Hurricane Irma track: How to stay on top of the latest forecast models

Last Updated Sep 7, 2017 2:30 PM EDT

Hurricane Irma, the strongest Atlantic storm in recorded history, is taking aim at Florida after bringing death and destruction and leaving thousands homeless as it tore through islands in the Caribbean.

You can follow all the most recent Irma developments above on CBSN, CBS News' streaming network, with the latest news at the top of every hour. CBSN is available live on the web, the CBS News app, Apple TV, Roku and Amazon Fire. 

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) is considered the gold standard of hurricane forecasts. Its forecasters compile data from numerous sources and models, some of which aren't available to the general public, and releases new advisories every six hours, with intermediate updates every three hours. Those advisories can be found here.

The latest advisory, released at 2 p.m. Thursday, shows Irma with sustained winds of 175 mph and traveling to the west-northwest at 16 mph. The NHC has issued a hurricane watch and a storm surge watch for the southern Florida peninsula, including the Florida Keys.

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The latest forecast for Hurricane Irma from the National Hurricane Center, released at 11 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017.

National Hurricane Center

The NHC's website has been struggling to load given the high number of users seeking information on Irma, but the center provides real-time updates on its Twitter account.

The center produces graphics showing the expected track of the storm within a "cone of uncertainty," like the one seen above. The storm's center is expected to travel within that cone, but hurricane-force winds extend 60 miles from the center of the storm, so areas outside the cone are also in danger. The NHC warned against focusing on the exact track of the storm, emphasizing the enormous size of Irma:

Irma is expected to make landfall in south Florida early Sunday morning and move up the state's eastern coast over the course of the day. It will produce "life-threatening storm surge" and "large and destructive waves," the NHC says.

In the low-lying Florida Keys, storm surge could leave entire islands underwater. About 31,000 residents have already evacuated, Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Thursday. 

Scott urged residents who are stuck in evacuation zones to call authorities at (800) 955-5504 for help before the storm hits, saying rescuers would be unable to reach them once Irma arrives.