SITUATION: As of 14:00 EDT, Hurricane Irma was located about 65 miles east of Varadero, Cuba or about 145 miles southeast of Key West.  Irma has weakened some and is currently moving west at approximately 9 miles per hour, has maximum sustained winds of 125 MPH, a Category 3 hurricane.  The minimum central pressure is 27.79″.  Hurricane Irma has recently weakened due to proximity and interaction of the storm with the mountains in Cuba.

Hurricane Warnings are in effect for all the counties in the West Central Florida Section.  A Storm Surge Watch is in effect for all the coastal counties of the West Central Florida Section.

The forecast track is basically unchanged since yesterday. Irma is expected to continue its west-northwest track going around the southern periphery of the mid Atlantic ridge of high pressure. Once it reaches the southwestern side of the high, Irma is forecast to turn northwest, then north and toward Florida in response to a trough of low pressure coming out of the continental United States heading towards Florida, which will erode the mid Atlantic high pressure ridge slightly. The center of the track is forecast to now move over the eastern part of the coastal counties on the Florida west coast instead of moving up the middle of the state or up the east coast as previously forecast.  However, Tropical Storm force winds will impact all of the peninsula with the exception of the panhandle.  Gale force and hurricane force winds could still impact the west side of the state of Florida as Irma moves northward.

Hurricane Irma Forecast Discussion: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/text/refresh/MIATCDAT1+shtml/061448.shtml

Hurricane Irma Graphical Forecast Track: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/refresh/graphics_at1+shtml/145453.shtml?cone#contents

ACTIONS:  At this time, all West Central Florida Section have already opened shelters as of this time.  All ARES, ACS, and CERT personnel are requested to continue to closely monitor the National Hurricane Center latest advisories on Hurricane Irma and to be in communications with their respective leadership in case their assistance with communications support is needed.  All amateur radio operators should have already completed any preparedness actions at this time.  Remember you and your family safety is a primary concern.

A reminder to all ARES Emergency Coordinators:  The Section Manager and the Section Emergency Coordinator will conduct a conference call at 1700 this afternoon via GoToMeeting.  Invitations have been sent via email to your email address.  Please participate if at all possible so the Section ARES Staff can be informed of any unmet needs you have and your current status.  WCF Section ARES will hold another special session of the West Central Florida Section ARES Net tomorrow evening at 19:30 hours on the NI4CE Repeater System to assess any unmet needs of any ARES or ACS groups operating in our ten counties and collecting reports from these ten counties.  The State of Florida SARNet is currently running a coordination and assistance net to help communicate between the county EOC’s and the State EOC and to provide assistance to amateur radio operators in other ways, time permitting.

A reminder from ARRL HQ and your Section leadership is that right now the priority is tactical shelter communications, EOC Communications, and even SKYWARN Nets as Hurricane Irma approaches.  Any health and welfare inquiries should go through the American Red Cross “Safe and Well” website.  The link to the ARRL Press Release on this is http://www.arrl.org/news/hurricane-irma-amateur-radio-emergency-and-priority-traffic-is-moving-health-welfare-traffic-queued.  Also the ARRL has release a press release concerning frequency usage during the Hurricane Irma response.  The link to that ARRL press release is http://www.arrl.org/news/operating-procedures-during-hurricane-irma.

The next WCF SECTION SPECIAL BULLETIN for Hurricane Irma will be issued tomorrow at 1100 EDT, or sooner if conditions warrant.