KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — WATE 6 Storm Team Chief Meteorologist Matt Hinkin says while Hurricane Irma’s path is still uncertain, it could have some impact on East Tennessee, especially if its path brings it through the Gulf of Mexico.
The Category 5 hurricane was churning west Tuesday evening in the Atlantic with maximum sustained winds of 185 mph — well above the 157 mph threshold for a Category 5.
“The exact path of it is still uncertain. It’s called a cone of uncertainty. It gets wider the further away it is, so right now most of the computer models are leaning on it to come up on the tip of Florida or maybe just on the east side of the Gulf of Mexico which would come up through Tampa and that area. If it goes that far,” said Matt Hinkin.
If the storm comes straight off the Gulf of Mexico, up through Alabama and Mississippi and takes a turn to the right, Matt Hinkin says East Tennessee will have its best chance at rain. However, he says the storm could be much different than Hurricane Harvey. During Hurricane Harvey, the slow-moving hurricane made landfall, then spun around for 2-3 days flooding Southern Texas.
“The verdict is still out,” said Matt Hinkin. “We could get half a foot of rain in Southern Georgia and nothing here in Knoxville, but we’re likely to see some rain here, especially if it goes up the Gulf of Mexico. If it stays on the East Coast and goes up the East Coast of Florida, we probably won’t see anything.”
East Tennessee did see some remnants of Hurricane Harvey. Matt Hinkin says Tennessee is about 3-4 inches above average for this time of year, a much different story than last year’s drought.
“We’ll know something by the end of this week and this weekend,” says Matt Hinkin. “We’re in communication with National Hurricane Center. As soon as they get the latest coordinates from the airplanes, we get it into our computers. They send up airplanes and take data from those airplanes inside the hurricane and you can see if it is strengthening or weakening. We take that info and put it on our maps and show it to you at home.”
Regardless, Matt Hinkin says the impact on East Tennessee is going to be minimal unless the center comes right on top of Knoxville and is slow moving. Then it will bring heavier rain.