sept. 10.

Dry conditions will lead to another very hot day in Central Florida, and all eyes remain on the tropics as questions linger about Tropical Storm Irma’s path.

“We are pinpointing drier air across Central Florida on Thursday, especially in the mid- and upper levels of the atmosphere,” News 6 meteorologist Troy Bridges said. “Like we saw on Wednesday, rain chances will be lower because of this drier air.”

Expect a 20 percent coverage of showers and storms through the afternoon.

Rain chances increase to 60 percent on Friday and Saturday.

By Sunday and Labor Day, the chance of rain will be 40 percent as sea breeze storms begin to fire up.

Thursday’s high in Orlando will reach 96, with a “feels like” temperature of 105. The average high on this date is 91.

“There was no official rainfall in Orlando on Wednesday, so our deficit is now at 8.12 inches since January 1,” Bridges said.

Tracking the tropics

“We are watching Tropical Storm Irma in the open Atlantic, which has maximum sustained winds of 65 mph and is moving west at 12 mph,” Bridges said.

The latest track and many of the models take Irma to the Lesser Antilles as a category 3 hurricane with winds of 120 mph by the middle of next week.

“Long-range models are not in a great agreement,” Bridges said. “But some bring it into the Bahamas by the end of next week or next weekend. Some models keep it out to sea, but all of them show that the system will be a major hurricane in the coming days.”

Meanwhile, there is now a new area of low pressure in the western Gulf of Mexico.

The system has a 20 percent chance of development within the next five days.

“This low is gradually going to move north into areas of Texas over the next few days,” Bridges said. “Any additional rain the system will bring will only add some more flooding concerns for Texas.”

Harvey is now a tropical depression moving over land in Louisiana and eventually into Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee.

Tropical Depression Harvey is moving north-northeast at 9 mph. Harvey’s maximum sustained winds are 35 mph.

Harvey will continue to weaken as it moves over land, but it will bring rain across much of the middle of the country for the next few days.

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