There is a “very low” chance that Hurricane Irma will hit Maine, according to the National Weather Service.

As remote as that possibility may be, the powerful Category 5 storm has East Coast residents on edge as it blows westward through the Caribbean toward the southern tip of Florida. Barely a week after Hurricane Harvey dumped a devastating amount of rain on Texas, people in many states are fretting that they could be next on Mother Nature’s hit list.

Irma may well turn sharply north when it reaches the tip of Florida, said Mark Bloomer, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Caribou. The storm could cause significant damage in the Southeast, but likely would weaken considerably before its remnants are felt the Northeast, he said Tuesday.

“It’s much too early to tell,” Bloomer said. “Beyond [turning north over Florida], we don’t know.”

A small percentage of model results suggest the storm could track further back to the east, over Cape Hatteras in North Carolina, but most indicate the hurricane will stay further west, Bloomer said. It likely won’t be until later this week that forecasters have a better idea of the storm’s path.

In addition, as of midday Tuesday, forecasters had identified Tropical Storm Jose further east in the Atlantic. Jose also is blowing to the northwest, though it is too early to tell if it may make landfall in the U.S.

There have been warnings and watches issued for islands in the Caribbean and for the Bahamas, and Florida has pre-emptively declared a state of emergency, but no such warnings or watches have been issued for Jose. It could be two weeks before forecasters know where Jose is headed, according to Bloomer.

Maine Emergency Management Agency has been monitoring Irma, and now Jose, while it also fields requests from Texas (as have other states) to lend a hand in that state’s recovery efforts from Harvey. Susan Faloon, spokeswoman for MEMA, said the 2017 Atlantic storm season was predicted to be a busy one.

“We’re keeping a pretty close eye on all those things,” Faloon said Tuesday. “We don’t know yet if we’re going to get the tail end of [Irma].”

Having a plan never hurts, she said, regardless of the presence of any cyclones out at sea. Taking in outdoor furniture or anything else that could blow away in strong winds, having a communications plan in case phone service goes out or an agreed-upon rendezvous point will help reduce risks and confusion during weather emergencies, she said.

“It’s a little too late to make a plan when the water is rising or when a tree falls on your house,” Faloon said.

Mainers can keep track of the storm’s proximity to Maine by following MEMA social media accounts on Facebook or Twitter or by signing up for MEMA email alerts, she said. Federal Emergency Management Agency has a smartphone app that also lets user track weather alerts, she said.

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Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....