Irene roars into life; may become the season's first hurricane

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 12:03 AM GMT on August 21, 2011

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Tropical Storm Irene roared into life this evening, transitioning from a tropical wave to a 50 mph tropical storm in just a few short hours. An Air Force hurricane hunter aircraft in the storm was finishing up its mission when it suddenly came across a region with intense thunderstorms and surface winds of 50 mph. The aircraft found that a center of circulation had barely closed off on the southwest edge of this region, though the plane found almost no winds from the west around the circulation center. The 6:10pm EDT center fix found a central pressure of 1007mb, which is quite high for the observed 50 mph winds. Dry air to the north and west is slowing development, as well as moderate wind shear of 10 - 20 knots, as analyzed by the University of Wisconsin CIMSS group. Infrared satellite loops and radar out of Martinique show the storm is poorly organized, with no evidence of spiral bands. The center of Irene is expected to cross over the Caribbean island of Dominica early Sunday morning, but the heaviest thunderstorms lie to the north of the center, and will affect Guadeloupe, Antigua, and St. Kitts and Nevis.


Figure 1. Evening satellite image of Irene.

The computer models have shifted southwards since yesterday, and now take Irene south of Puerto Rico on Monday, and along the south shore of the Dominican Republic on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Irene should pass near or over southern Haiti, Eastern Cuba, and Jamaica. On Wednesday and Thursday, the models agree that a trough of low pressure will dip down over the Eastern U.S., which is likely to turn Irene to the north. The exact timing and strength of this trough varies considerably from model to model, and will be critical in determining where and when Irene will turn to the north. We can expect that Irene will impact Central Cuba, the Bahamas, and the Florida Keys on Thursday, but it is uncertain whether Irene's turn to the north will take the storm into the Gulf of Mexico or not. Irene most reminds me of Tropical Storm Fay of 2008. Fay formed just off the coast of Puerto Rico, and was never quite able to get organized enough to become a hurricane, due to passage over Hispaniola and Cuba. Fay topped out as a strong tropical storm with 70 mph winds, and did over $500 million in damage in the U.S., mostly due to flooding rains in Florida that accumulated to over 25 inches in a few areas. Fay also dumped heavy rains on Hispaniola, triggering flooding that claimed eight lives.


Figure 2. Track of Tropical Storm Fay of 2008.

Irene will be battling dry air and moderate wind shear of 10 - 20 knots through Sunday, and it will take the storm 1 - 3 days to build up an eyewall and intensify into a hurricane. Irene is more of a threat than Tropical Storm Emily of early August was, since Irene has closed off a center farther east than Emily did and has more time to organize before encountering Hispaniola. I don't think passage over Hispaniola will destroy Irene, since it is a fairly large storm, and is likely to be a hurricane by then. However, if Irene follows the NHC forecast, it will have an extended encounter with Hispaniola and Cuba on Tuesday through Wednesday that will probably weaken the storm below hurricane force. Keep in mind that the average error for an official 5-day forecast from NHC for a developed storm is 200 - 250 miles. Irene could easily miss Florida and move up the East Coast and hit North or South Carolina, or pass through the Florida Keys and into Gulf of Mexico, ending up who knows where. Given the uncertainties, this weekend would be a good time to go over your hurricane preparedness if you live anywhere in the Caribbean, Bahamas, or U.S. coast, since Irene could well be paying you a visit as a tropical storm or hurricane sometime in the next week.

Harvey hits Belize
Tropical Storm Harvey made landfall at 2pm EDT on Saturday near Dangriga Town, Belize, as a tropical storm with 60 mph winds. Harvey continues to dump very heavy rains on northern Guatemala, Belize, and portions of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula as the storm tracks westwards at 12 mph. Dissipation is expected Sunday as the storm pushes inland. Harvey was a small storm, and the strongest winds were confined to a short stretch of coast near where the center came ashore. Winds at Belize City, Belize on Saturday topped out at 15 mph.


Figure 3. Radar image of Harvey taken at 11:30am EDT on Saturday, August 20, 2011, a few hours before landfall in Belize. A small closed eye is visible just south of the offshore islands of Belize. Image credit: Belize National Meteorological Service.

An exceptionally active early part of hurricane season
It's been a strangely hyperactive season for weak storms in the Atlantic so far this year. Tropical Storm Irene is the 9th named storm this year, and its formation date of August 20 ties 2011 with 1936 as the 2nd earliest date for formation of the season's 9th storm. Only 2005 had an earlier date. The first eight storms this year have stayed below hurricane strength, making 2011 the first hurricane season since record keeping began in 1851 to have more than six consecutive tropical storms that did not reach hurricane strength. As I discussed in Friday's post, a major reason for this is the lack of vertical instability over the tropical Atlantic so far this year. We've had a large amount of dry, sinking air over the tropical Atlantic, and the usual amount of dry, dusty air from the Sahara, both helping to keep the atmosphere stable and stop this year's storms from intensifying into hurricanes. Hurricane activity typically ramps up big-time by August 20, with more than 80% of all the hurricanes and 65% of all the tropical storms occurring after that date. At our current pace, 2011 will become the second busiest Atlantic hurricane season on record, with 24 - 27 named storms. There are only 21 names in the list of names for a hurricane season, so we may have to break out the Greek alphabet again in late October this year, as occurred in 2005. Ironically, this was the last time the current set of names was used in the Atlantic, so 16 of this year's 21 names are repeats of 2005. I'm not too happy about seeing another hurricane season challenge the Hurricane Season of 2005 in any way, and let's hope we don't retire another five names this year, like occurred in 2005! With vertical instability much lower this year than in 2005, and that year having already seen one storm (Dennis) retired by this point in the season, I doubt that will happen, though.


Figure 2. The annual cycle of average hurricane frequency in the Atlantic. Historically, about 35% of all the tropical storms and 15% of all the hurricanes will have occurred by August 20.

Invest 98L near the Cape Verde Islands
A tropical wave near Cape Verde Islands off the coast of Africa, Invest 98L, is spreading heavy rains and strong gusty winds to those islands today. So far this morning, top sustained winds measured in the Cape Verde Islands were 23 mph at Mindelo. 98L has a long stretch of ocean to cross before it could affect any land areas. Approximately 70 - 80% of all tropical cyclones that pass this close to the Cape Verde Islands end up curving out to sea and not affecting any other land areas, according to Dr. Bob Hart's excellent historical probability of landfall charts. The latest set of long-range model runs go along with this idea, and I'd be surprised if 98L threatens any land areas.

Jeff Masters

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Remember, this blog is for entertainment only.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting BiloxiGirl:
To be honest.... the whole peak of hurricane season just gets on my nerves. Hard to make plans etc. My birthday is in September and I can't tell you how many birthdays have been rescheduled for these jokers. Annoying!


Wait! WHAT? You can reschedule birthdays? Well, hotdam, I'm rescheduling my next one for 2016 then. :)
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Interesting to note that Miami and Grand Cayman have the same cumulative probability of TS winds.

MIAMI FL 34 X X( X) X( X) X( X) X( X) 3( 3) 8(11)



GRAND CAYMAN 34 X X( X) X( X) X( X) X( X) 6( 6) 5(11)
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This looks to be a large storm in circumference. Might affect more areas and the disruption of the center over the islands might not be as bad as a smaller storm in size.
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blog at full speed!
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1116. Thrawst
Quoting Tazmanian:



so they bump the winds up big time from the 1st


Just 10 mph, same category though. Either way, it will be potentially catastrophic for Haiti.
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Quoting PcolaDan:

And a B^%$# to get off after the sun bakes it on.

Yes, that tape residue nearly impossible to remove. Got my plywood since 2004, better check it hasn't warped too badly, maybe get a couple of new transparent panels (by the way your new icon is incredibly annoying, LOL).
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A HURRICANE WATCH COULD BE REQUIRED FOR PUERTO RICO TOMORROW IF
THERE IS A SIGNIFICANT NORTHWARD ADJUSTMENT TO THE TRACK FORECAST


Looks like the NHC feels that the center may relocate further north...
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To be honest.... the whole peak of hurricane season just gets on my nerves. Hard to make plans etc. My birthday is in September and I can't tell you how many birthdays have been rescheduled for these jokers. Annoying!
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Quoting dfwstormwatch:
hmm you think its coincidence that twc showed the major hurricane hitting Savannah and the major hurricane hitting Miami it could happen tomorrow episodes a hour or two ago?



makes you want too think
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1110. gugi182
Link
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Do you know what time it is?

Its time for howdy max mayfield time..
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Quoting JasonCoolMan2008:

Poof


POOF to you
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hmm you think its coincidence that twc showed the major hurricane hitting Savannah and the major hurricane hitting Miami it could happen tomorrow episodes a hour or two ago?
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Quoting HoustonTxGal:


I love useless trivia :o)


Be careful, my head is full of it (useless trivia that is) and it pushed the useful stuff out. Sad thing is, I can't even remember the useless stuff any more. :(
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1105. gugi182
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
More intense forecast:

FORECAST POSITIONS AND MAX WINDS

INIT 21/0300Z 15.3N 59.9W 45 KT 50 MPH
12H 21/1200Z 16.0N 62.7W 50 KT 60 MPH
24H 22/0000Z 16.6N 65.9W 55 KT 65 MPH
36H 22/1200Z 17.2N 68.4W 65 KT 75 MPH
48H 23/0000Z 18.0N 70.7W 75 KT 85 MPH
72H 24/0000Z 19.5N 75.0W 50 KT 60 MPH
96H 25/0000Z 21.5N 78.0W 50 KT 60 MPH...INLAND
120H 26/0000Z 24.5N 80.5W 60 KT 70 MPH...OVER WATER

$$
FORECASTER BLAKE/BRENNAN



so they bump the winds up big time from the 1st
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Quoting DookiePBC:
I am still anxiously awaiting word from the DOOM:CON council. How will I know whether or not to be vigilant???


Always Vigilant!

Isn't that someone's motto?
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1102. gugi182
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Quoting swflurker:
HMMMM 1000 posts in 2 1/2 hrs!


Yep...as Taz said...this blog is in RI mode...

Our blog is becoming more impressive than Wilma's pressure drop.....
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1100. Drakoen
Quoting presslord:


I actually know the answer to this question ;-)


hahaha
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Quoting hurricanehunter27:
There were winds from the west, and it meet the needs to be called a TS what is there not to get? Plus i think it is a favor to the islands anyway instead of having a 50/60 mph "invest" coming into town.

But going from Dr. Masters said, They found NO westerly winds. Yes it looks better now than it ever did but I am going on what Dr. Masters said.
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Quoting presslord:
two of the sharpest bloggers here are in college now...and started blogging years ago in high school...and have taught me a lot...





i second that remark. good times on the blog when they are on
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1097. GoWVU
Quoting HoustonTxGal:


I love useless trivia :o)


As a retired Air Force guy you are 100% correct. Good stuff not useless.
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Quoting TBPauly:


One of the NHC's bigger flaws over the years is storm intensity. But to their credit, the models can be that way, too. Especially with a storm like this one with several possible land interactions...just too many variables at play.



thanks, hope they are right on this one.
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Quoting Drakoen:


How old is Drak???


I actually know the answer to this question ;-)
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Ah... recon @ 8 a.m. local time tomorrow... r they going to be able to task from St. Croix?
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1093. TheMom
Quoting islandblow:
We will see how things develop when the sun rises....or before.
Be safe!
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Quoting DookiePBC:
I am still anxiously awaiting word from the DOOM:CON council. How will I know whether or not to be vigilant???


DOOM:CON PI was issued earlier this evening
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Keys from discussion:
GIVEN THE LARGE SPREAD IN THE GUIDANCE...THIS IS
A GOOD TIME TO REMIND USERS THAT THE AVERAGE DAY 4 AND 5 NHC TRACK
FORECAST ERRORS ARE 200 TO 250 MILES.

WITH THE IMPROVED STRUCTURE ON MICROWAVE...STRENGTHENING IS LIKELY
AS THE STORM TRAVERSES VERY WARM WATERS WITH LIGHT SHEAR
CONDITIONS.

IT IS WORTH NOTING THAT THE MODELS THAT SHOW LESS LAND INTERACTION...SUCH
AS THE GFDL OR HWRF...HAVE IRENE BECOMING A MAJOR HURRICANE...AND
THAT IS NOT OUT OF THE QUESTION ESPECIALLY IF THE STORM MOVES ON
THE FAR LEFT OR RIGHT SIDE OF THE FORECAST CONE AND AVOIDS
SIGNIFICANT LAND INTERACTION. OVERALL...GIVEN THE TRACK FORECAST
UNCERTAINTY AND THE POTENTIAL FOR LAND INTERACTION...THE INTENSITY
FORECAST LATE IN THE PERIOD IS EVEN MORE UNCERTAIN THAN USUAL.


A HURRICANE WATCH COULD BE REQUIRED FOR PUERTO RICO TOMORROW IF
THERE IS A SIGNIFICANT NORTHWARD ADJUSTMENT TO THE TRACK FORECAST.

OF NOTE...THIS IS THE THIRD EARLIEST TO HAVE NINE NAMED STORMS FORM
IN THE ATLANTIC BASIN...BEHIND 2005 AND 1936.
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1090. jonelu
Quoting Levi32:


I'm flying home (Homer, AK) for a few days before Fall semester begins.
Safe trip. If u even make it down to FL for a hurricane experience I have room here for u...lolol Everyone on the blog would be soo jealous. :-)
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1089. gugi182
Puerto Rico won't get the center of circulation but probably the tropical force winds are expected in the southern part of the island. As we speak there was a press conference at 9:30pm by the government of Puerto Rico. The system as i see it has shifted a little to the north do west so this tropical storm could be our first hurricane of the season just southwest of the island of Puerto Rico. So i expect probably winds of 30-45MPH or higher gusts in the south of the island. I don't want to wake up tomorrow and see that this storm has shifted more to the north in that scenario things could get really ugly in my island. Well first in line DOMINICA next who knows???????
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1088. Drakoen
Quoting presslord:
two of the sharpest bloggers here are in college now...and started blogging years ago in high school...and have taught me a lot...


How old is Drak???
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Quoting thunderbug91:
I know this is a piece of totally, totally useless information, but I found it interesting nonetheless.... "Irene" was the attack code for black hawk down in 1993.


I love useless trivia :o)
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Quoting BahaHurican:
lol.... pero es PR Power o El Gran Combo? lol

But which band is it, the warmup, or the main attraction?


Llego la banda era Lavoe...

The main band now is Gran Combo... Que bueno es vivir asi...

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Quoting TBPauly:


One of the NHC's bigger flaws over the years is storm intensity. But to their credit, the models can be that way, too. Especially with a storm like this one with several possible land interactions...just too many variables at play.


and..it's also possible that this storm may fizzle...
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More intense forecast:

FORECAST POSITIONS AND MAX WINDS

INIT 21/0300Z 15.3N 59.9W 45 KT 50 MPH
12H 21/1200Z 16.0N 62.7W 50 KT 60 MPH
24H 22/0000Z 16.6N 65.9W 55 KT 65 MPH
36H 22/1200Z 17.2N 68.4W 65 KT 75 MPH
48H 23/0000Z 18.0N 70.7W 75 KT 85 MPH
72H 24/0000Z 19.5N 75.0W 50 KT 60 MPH
96H 25/0000Z 21.5N 78.0W 50 KT 60 MPH...INLAND
120H 26/0000Z 24.5N 80.5W 60 KT 70 MPH...OVER WATER

$$
FORECASTER BLAKE/BRENNAN
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21091
1082. Titoxd
ZCZC MIATCDAT4 ALL
TTAA00 KNHC DDHHMM

TROPICAL STORM IRENE DISCUSSION NUMBER 2
NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL AL092011
1100 PM AST SAT AUG 20 2011

SATELLITE IMAGES INDICATE THAT IRENE IS MAINTAINING A LARGE AREA OF
CURVED CONVECTIVE BANDING ON THE NORTHERN SIDE OF THE SURFACE
CIRCULATION. THE GUADELOUPE RADAR CONTINUES TO SHOW THIS BANDING
ALONG WITH A DISTINCT MID-LEVEL VORTEX...WHICH IS ALSO VISIBLE IN
MICROWAVE IMAGERY. THE INITIAL WIND SPEED IS KEPT AT 45 KT AND THE
NEXT RECONNAISSANCE AIRCRAFT IS SCHEDULED TO FLY THROUGH IRENE
AROUND 1200 UTC.

THE INITIAL MOTION ESTIMATE IS ABOUT 280/19. A MID-LEVEL RIDGE OVER
THE WESTERN ATLANTIC OCEAN IS EXPECTED TO SLOWLY WEAKEN OVER THE
NEXT COUPLE OF DAYS. THIS PATTERN SHOULD STEER IRENE TOWARD THE
WEST-NORTHWEST WITH A GRADUAL DECELERATION. AFTER THAT TIME...A
MID-LATITUDE TROUGH MOVING OFFSHORE OF THE SOUTHEASTERN UNITED
STATES SHOULD CAUSE A WEAKNESS IN THE SUBTROPICAL RIDGE. HOW MUCH
OF A WEAKNESS IS STILL UP FOR DEBATE...HOWEVER...WITH A VARIETY OF
MODEL SOLUTIONS SHOWING LARGE TRACK SPREAD AT THE END OF THE
FORECAST PERIOD. IN ADDITION...A FEW OF THE MODELS...SUCH AS THE
UKMET...SHOW MORE OF AN EMPHASIS ON A SECOND TROUGH MOVING INTO THE
SOUTHERN UNITED STATES AND DO NOT SHOW THE FIRST TROUGH AFFECTING
IRENE MUCH. THE GUIDANCE HAS SHIFTED SOMEWHAT TO THE WEST IN THE
LATER PERIODS...AND IT SEEMS REASONABLE TO SHIFT THE NHC FORECAST
IN THAT DIRECTION. GIVEN THE LARGE SPREAD IN THE GUIDANCE...THIS IS
A GOOD TIME TO REMIND USERS THAT THE AVERAGE DAY 4 AND 5 NHC TRACK
FORECAST ERRORS ARE 200 TO 250 MILES.

WITH THE IMPROVED STRUCTURE ON MICROWAVE...STRENGTHENING IS LIKELY
AS THE STORM TRAVERSES VERY WARM WATERS WITH LIGHT SHEAR
CONDITIONS. ALMOST ALL OF THE GUIDANCE SHOWS IRENE BECOMING A
HURRICANE IN A DAY OR TWO...AND THE NHC FORECAST HAS BEEN INCREASED
DURING THE FIRST 48 HOURS. AFTER THAT TIME THE INTENSITY FORECAST
IS HIGHLY DEPENDENT ON HOW MUCH LAND INTERACTION OCCURS WITH
HISPANIOLA AND CUBA. THE CURRENT TRACK TAKES THE SYSTEM OVER THE
SPINE OF CUBA BETWEEN 72 AND 96 HOURS...SO LITTLE INTENSIFICATION
IS EXPECTED DURING THAT TIME...WITH SOME STRENGTHENING EXPECTED
NEAR THE END OF THE PERIOD AFTER IRENE MOVES AWAY FROM LAND. IT IS
WORTH NOTING THAT THE MODELS THAT SHOW LESS LAND INTERACTION...SUCH
AS THE GFDL OR HWRF...HAVE IRENE BECOMING A MAJOR HURRICANE...AND
THAT IS NOT OUT OF THE QUESTION ESPECIALLY IF THE STORM MOVES ON
THE FAR LEFT OR RIGHT SIDE OF THE FORECAST CONE AND AVOIDS
SIGNIFICANT LAND INTERACTION. OVERALL...GIVEN THE TRACK FORECAST
UNCERTAINTY AND THE POTENTIAL FOR LAND INTERACTION...THE INTENSITY
FORECAST LATE IN THE PERIOD IS EVEN MORE UNCERTAIN THAN USUAL.

A HURRICANE WATCH COULD BE REQUIRED FOR PUERTO RICO TOMORROW IF
THERE IS A SIGNIFICANT NORTHWARD ADJUSTMENT TO THE TRACK FORECAST.

OF NOTE...THIS IS THE THIRD EARLIEST TO HAVE NINE NAMED STORMS FORM
IN THE ATLANTIC BASIN...BEHIND 2005 AND 1936.


FORECAST POSITIONS AND MAX WINDS

INIT 21/0300Z 15.3N 59.9W 45 KT 50 MPH
12H 21/1200Z 16.0N 62.7W 50 KT 60 MPH
24H 22/0000Z 16.6N 65.9W 55 KT 65 MPH
36H 22/1200Z 17.2N 68.4W 65 KT 75 MPH
48H 23/0000Z 18.0N 70.7W 75 KT 85 MPH
72H 24/0000Z 19.5N 75.0W 50 KT 60 MPH
96H 25/0000Z 21.5N 78.0W 50 KT 60 MPH...INLAND
120H 26/0000Z 24.5N 80.5W 60 KT 70 MPH...OVER WATER

$$
FORECASTER BLAKE/BRENNAN

NNNN
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Quoting JLPR2:
When are the HHs supposed to fly into Irene?
7 am eastern time tomorrow
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
11p.m track:



Do you mind finding a new one? I don't like that one so much.
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I know this is a piece of totally, totally useless information, but I found it interesting nonetheless.... "Irene" was the attack code for black hawk down in 1993.
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HMMMM 1000 posts in 2 1/2 hrs!
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1076. TBPauly
Quoting justalurker:


based on this cone, why is the storm projected to be only a tropical storm by the time it reaches key west florida..whats all the panic about. am i missing something?


One of the NHC's bigger flaws over the years is storm intensity. But to their credit, the models can be that way, too. Especially with a storm like this one with several possible land interactions...just too many variables at play.
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Quoting sunlinepr:
LLego la banda... tocando salsa


Here are the first bands arriving...



lol.... pero es PR Power o El Gran Combo? lol

But which band is it, the warmup, or the main attraction?
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Quoting AussieStorm:
Afternoon all. can someone explain this to me please. From the above Dr. Masters Blog. An Air Force hurricane hunter aircraft in the storm was finishing up its mission when it suddenly came across a region with intense thunderstorms and surface winds of 50 mph. The aircraft found that a center of circulation had barely closed off on the southwest edge of this region, though the plane found almost no winds from the west around the circulation center."

So they found 50mph winds, a barely closed of COC and no winds from the west, yet it was named TS Irene. I just don't get it.
There were winds from the west, and it meet the needs to be called a TS what is there not to get? Plus i think it is a favor to the islands anyway instead of having a 50/60 mph "invest" coming into town.
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
838. YOUPEOPLEAREGAY 2:21 AM GMT on August 21, 2011

troll wipe in progress

I have all three playing simultaneously.

TOTAL OWNAGE!
Member Since: August 11, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 772
Quoting AussieStorm:
Afternoon all. can someone explain this to me please. From the above Dr. Masters Blog.

An Air Force hurricane hunter aircraft in the storm was finishing up its mission when it suddenly came across a region with intense thunderstorms and surface winds of 50 mph. The aircraft found that a center of circulation had barely closed off on the southwest edge of this region, though the plane found almost no winds from the west around the circulation center."

So they found 50mph winds, a barely closed of COC and no winds from the west, yet it was named TS Irene. I just don't get it.
Well, after Dr. Masters posted, models started to go crazy. Most of them are talking MAJOR hurricane and some of them are going as deep as Category 4/5.
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Quoting Levi32:
As mentioned, they had to adjust slightly north of Dominica, but the overall track is farther west.



IMO...I'd be leaning toward the northern edge of that cone for the short term track....I am suprised at the westward shift.....
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About

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.